Architect Frank Lloyd Wright's complicated relationship with the urban landscape is explored in a new exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art.

The Prairie Style he pioneered emphasized horizontal lines and a seamless blending-in with the flat landscape of the Midwest.

But in the early 20th century, Wright also produced radical new designs for skyscrapers.

Many of these towers were never built.

His mile-high tower plan wouldn't look out of place in modern Dubai.

His mile-high tower plan wouldn't look out of place in modern Dubai.

His mile-high tower plan wouldn't look out of place in modern Dubai.

He also produced plans for his ideal model for a city, a spread of 1-acre, single-family homes with an emphasis on nature and agriculture.

In his design for Broadacre City, the city grid would be composed not of blocks, but of farmed acres.

Rather than living in industrial urban centers, people would live in nature, with small-scale manufacturing and farming nearby.

It's a project Wright championed throughout his life.

It's a project Wright championed throughout his life.

Through these designs, which range from extremely horizontal to extremely vertical, MoMA gives us a look into the disparate plans of a master builder who wanted to remake America according to his architectural vision.

Through these designs, which range from extremely horizontal to extremely vertical, MoMA gives us a look into the disparate plans of a master builder who wanted to remake America according to his architectural vision.

Through these designs, which range from extremely horizontal to extremely vertical, MoMA gives us a look into the disparate plans of a master builder who wanted to remake America according to his architectural vision.

Through these designs, which range from extremely horizontal to extremely vertical, MoMA gives us a look into the disparate plans of a master builder who wanted to remake America according to his architectural vision.

The Frank Lloyd Wright Skyscrapers That Were Never Built

A MoMA exhibition of the architect's drawings and models highlights his vertical ambitions.

Frank Lloyd Wright was a visionary of rural American architecture. The Prairie Style he pioneered emphasized horizontal lines and a seamless blending-in with the flat landscape of the Midwest. More complicated was Wright's relationship with the urban landscape, a topic explored in a new exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art.

Wright began his career working for Louis Sullivan, a Chicago architect considered to be the father of the modern skyscraper, though Wright's artistic vision developed to diverge dramatically from the skyscrapers of the Chicago School. In the early 20th century, he returned to those roots and attempted to rethink the skyscraper. He also produced plans for his ideal model for a city, a spread of one-acre, single-family homes with an emphasis on nature and agriculture.

Included in the archive on display are Wright's skyscraper dreams, many of which were never realized. For instance, there's the mile-high tower he envisioned for Chicago, a design that today wouldn't look out of place in Dubai. For St. Mark's Church-In-The-Bowery in New York City, he imagined dwarfing the building with towering apartments that would be constructed like a tree, with a "taproot" design anchored by a steel core to support the rest of the building.

These very vertical projects would condense cities to make room for the type of horizontal development he believed was the ideal: what he called the Broadacre City. In it, the city grid would be composed not of blocks, but of farmed acres. Rather than living in industrial urban centers, people would live in nature, with small-scale manufacturing and farming nearby. It's a project Wright championed throughout his life. Like modern suburbia, it would be a community supported by the personal automobile, not public transportation (though it trades farmland for the big-box shopping centers that define suburbia today).

Through these designs, which range from extremely horizontal to extremely vertical, MoMA gives us a look into the disparate plans of a master builder who wanted to remake America according to his architectural vision.

[Images: Courtesy of MoMA]

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2 Comments

  • Justin Johnson

    I agree with Bryce. The black and white photo of the model and the color photo of the model was built and is in Bartlesville, OK. It is a museum, restaurant, hotel and bar today. The headline juxtaposed with the photo is misleading.

  • Bryce M. Ulmer

    In the captions on the photos, you have the SC Johnson Research Tower captioned, "Many of these towers were never built." Though this is a true statement in regards to many of FLW's skyscrapers, the Research Tower is one of the few that was actually completed, and therefore the caption is a bit misleading.