Their buildings are good, and are so uniform that a whole side of a street looks like one house. The streets are twenty feet broad; there lie gardens behind all their houses. These are large, but enclosed with buildings, that on all hands face the streets, so that every house has both a door to the street and a back door to the garden. Their doors have all two leaves, which, as they are easily opened, so they shut of their own accord; and, there being no property among them, every man may freely enter into any house whatsoever. At every ten years’ end they shift their houses by lots.
They cultivate their gardens with great care, so that they have both vines, fruits, herbs, and flowers in them; and all is so well ordered and so finely kept that I never saw gardens anywhere that were both so fruitful and so beautiful as theirs. And this humor of ordering their gardens so well is not only kept up by the pleasure they find in it, but also by an emulation between the inhabitants of the several streets, who vie with each other. And there is, indeed, nothing belonging to the whole town that is both more useful and more pleasant. So that he who founded the town seems to have taken care of nothing more than of their gardens.--Raphael Hythloday in Thomas More, Utopia, Book II, from Open Utopia.
Echoing the plan for the guardians in Kallipolis (Republic 416ff), there is no genuine private property on Utopia. But there is some stability of possessions. For, every "ten years" they "shift their houses by lots." Sortition represents the egalitarian element of the plan of Utopia. One may well wonder why if all houses are pretty much the same, they need to be assigned by lot at all. But the geography of Utopia is not fully uniform: the city has a river and a hill. And presumably this means that not every spot is equally desirable. (Traditionally, rivers double as sewage and so less desirable to live alongside.)* The lack of permanent private and inherited property has not prevented the improvement of the housing stock. (At the founding of Utopia "their houses were at first low and mean, like cottages, made of any sort of timber, and were built with mud walls and thatched with straw.")
The easy entry into homes reveal the lack of privacy at the core of Utopian life. Long before Bentham's panopticon, and probably inspired by Plato's Laws, the Utopians have a society in which they all "live in full view, so that all are obliged both to perform their ordinary task and to employ themselves well in their spare hours." The lack of privacy does generate interesting questions about our understanding about Utopian domestic life because population and household numbers as well as monogamous relations are strictly regulated in Utopia; one wonders how such free access to private spaces fits into the larger scheme.
That good-breeding is central to Utopia is symbolized by the role of the gardens. The utility and aesthetics of this institution, which we are told has endured for all of Utopia's existence, is marked by the fact that it is part of the original design for Utopia by the king-conqueror-founder of Utopia (king Utopus). The gardens are means to create, (i) temporary local group solidarity -- at the level of a neighborhood -- and (ii) they channel competitive emulation to proper ends. The former is important because Utopia is the product of a conquest by an alien population and this regular mixing of location increases the chances that the aboriginals and the newcomers will mix and create mutual friendships. (We are explicitly told that after the conquest Utopus put victors and defeated to joint work to create a sense of such commonality.) Concern with the dangers of disunity show up in the design of other institutions, especially the religious practices (see my treatment of Utopus and religion here and here).
Of course, unity is not the only benefit from these garden competitions. It's also one of the few ways in which the dangerous and natural desire for honor/status can be expressed. (Another is in the manner of one's death.) The desire for honor generates beautiful and fertile gardens. It teaches the virtues of local collaboration and is, thereby, useful (because it generates lots of produce and fruits). This is a nice analogy for the way production is organized in Utopia and the strength of collaborative labor.
But the significance of these gardens is not just economic and social. The garden also represents the focus on fertility and domestic selection. With regard to fertility, I already noted that population levels are monitored strictly and maintained in static equilibrium (e.g., households are kept between 10 and 16 members); when population grows this generates an imperial and colonial impulse among the Utopians who sent colonies abroad. (The reverse is rarely the case.) On the island population numbers in towns and households are maintained at steady levels (through adoption schemes and population movements).
With regard to domestic selection, the Utopians have an unusual selection procedure (undoubtedly inspired by Laws VI 771ff). I quote the details and explanation:
in choosing their wives they use a method that would appear to us very absurd and ridiculous, but it is constantly observed among them, and is accounted perfectly consistent with wisdom. Before marriage some grave matron presents the bride, naked, whether she is a virgin or a widow, to the bridegroom, and after that some grave man presents the bridegroom, naked, to the bride....But they, on the other hand, wondered at the folly of the men of all other nations, who, if they are but to buy a horse of a small value, are so cautious that they will see every part of him, and take off both his saddle and all his other tackle, that there may be no secret ulcer hid under any of them, and that yet in the choice of a wife, on which depends the happiness or unhappiness of the rest of his life, a man should venture upon trust, and only see about a hands breadth of the face, all the rest of the body being covered, under which may lie hid what may be contagious as well as loathsome.
The procedure is focused almost entirely on ensuring mutual bodily attraction and preventing hidden physical defects or "deformity" from souring any relationship. Given that monogamy is strictly enforced they think this procedure is required. (Mutual divorce is allowed, but discouraged.) Physical defect is associated with lack of productivity and fertility. It's no surprise that medicine is of all the sciences most honored there; they view it as "one of the pleasantest and most profitable parts of philosophy. In particular, their medicine is focused on restoring patients back to productive health.
While the Utopians explicitly do not practice infanticide (as the best regimes by Plato and Al-Farabi do), they do encourage (government and religious supervised) euthanasia for those that are suffering painfully and can't contribute to the productive economy of Utopian society: they tell such patients, that they are "a burden to themselves and to all about them, and they have really out-lived themselves, they should no longer nourish such a rooted distemper, but choose rather to die since they cannot live but in much misery; being assured that if they thus deliver themselves from torture, or are willing that others should do it."**
One can only speculate what the eugenic effects are of the particular mate selection of the Utopian mechanism. But since they are so focused on the body, it seems they expect couples to select each other on aesthetic and apparent physical grounds. (In other respects, the Utopians are prevented from letting aesthetics be a source of distinction.) One can predict that the Utopians are voluntarily breeding an attractive -- albeit not especially bright -- and fertile population.+ That is, what collaborative, competitive emulation does for fruits in the gardens, structured individual choices do for human population.