Utopian thinking has always played a central role in the literature of urban design, with utopians being the first urban designers. Moreover, many utopian projects throughout history have, until recently, been a research laboratory for the urban designer. This article aims to understand the role that urban utopias can play in thinking about the structure of contemporary cities. To do this, it compares two cases: KM3 by MVRDV and The Local Project book by Alberto Magnaghi. This analysis suggests that the utopian approach has two functions for the contemporary practice of urban design: First, it provides a unified external standard of criticism to diagnose urban challenges by looking at the city as a whole, and, second, it provides an approach in which catastrophic scenarios can be used to educate citizens.

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