What is Utopia?

Prof. Colin Fournier
Professor of Architecture and Urbanism Link to top

The Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London (UCL)

Kumiko Shimizu’s wonderful urban projects for the cities of Hong Kong and Shanghai and for the desert landscape of Death Valley in California are a surreal breath of fresh air in a field that is usually dominated by dull, pragmatic and unimaginative functionalist urbanistic proposals.

Kumiko, even at a time when she was expected to fulfil the exacting requirements of a Master of Science course in Urban Design, which was the academic context within which she designed these extraordinary projects, always remained at heart an independent artist and a poet. Her proposals are at once extravagant, delirious, playful, witty, provocative, cheerful, radical, irreverent and irresistible. The Shanghai project was so palatable that it was even presented as an edible model. Read more…

Kumiko Shimizu Link to top

Artist/Urban Designer

The Exhibition at the Scarlet Maguire Gallery is about the future city, about urban design projects at three sites: on reclaimed land in Hong Kong, in Death Valley and in Shanghai.

With my experience as an artist, Urban Design became almost the ultimate goal for my artistic development.

Before undertaking the Master of Science course in Urban Design at The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, my work as an artist took place in Nature, creating very large works responding to their surrounding and later in the urban environment where I used derelict buildings and found objects with which I made installations as symbols of the times, Thatcherism. Read more…

Since Man created fire,
Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit
Man, no longer belongs to Nature.

Man developed science and technology
to make his life comfortable.

He has been exploiting natural resources
and creating pollution, consequently
endangering himself and other species

The only way for the survival
of both Man and other creatures on earth
is to segregate Man from wild animals.

Man’s discovery and development
of science and technology
owe a lot to Nature and animals
copying their powerful being.

Therefore, Man should live vertical
in his own creation
and leave Nature and animals
alone as they are.

Hyperdensity Link to top

Technology, science and politics have been deciding where we should go and live, as well as putting nature and wildlife in danger. Our technology can now afford to return the ground space to Nature and the wild animals.

Apple with words: knowledge, concept, creativity, greed
Human force, Time, Space, Mind
Heaven, Hell, Sustainability, Vulnerability
Future inhabitating space: Graph charting humans vertically and wild animals along the ground

Hong Kong Project (2001/2) Link to top

Large scale sculpture
Hong Kong project model (scale 1:500) 2001/2
View of hollowed area inside
Part of the project model
Cross-section of slices
West Kowloon Reclamation

Death Valley California Project
(2003/4) Link to top

Self generated and regenerated city

Digital model for the site of Death Valley California
Digital model for the site of Death Valley California
Digital model for the site of Death Valley California

Everywhere can be heaven and hell

Digital model for the site of Death Valley California
Cross section from the side
Digital model for the site of Death Valley California
One of the spheres is a public space with nature.
The other is a spiritual space like Stonehenge.

Nature Link to top

Study of patterns in nature
Try to find the rhythm of nature
Study of patterns in nature
The shapes of trees are formed by weather and environment. Every tree has been uniquely formed.

Sky Gardens Link to top

Study of patterns in nature
Digital model of the sky gardens

The development of the ski stick:

Study of patterns in nature

Original design (left), Modern design (right)

Study of patterns in nature
Pressure A is divided more therefore the supporting structure is more stable than B. This evolved into a natural shape, like a branch, which can spread pressure over a wider area, so less power is required.
Study of patterns in nature
I use this method for the legs supporting the sky gardens (cross-section).

Shanghai Project Link to top

Sweet City (Low Rise) - Non Grid City


  1. Cars are not allowed in the city.
  2. No grid is made for the master plan, except the main road and the canals.
  3. Passways will be made bypasses freely.
  4. Working animals are introduced and is strongly recommended in the city.
  5. Every day is a working holiday in this city.

