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REVISITING UTOPIAS | Broadacre City by Frank Lloyd Wright

February 15, 2010

“We live now in cities of the past, slaves of the machine and of traditional building.” Frank Lloyd Wright

Today we start a new section: REVISITING UTOPIAS, in this section we’re going to travel through time and make an overview of some of the utopic designs worked by the avant-garde in the 50s, 60s and 70s. Starting today with the Broadacre City designed by Wright, that was an urban or suburban development concept. Wright presented the idea in his book The Disappearing City in 1932.

A few years later he unveiled a very detailed twelve by twelve foot (3.7 by 3.7 m) scale model representing an hypothetical four square mile (10 km²) community. The model was crafted by the student interns who worked for him at Taliesin. Wright would go on refining the concept in later books and in articles until his death in 1959.

Broadacre’s vast suburban landscape, seemingly scattered across an entire continent, anticipates the prevailing urban context, that eventually will shape the condition of architecture. With his vision about the new city, Wrights revealed a urban plan with the statement statement and a socio-political scheme by which each U.S. family would be given a one acre (4,000 m²) plot of land from the federal lands reserves, and a Wright-conceived community would be built anew from this.

We can read at Sprawling Places that Wright’s pattern is closer to today’s sprawl than it is to a city, but it is not the same as today’s sprawl. The land uses estimated from Wright’s model lead to a density of about five hundred persons per square mile, which is much lower than current suburban densities, which are often above two or three thousand per square mile.

Broadacre isn’t a city; it is a landscape. Decentralised in organisation it is self-sufficient in supply, republican in constitution, and populated by auto – mobile citizens.

“The broad acre city, where every family will have at least an acre of land, is the inevitable municipality of the future . . . We live now in cities of the past, slaves of the machine and of traditional building. We cannot solve our living and transportation problems by burrowing under or climbing over, and why should we? We will spread out, and in so doing will transform our human habitation sites into those allowing beauty of design and landscaping, sanitation and fresh air, privacy and playgrounds, and a plot whereon to raise things.” Frank Lloyd Wright

Wright ideas for his Broadacre City as a continuous metropolitan region of low density, with areas designated to serve similar purposes, allocated functionally and advancing some of the current ideas for traffic systems like monorail and motorway were so futuristic at that time, but now these ideas are close to the most innovative cities designs that we should think if it’s worth to take a look at the past and get some inspiration for the future.

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