With the crisis of modernism, modernist utopias came to be seen as the cause of the fragmentation, suburbanization and dehumanization of the city and as a tool in the hands of real estate speculation. However, modernist utopias were critical visions committed to social, humanist and technical research for the improvement of living conditions in the industrialized city.
On the one hand, one cannot deny the modernista attempts to reconcile the urban predicaments raised anew by the industrialization process and the creation of a new, post-industrial social condition. On the other hand, it can be argued that the problems the contemporary city has to deal with have much in common with those that gave rise to the modernist utopias: bigness and high density, circulation and
traffic congestion, public health and social changes, cultural identity and technological development, capitalist profit and corporate power. It is therefore to be expected that links should be found between those utopias and contemporary strategies of urban design. The challenge launched by Joelho for this issue aims at exploring these links.
Contributions reflect the contemporary belief in the improvement of the existing urban systems rather than in the creation of a completely new order, as was the case of the urban utopias of the 1920s and 1930s. They broadly follow two trends of the postmodern critique of the Modern Movement. One trend deals with the return to the values of the traditional city, promoting the regeneration of the urban tissue as a continuous urban fabric; the other with the impossibility of this return, seeing the process of fragmentation rooted in nineteenth-century industrialization as an inevitability. Contradiction is only apparent, however. Both trends find their pertinence in the diversity of contexts of the contemporary city. In fact, if there is one word that characterizes the contemporary situation of urban design
and the theoretical debate around it, it is diversity. Diversity of social, cultural, economic and physical contexts requires different ways of looking at and diverse answers to the contemporary city.