Broad-Acre City

In presentation.topics, Vahid Vahdat Zad on 2009/05/12 at 9:36 pm

    Vahid Vahdat Zad

    A Study on American Utopias – Case-Study: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Broad-Acre City


    Most utopian ideas throughout the history are socialistic. Obviously, since they argue for an ideal city, they are more or less idealistic. That is maybe why many of them were a complete failure in practice. On the other hand there are not much liberal utopias, thus Broad-acre can be assumed the most important of that very few. Not only wasn’t it ideal but as Muschamp says Broad-acre was “too real to be Utopian”. Again, this might have been the reason of its success as a model for American city form.
    This characteristic of Broad-acre is what I would call its pragmatic character. It as James declares “tries to interpret each notion by tracing its respective practical consequence”. No wonder why many of Wright’s previous built architecture projects can be detected in the perspective views of Broad-acre city.
    By studying Wright’s complements on Broad-acre in “The Living City”, one notion is repeatedly noticed as the main value and that value is democracy. For Wright, even the transportation facilities and telecommunication, symbolized democracy. Hence, democracy together with individual right can be considered the main concerns of Wright in Broad-acre. If we accept Ayn Rand’s claim that “Capitalism[‘s] … indispensable foundation is the principle of individual write” we should consider Broad-acre as an icon of a capitalistic utopia.
    But interestingly, Broad-acre city does not match Marx’s definition of a capitalistic society. It has neither “torn away from the family its sentimental veil”, nor does it “agglomerate population, centralize the means of production or concentrate property in few hands”. It even has a more rural essence rather than “being dependent on the towns”. Also, contrasting with Marx’s vision on capitalistic cities, Broad-acre is a self-sufficient decentralized society. A society with no experts, since every citizen is a farmer.
    This semi-rural essence of broad acre is emphasized by the suburban style of the city, its low density, horizontality, farming-based economy and life with nature. The city is also surrounded by a zone of farmland as its green belt. Altogether, this reactionary approach of Wright against the scientific rationalization of nature can somehow label Broad-acre as romantic utopia which emphasizes on nature with its picturesque qualities. In an attempt to escape the confines of population growth, urban sprawl and industrialism, romanticism embraced a new, wilder, untrammeled and pure nature. The same values that Wright sought not only in Broad-acre, but also in his organic architecture.

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