What is a Broadacre City?

The Broadacre city was a type of urban, or town, planning.
The Broadacre city was a type of urban, or town, planning.

Broadacre City was an urban development planning concept put forward by famous American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. It first appeared in his book "The Disappearing City’" in 1932. Broadway City was also called "Usonian" or "ideal city".

According to Wright, structures in a Broadacre city ought to be organic and in harmony with humanity as well as the environment. Wright developed a 12 by 12-foot scale model to represent a hypothetical 4 square mile community. In 1935 he presented it in an Industrial Arts Exposition in the Forum at the Rockefeller Center. He called the model, “New Homes for the Old” and was sponsored by the Federal Housing Administration. The buildings in the Broadacre City model comprised of new building concept designs while others were modified old designs.


Broadacre City was designed to be a continuous urban area with a low population density and services grouped depending on the type. The city had a futuristic highway and airfields in an effort to help curb traffic. The highways connecting different cities were gigantic, with detailed design and landscaping. There were public service stations and comfortable vehicles with the city divided into various units. There were farm units, factory units, roadside markets, leisure areas, schools, and living spaces. Each living unit was given an acre to decorate and nurture. All the units were organized such that individuals would get any service or commodity they needed within a radius of one hundred and fifty miles accessible by road or air to make it decentralized and sustainable. Similar services were found in distinct zones of the city. For example, Banks were located along the same street, same to leisure joints. The design was motor vehicle-friendly, reflecting Wright’s love for cars and the living units were called minimum houses. The design concept focused on the social right of every citizen, especially the family unit, to their place on land and air, where they were free to socialize.


Personally, Wright hated expensive goods, landlords, rent, profit, and bureaucracy. He was disgusted by the rot and coercion in urban centers. Wright advocated for multidimensional freedom and a city with no slum or scum and no traffic jams. He was motivated by a future where people could communicate from home without moving to any office to pass information. Without any reference to the future, most of what Wright envisioned could have been achieved through internet computing.


Units and services were to be affordable in Broadacre cities. The system abolished the role of landlords and gave architects more power to decide on house designs. Closeness to all services was to reduce the human wear and tire experienced when people jostle for goods. The organic buildings were also cheap to build and considered the interests of all social classes thus settling on what was affordable to the middle and some lower social class.

Freedom and Democracy

Wright envisioned his designed city as a form of freedom to people. According to him, normal cities did not offer enough movement and democratic values to citizens. Modern Cities were overcrowded, and people did not get enough fresh air and natural light. Broadacre was to be a city with no traffic jams, and people could move easily, communicate, and work from the comfort of their homes.The convenience of Broadacre citizens to access everything easily was the freedom Broadacre was to achieve. In Broadacre, the roads were a symbol of freedom and vehicles represented democracy. Vehicles were to be made affordable to every family, and all important transportation was to be by vehicles. Wright predicted that gas stations would naturally grow into neighborhood distribution centers, meeting places, malls, and restaurants among other amenities.


Broadacre concept died with the death of Wright, but the ideas are central to most modern city estate designs. Today, people can communicate and work from their houses. History absolved Wright and he eventually acknowledged posthumously. Elements of what other architects mocked as being anti-city have found their way into modern societies.


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