Broadacre City

Location: Rural USA
Design: Frank Lloyd Wright
Year: 1932-1959

In his book The Disappearing City (1932) Frank Lloyd Wright presented Broadacre City as an alternative for the high density metropolitan city. Set in a rural landscape and measuring four square mile, this hypothetical city, like Ebenezer Howards Garden City, can be considered as a critique on the existing urban conditions, but also as an ideal fusion between the rural and the urban. It was based on Wrights egalitarian ideal society which he called Usonia. Set against the economical crisis going on in the thirties, the proposal coincides with Roosevelts New Deal.
In Broadacre City each family is give one acre (4.000 m2) of land on which to build a house and grow food. The city was considered to be (almost) fully self-sufficient. The car was to be the main mode of transport. Some clean industry was planned along the edges of the city. Wright foresaw a future in which both the traditional city and the rural settlements would be replaced by a network of Usonian cities. Wright only 'realised' his idea in a large model and many designs. He would keep on working on it until his death in 1959.

In a way Broadacre City foreshadowed the suburban sprawl that would follow in the second half of the twentieth century. But unlike Broadacre City suburbia is basically mono-functional and fully dependant on the city for production, administration, services and cultural facilities.
Broadacre City could also be considered as a model for the current situation in agglomerations like the Randstad in the Netherlands. Here the distinction between the rural and the urban has almost faded into a rural/urban fusion. In a way the whole of the Netherlands could be seen as a large, spread out, low density, Broadacre-like 'city', interspersed with some high density, 'historical' hot spots. What is lacking however is the local self sufficiency Wright proposed. Although sustainability was not an issue in Wrights proposal, Broadacre City could be a model for making agglomerations like the Randstad more sustainable. That is if the production of food, goods and energy could be integrated on a local scale with the already existing low density rural/urban settlements, and if a fully sustainable mode of private transport could be realized.




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