Broadacre City, Frank Lloyd Wright

Posted by George Pudlo on December 20, 2011 at 11:45 PM

Broadacre City Model

In 1932, Frank Lloyd Wright authored an essay entitled The Disappearing City in which he proposed a solution that he called the Broadacre City. This utopian concept was not a formal commission, but rather one of Frank Lloyd Wright's many organic concepts of architecture that he envisioned.

It is widely known that Frank Lloyd Wright loathed classical architecture and its repetition on American soil. That is what lead him to develop the Prairie mode of domestic architecture in the Midwest. Beyond his distaste of European revival was the modern day city. When Wright first arrived in Chicago in the spring of 1887, he lamented on the squalor like conditions of the city. The pollution bothered him. The traffic irritated him. The advertisements annoyed him. And man was not entitled to any freedom of space, or subsequently individuality. This lead him to develop a concept for a new way of living entirely, with the central notion being decentralization, known as the Broadacre City.


The core idea of Frank Lloyd Wright's Broadacre City is that every man has one acre of land for living. An acre of land for a man and his family was sufficient enough for them to live by the sovereignty of the individual, a truly democratic idea, in Frank Lloyd Wright's plan. This would be accomplished by the decentralization of cities over spans of hundreds of miles. Rather than one large city crammed with millions of people, there would now be dozens of sprawling cities with those millions evenly distributed. An idealistic merge of urban and rural, though not suburban. The Broadacre City is a prototype of what this would look like. Here would be self sufficient cities covering broad spans, offering the comforts and conveniences of the city and the open space of the rural. What makes this different from a suburb? Suburbs are the (sometimes messy) fusion of the urban area and rural area. But suburbs cannot exist without a large city to bud off of, often times providing work for those in the suburbs. In Broadacre City, it exists independently of any major city, though there may be dozens of Broadacre Cities clustered together, comparable in idea to a metropolitan area. 

By 1935, Frank Lloyd Wright had established the Taliesin Fellowship, and therefore had free labor to assist in building a large model of Broadacre City. That year the Broadacre City toured the United States, ironically beginning in New York City, the most congested of the states, and Frank Lloyd Wright's mind, the one that could benefit from decentralization. In the official description of the Broadacre City, seen below, Frank Lloyd Wright begins with a basic explanation or organic architecture and then lists the components of the model:

ORGANIC ARCHITECTURE: All forms integral, natural to site, materials, process of construction and purpose

Among some of the features of the Broadacre City, too numerous to list in full include little farms,music gardens, flight service, vineyards and orchards, schools, cinemas, gas stations, general merchandising and markets, little factories and so forth.

Also listed in the Broadacre City's official description are general guidelines or rules. Among the more relevant are: No private ownership of public needs, no landlord or tenant, no traffic problems, an acre of ground minimum for the individual, Broadacre City makes no change in existing system of land surveys, has a single seat of government for each county, and architectural features determined by the character and topography of region. 

Frank Lloyd Wright saw cities and their centralized natures as unnecessary and primitive. As was he in favor of the use of the machine in the Arts & Crafts, he also favored the machine, by way of new means of communication via the telephone and new speeds of transportation via the automobile. In the ancient cities, it was necessary to live in such close confines because there was no other means of communication than by personal contact, and the slow transport available to move between great distances hindered decentralization. In the modern city there is no need to be so close together. 

As with any utopian idea, there always issues that need to be addressed. In the Broadacre City, one might question if everyone would actually want to have an acre to himself. Some people could not handle the transition from the comforts of luxury living and communal living. For those people, there would be apartment buildings: tall skyscrapers of steel and glass in the middle of wide open parks. 

Frank Lloyd Wright would refine the concept of the Broadacre City for the remainder of his life. In 1945, Wright revised The Disappearing City essay and published it as When Democracy Builds, and in 1958 he published The Living City. All three essays relate to the concept of decentralization.


Categories: Frank Lloyd Wright Philosophy

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1 Comment

Reply angraj hazarika
3:33 PM on October 20, 2013 
i am an architecture student , and wanted to know the percentage of open space and built up area proposed in frank llyod wright's broadacre city.
or if its possible any link where i can find it.


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