The final blog of this series focuses on Frank Lloyd Wright's unbuilt work. As with the great architects and designers in our own time, not all of the great and innovative designs produced in their minds will ever be built or realized. The buildings in this blog highlight FLW's thoughts about urban planning, sustainability, and innovative building design which was far ahead of its time and echo to the building technology and sustainable designs that we utilize today.
BROADACRE CITY / "THE LIVING CITY":
FLW with a scaled model of Broadacre City. (Images courtesy of The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation)
Broadacre City, also referred to as the “Living City” was not Frank Lloyd Wright’s only envisioned Utopia, but it seems to have been his most carefully thought out. I stared at these replicas and intricately lined plans and wondered what it could be like to spend years of your life working on something only to have it literally remain on the drawing board. I suppose this happens to all of us in one way or another though doesn’t it? We have a plan or a dream or an intention, and then we hit a fork in the road–losing that path for our lives completely. How different would our world be if the Living City had become a reality? What would happen if we went back and built everything Frank left unfinished? Could we use the work of a man who was so far ahead of his time to help turn back our time and undo the damage we’ve done to the environment and our consumer riddled minds?
Broadacre City pencil on trace paper. (Images courtesy of The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation)
With an acre of land for each family of this idyllic farmlike community, Wright designed a new version of Suburbia. He decentralized the city, and developed a city that was a landscape rather than a skyline. Bending to see the tiny rail lines that wind their way along the edges of this sprawling utopia, I wondered how our campus ecology class would interpret it. I wondered if it would ever be possible in a world of shopping malls and grocery stores–an institutionalized mentality of never having to know where anything you own actually comes from. Could we survive if we were each given a plot of land and a small home? The art of farming is becoming lost on us– a generation of headphone wearing, TV watching, multitaskers. Why did this community cease to exist? Was it an issue of money? Or culture? Plotted out in straight lines, it looks like a perfect plan… but was it really? Cars are needed to get anywhere away from the cozy acre of your family home. The small corner of apartments and office buildings lies remote. Families remain in privacy. Today, we might say that this is actually unsustainable–sprawling unnecessarily and discouraging communal living and shared public space.
MOTOR HOTEL / MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE:
Designed for Bramlett Enterprises- Memphis, TN – in 1956. Although designed as a stopover for motorists who have temporarily tired of the open road, this conception has none of the characteristics of motels anywhere. It seems destined to remain a project if only because it is so luxurious in some respects, so severe in others. The scheme is built around three separate elevator groups of three elevators each. A single cluster of elevators serves seven floors in addition to a terrace restaurant under the roof of each unit. the restaurant is interconnected by the bridges shown in the perspective. One elevator functions for two rooms per floor giving a grand total of fourteen rooms per elevator. The rooms attained by means of this generous outlay of mechanical equipment are small.
Architectural Site Plan. Ink on Vellum. (Images courtesy of The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation)
This building shares a principle in common with Wright’s other towers, the “interior” system of structure in which the floors are cantilevered from a steel and lightweight concrete core, tripod shaped for stability. A functional plan where the tripod of buildings share a common gathering space at the Garden Court.
THE ILLINOIS SKY CITY / MILE HIGH ILLINOIS:
This was a proposed skyscraper that would have been 1 mile in height and was envisioned by Wright in 1956 for the City of Chicago. At that time, the tallest skyscraper in the world was the Empire State Building in New York City, which was a less than a quarter of the height suggested for the Illinois. Because of the height and complexity of the proposed structure, the building was divided into three sectors, each with its own sky-lobby that could accommodate landscaped open space "rooms", a concept that is now commonly used in towers constructed around the world.
ECHOES OF FALLING WATER : MORRIS HOUSE / AYN RAND HOUSE / POINT VIEW RESIDENCES
In his rendering for the Morris House (above,1945), Wright continues to link built forms with their natural environments through a careful consideration of topography. In the rendering above, the building's location defines its dynamic composition. Wright introduces curved windows to provide expanded waterfront views and allows local vegetation to adorn the roofs and balconies. Like Falling Water, the building is a stylized extension of the surrounding landscape.
Falling Water is clearly visible in the rendering of the Cottage Studio for Ayn Rand (above,1946) . The slate base, vertical circulation shaft and cantilevered slabs are revisited almost dogmatically. However, unlike the elegant balance of projecting slabs in Falling Water, these slabs thrust boldly from their wooded terrain toward a single point on the horizon. Rand's worldview seems unmistakably reflected in the design.
In Point View Residences (Above,1952), characteristics of Falling Water appear in a large apartment building. Wright uses rhythm, hierarchy and balance to prevent the scale from overwhelming. Intermediate floor slabs with decorative cladding give life to the facade. Terraces and balconies extend in a welcoming gesture from the building's hillside perch. A simple base lifts the apartments up to crown the terrain. (Courtesy of The Polis Blog Site).
I hope that you enjoyed this series on Frank Lloyd Wright and the drawings that are behind his buildings. If you have any questions, feel free to comment on this blog page directly!....Brian