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Frank Lloyd Wright’s Contradictory Urban Visions

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Wednesday, November 10, 2021 - 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET
Code: 1NV080
This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
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Materials for this program

Broadacre City project drawing by Frank Lloyd Wright (Photo: Kjell Olsen / CC license 2.0)

Note: This program has a rescheduled date (originally September 7, 2021).

In 1932 Frank Lloyd Wright published The Disappearing City, a polemic about the evils of urban centers filled with congestion, noise, and crime. He envisioned a better future centered on the automobile, telephone and radio, and mass production, integrated to bring mobility, freedom, and choice to the individual. Dense urban concentrations would no longer be necessary: The city would disperse into the countryside, spread out, and essentially disappear according to Wright.

In 1935 he created a traveling exhibition featuring a large model of such a city of the future, christened Broadacre City, and throughout the remainder of his life he continued to develop concepts expressed in it. At the same time, he never abandoned the city as architectural canvas. From early in the 20th century onward,  Wright habitually envisioned both stand-alone city buildings and urban-center developments.

Many remained only ideas on paper, such as Point Plaza in Pittsburgh, an opera house for Bagdad, the St Mark’s complex in New York, and his Crystal City project for Washington, D.C. Other commissions he actively sought were built, including the Guggenheim Museum, the Monona Terrace in Madison, Wisconsin, and the Marin Government Center in California. 

In a richly illustrated program, Bill Keene examines the apparent contradictions between Wright’s essentially anti-city views and his ongoing fascination with work to enhance urban life.

World Art History Certificate elective: Earn 1/2 credit*

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*Enrolled participants in the World Art History Certificate Program receive 1/2 elective credit. Not yet enrolled? Learn about the program, its benefits, and how to register here.