Frank Lloyd Wright, Enemy of the City

Katherine Don looks back at Broadacre City, Wright's attempt to replace the modern industrial city once and for all.

The design for Broadacre City was a rebuttal to Le Corbusier's Radiant City. Wright called for "a new standard of space measurement-the man seated in his automobile."

Don writes, "Even in the 1930s, urban planners were disgusted by Broadacre. Its philosophy was deeply individualistic; its layout was conspicuously wasteful. Liberals of the time who emulated the socialist spirit of Europe classified Wright as an anti-government eccentric, which indeed he was. In 1938, Marxist art historian Meyer Schapiro condemned Broadcre City as 'perfectly consistent with physical and spiritual decay.'"

Full Story: Frank Lloyd Wright's Utopian Dystopia



When planners don't love cities

There is a notion that planners have to love cities (particularly large cities) to be reputable planners and do their jobs. I disagree with this.

There is planning for conservation, parks and trails, planning for small towns, and planning for cities etc.

Wright's vision of small cities with more light and space, less concrete and less unrestrained capitalism, is a healthier model of living in my personal and professional opinion.

Personally, I feel much more comfortable in small towns and small cities than I do in large ones, particularly if you are talking about living there.

If there was one large flaw in Wright's proposal, it was the auto-centric nature of his proposed designs.

Michael Lewyn's picture

Or to put it another way...

Small towns don't have to be auto-centric Broadacre cities any more than big cities do.

Small Cities Versus Broadacres

Wright did not have a vision of small cities or small towns.

He had a vision of extreme sprawl. Your everyday activities are sprawled out at a distance of 150 miles from your home, so you have to get around by driving or flying.

Consider this quotation from Wright that is in the article:

"Imagine spacious landscaped highways …giant roads, themselves great architecture, ... separate and unite the series of diversified units, the farm units, the factory units, the roadside markets, the garden schools, the dwelling places (each on its acre of individually adorned and cultivated ground)..... All of these units so arranged and so integrated that each citizen of the future will have all forms of production, distribution, self improvement, enjoyment, within a radius of a hundred and fifty miles of his home now easily and speedily available by means of his car or plane."

I am all for traditionally designed small cities and small towns where people can walk to get around (and I am also all for traditionally designed large cities). But that has nothing to do with Wright's vision of sprawl.

Incidentally, I agree that planners who don't love cities can be excellent planners who do a good job of planning small towns, parks, trails, and so on. But there are problems when planners who don't like cities start planning large cities and treat them as if they were suburbs.

Charles Siegel

Reading Wright


I'll have to read Wright's own writings to learn more about his vision.

The point I am making and coming from is that there are plenty of things that are undesirable about modern cities that make people not want to live in them.

For people that want to live in the country, eco-villages and co-housing neighborhoods are sustainable (socially and environmentally) alternatives.

Some people want a house on their own piece of land, in a non-built environment. There is nothing wrong with this and there are many positives- more connection/less isolation from nature, often cleaner air and water, less stress because the environment is cleaner and quieter. However, I think it is ideal for such rural locales to be close enough to a town center where you do not have to depend on a car to meet all of your needs, and where the are plentiful opportunities to socialize with people/be part of a community.

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