The coming months will witness the publication in English of the second volume of Peter Sloterdijk's Spheres trilogy, the magnum opus of an author who is currently intensely fashionable among architects. Sloterdijk embeds within that text what might appear to be a staggering claim: that architectural aspiration is ultimately responsible for the very conception of the Judeo-Christian God. This claim is validated by reference to the Tower of Babel, long a marker both of utopian aspiration and of anti-utopian doubt, a tower constructed within the enclosure of city walls that were themselves, in Sloterdijk's account, designed to protect the utopia of a tight community against the threat of an expanding world. Sloterdijk illustrates his text with an image taken from Uriel Birnbaum's 1924 Der Kaiser und der Architekt: itself a magnificently illustrated retelling of the story of Babel. But not only is Birnbaum himself radically opposed to utopian thought, whether artistic or political; his text might more readily be associated with Nietzsche's account of the death of God than with Sloterdijk's account of the birth of that God. This article explores the curious ambiguity of Birnbaum's position, drawing in part on his unpublished manuscript entitled “Wesen und Geschichte der Utopie.”

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