Views and maps of Shanghai
Site will be connected by a skyship all over Shanghai, the old city should be the centre of Shanghai city.
Development plan
Site, about 15 hours
Development plan
Main canal
Development plan
Main road and canal
Development plan
Underground city and stations
Development plan
Whole scene from the south
Development plan
30 story flats and mixed-use
Development plan
Pass ways are made by passers freely
Development plan
Details of the 5 story houses
Development plan
Community housing (in black)
Development plan
A terraced house and community; 5, 10 & 20 stories
Development plan
Main shopping mall at canal
Development plan
Another type of community housing

Sweet City will not be isolated from the other high-tech Shanghai but will be considered as a sustainable model city for the future of Shanghai.

Development plan

Art in Nature

Kumiko Shimizu


Life which I have nearly lost or I have never seen and felt
I don't know what Life is for
I don't know what Life should be
Everything seems so meaningless
I cannot see the future
It is too uncertain

I'm only able to believe in the moment that I can see and feel
That is one of the reasons why I make this work, my land art
Making a plan and complete it
Making a plan = the Future, Optimism, Excitement and Frightening
Complete = Satisfaction

This is a little project for myself
My little secret challenge for myself that I am able to see and feel

Life has to repeat the same thing again and again, psychologically
Only excitement, depression and joy come over again and again
We’re never able to see the whole life
How tiring to make a plan for the whole life and how can we see complete it
It is too abstract

Life is Sisyphus Mythology
The same thing again and again

My Land Art (1980) Link to top

Near Henley-on-Thames

This is the most important work for me. This was a secret challenge to find out my physical and mental possibilities through the work.

Photo of the art installation in a field
124m x 159m
Photo of the art installation in a field
Photo of the art installation in a field

Work with Tide (1981) Link to top

Anglesey, Wales

Suddenly a very long beach appeared in front of me and I wanted to find out how the tide went away. Putting stands every 10 minutes and painting colours of white, red and yellow.

Beginning is very slow and gradually getting quicker than making the gap wider and wider. Eventually, very slow again, narrower and narrower like the beginning. Then suddenly very quick and wide. That was the end of the tide away and the tide started coming back.

This is the rhythm of the universe we humans perceive and create, like we find in composition of music, dance, visual art or any other form would have to involved this rhythm.

Photos of tidal progress
Artwork of tidal rhythm

Kunst im Wald, “Art in Forest” (1982) Link to top

Osnabrück, Germany

250 trees are celebrated with all different patterns.

Photos of the 250 trees with art tied to the trunks

Viking Wall (1983) Link to top

Orkney Island, Scotland

Eventually, I found a Viking wall and made the installation with local materials, wool, lobster strings and stone.

Sanday graphic
Art on Viking stone wall
Art on Viking stone wall

Move to Urban Environment

Photo of Kumiko Shimizu 1985

Roadworks at Brixton (1985) Link to top

Performance and Installation

Walking around Brixton area, collecting found objects in conversation with people in the street. I made one installation on the wall there was graffiti. And another in the squatters’ street having made sculptures.

Welcome to my progress was shown at the gallery every day. My experiences on the streets were shown later by tape/slides.

Photo of wall display at Brixton Art Gallery
Everyday in the gallery, I indicated where I would be on a map.
Art on street wall
Installation on the street wall.
Art in street and on a wall
Sculpture in squatters’ street and a piece on the wall.

Kray Brothers’ house (1985) Link to top

Sponsored by Artangel

This year was the height of the Margaret Thatcher era. There were so many skips filled with old and new objects and derelict buildings were the domineering scene of London in the 80s. Found objects and derelict buildings are very unique and charming. Their value is defined by the way we use them.

This house is used to belong to the most notorious gangsters in the UK, the Kray brothers. Passersby have let me know who they were, especially old ladies.

Thirteen years later, the very difficult lady in the local local committee eventually agreed to new project as she remembered my work.

Photo of Kray Brothers' house
Photo of house exteriors
Installation on house exteriors.
Four close up details
Close up details of artwork.

Harecourt Church (1986/7) Link to top


This time I found so many kitchen utensils by chance. I decided to make gargoyles to protect the spirit of the church. The white parts were where I scratched the stones and I painted them as well.

