Frank Lloyd Wright—perhaps the most influential American architect of the 20th century—was deeply ambivalent about cities. For decades, Wright was seen as the prophet of America's post-World War II suburban sprawl, yet the cities he imagined were also carefully planned, and very different from the disorganized landscapes that were often developed instead. Paradoxically, Wright was also a lifelong prophet of the race for height (think skyscrapers) that played, and continues to play, out around the world.
On view is Wright's 1934–35 manifesto project, "Broadacre City," which embodied his quest for a city of private houses set in nature and spread across the countryside. He believed that advances in technology had rendered obsolete the dense cities created by industry and immigration in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Distributed along a rectilinear grid, these one-acre homesteads were to be combined with small-scale manufacturing, community centers, and local farming, and interspersed with parklands to form a carpet-like pattern of urbanization. Visitors ofFrank Lloyd Wright and the City: Density vs. Dispersal will encounter the spectacular 12- by-12-foot model of Broadacre City, which merges one of the earliest schemes for a highway flyover with an expansive, agrarian domain. Promoted and updated throughout Wright's life, the model toured the country for several years in the 1930s, beginning with a display at New York City's Rockefeller Center. It is juxtaposed with the monumental models and drawings produced of his skyscraper visions: the six-foot tall model of his 1913 San Francisco Call Building; the model of his only built residential tower, the Price Tower, in Bartlesville, Oklahoma of 1952-56; and the eight-foot drawings of the Mile High tower project.
Frank Lloyd Wright and the City: Density vs. Dispersal celebrates MoMA’s recent joint acquisition of Wright's extensive archive with Columbia University’s Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library and is now on view.