Photo of Harecourt Church
Detail of art on Harecourt Church
Detail of art on Harecourt Church
Detail of art on Harecourt Church

Canterbury (1986) Link to top

2nd generation of the British sculptors

Installation on the renovation house. The scaffolding became part of the installation.

Photo of artwork installation
Photo of artwork installation

Manchester City Art Gallery (1989) Link to top

The tower is designed from the proportion of the museum which is in the background. The height is the same as the third section from the top and the width is the same size as each of the stones of the wall. The subject is taken from one of the three wall sculptures on the museum, a Goddess, proudly protecting the museum.

My installation emphasised colour as neoclassical buildings are just plain and have no colour. Some of the pipes were cut off the wrong size by mistake by the scaffolding company but that gave my work more dimension.

Photo of artwork installation
Photo of artwork installation

Hayward Gallery (1990) Link to top

Once condemned by Prince Charles as the ugliest building in London. I covered the building with found objects to enhance it with colour and form. While I was making the work at Hayward, an Andy Warhol exhibition was on, so I produced and added some of his images and work to my installation to pay homage to him.

Photo of gallery installation
Photo of gallery installation
Photo of gallery installation
Photo of gallery installation

Alternative Japanese Garden (1991) Link to top

Gateshead Garden Festival

I created an alternative Japanese Garden with available objects in the surrounding area of Gateshead and also at the Gateshead International Garden Festival. Colour and proportion of the subject of my work. The large stone was broken into two pieces by accident while being transported but this incident made to work more interesting.

Detail of japanese garden
Detail of japanese garden

Schinkelkirche (1992) Link to top

East Berlin

I created an alternative Japanese Garden with available objects in the surrounding area of Gateshead and also at the Gateshead International Garden Festival. Colour and proportion of the subject of my work. The large stone was broken into two pieces by accident while being transported but this incident made to work more interesting.

Close up of art installation on church
Detail of art installation on church
Detail of art installation on church


The Post Feminist
H.R.H. Princess Diana (1995) Link to top

The famous BBC Panorama interview inspired me to celebrate her as an icon of the 20th century.

Detail of Diana sculpture
Detail of Diana sculpture

A Midsummer Night's Dream (1998) Link to top

Sculpture/Performance, Mile End Park

My own interpretation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night's Dream. Bottom is lost and confused. On the other hand a lady with money carries on her life as nothing happened in the moment of madness, Midsummer Night.

Photo of sculptures
Photo of sculptures
Photo of players
Six Pucks, Bottom and Fairy Queen

Searching for Democracy and Justice + Hope (2019)

I found what's happening at the government level is not far away from personal level.

I found my problem in my profession as an artist and the neighbourhood and the local authority problems are not far away from how the government, the top level handle the matters which determine the system and what kind of people they would choose to run their government that make people comply to their rules and regulations. So powerful, you do like or dislike you are to obey. Often as it has been a long time under the similar government policy and value, often end up as a form of abuse and exploitation. Many people discontent how they have been treated and noticed a great unfairness in the society, lack of democracy.

Luna and I, and Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn's advocacy DEMOCRACY opened up my eyes and inspired me, like many others. He gave me energy to fight for democracy. As I am an artist, like "Mighty Pen", I used "Mighty Art".

Sculpture of Jeremy Corbyn
I made Jeremy Corbyn, as a fighter and advocator of the democracy, half as a gladiator and other half as Aristotle.
Sculpture of my dog Luna
My dog Luna died in 2018. She was my companion and fighter.
Sculpture of Trump and Boris
The two ugly blondies, Trump & Boris.
Sculpture of Boris
BoJo: My girl friend told me off, "You don't care for anything because you are spoilt. You have no care for money or anything".
Sculpture of Trump
Trump – America First.
Sculpture of Marie Colvin
Marie Colvin, a journalist sacrificed herself as a opposite of the two blondies.

A Special Thank You Link to top

I would thank my generous pratron, Amanda Sebestyen, for helping me fund the creation of my new website:

Amanda has written about art and politics in the New Statesman, Red Pepper, City Limits, Women Artists Slide Library Journal and other publications. Read more about her work…

Contact Kumiko