<h1>on Architecture and related Media … </h1>

Broadacre City

Frank Lloyd Wright
and his vision for the urban future
Usonia I.) 4
(cooperative) community schemes
Online since October 2008
Last changes: 6th of June 2014

Craftsmen working on the Carroll Alsop House [photograph by Hedrich-Blessing 1958, detail] taken from 'Frank Lloyd Wright  1943-1959: The Complete Works' [Volume 3] by Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer, edited by Peter Gössel, published by Taschen 2009
III.) Img. _01 I.) 3 V.) 17

This 'image' pays tribute to the craftsmen [contractor Jim De Reus and Crew V.) 17 ] working on the Carroll Alsop House in 1958 [1947 V.) 17 ]. Heading an 'House and Home' article in 1959, it was a testimonial, promoting the feasibility V.) 18 and economic soundness of Wright's architecture.

The following "developments" are considered (cooperative) community schemes:
(Avoiding terms like "suburban" or "rural" …)

Usonia I I.) 7 (actually labelled 'Usonia 2' IV.) 13 ) in Okemos, east of Lansing, Michigan 1939

Cooperative Homesteads in Detroit, Michigan, 1942 (Featuring eco-friendly "rammed earth houses" in a very Broadacre like layout I.) 2 it remained a project.)
http://www.cooperativehomesteads.com/ 2
site plan []
aerial view

Galesburg Country Homes in Galesburg, east of Kalamazoo, Michigan 1947

Parkwyn Village in Kalamazoo, Michigan 1947

Usonia II (actually labelled 'Usonia II') for Usonia Homes, Inc. in Pleasantville, New York, 1947

Usonian (non-cooperative) Housing Project for Walter Bimson in Phoenix, Arizona 1957 III.) 10 (27 Usonia Automatics VIII.) 22 enclosing two "gravel courts". A rather suburban scheme.)

And there's a 'Usonia III' mentioned I.) 7 [in Wright's London lectures of 1939], supposedly in Wheeling, West Virginia [no clue so far … ?]

Herbert Jacobs House (Usonia #1), Madison; Wisconsin, 1936 IV.) 15

Standard Details for "Usonian-type" Houses 1939, revised 1940 IV.) 14
http://www.savewright.org/ []

Exhibition Usonian House for the Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1940 [project] IV.) 16

The Usonian Automatic 1949 III.) 11
PDF [http://www.concreteconstruction.net/]

Pavilion and Usonian House, Sixty Years of living Architecture, New York, 1953 [dismantled] III.) 12
http://www.steinerag.com/ 2
http://www.guggenheim.org/ brochure exhibition catalogue PDF 2 3 4

In order to convey a message one applies a strategy, based on assumptions of how communication actually works. Given the presentations of his "reformed American society" I.) 4 Frank Lloyd Wright again proves highly media conscious.

Referring USONIA to Samuel Butler's fiction [] provided for a perfect narrative framework, until someone bothered to check [] sparking even more (alternative) narratives on that matter. I.) 6 IX.) 23

  • » … He called us Usonians, and our Nation of combined States, Usonia. … « VI.) 19
    » * Samuel Butler's suggestion of a name for our nameless nation (see his Erwhon). « VII.)20 II.) 24 [Search the book with Google ]
  • Unisono [Italian] alludes to "acting in unison" [summoning a cooperative notion] » … USONIAN - roots of the word in the word unity or in union. … « II.) 24
  • USONA abbreviates United States Of North America I.) 5
    ["Why Not Usona?" The New York Times, 26 June 1915]
  • » The term Usonian was coined from combining "U.S." and "Jeffersonian," ... « X.) 25
  • » The word Usonian appears to have been coined by James Duff Law [... in 1903] « X.) 25
  • USONIA reinvents UTOPIA [emphasising the typographic and articulate affinity] X.) 25

"What we learned from Frank Lloyd Wright" I.) 3 is that [even] architecture "devised to change the world for better", needs to be addressed (verbally not spatially X.) 26 ) in the fashion of commodified resources / values.

Branding such understandings IX.) 23 with the term 'Usonia' was a [brilliant] choice. Due to its fabricated context it remained far more resonant than 'Broadacre' or 'The Living City' [no rival for 'Taliesin' though ].
In terms of popularising a perception that affordable housing [still] constitutes an architectural category, Wright's trademark sold well, and still does [].




  1. 'Frank Lloyd Wright's Usonian Houses: Designs for Moderate Cost One-Family Homes' by John Sergeant, published by Watson-Guptill Publications / New York, 1984 Paperback Edition (First published 1976 in New York, by Whitney Library of Design) http://books.google.at/

    1 Methods of Achieving Organic Housing » The Usonian house, designed in 1934, quickly increased in price. It was extremely difficult to achieve a built cost of $5,500 for the Jacobs house in 1937, $7,000 for the Pope house and $8,500 for the Pew house in 1940. Wright found his solution to the "small house" was beyond the means of those aspiring to it. To continue to reach lower income homebuilders, he devised new forms of construction, designed for an increased amount of client "do-it-yourself" activity, and proposed self-build homes, that had only an initial and remote connection with an architect. […] « II.) 8 [page 138]

    2 » […] This low-cost housing venture was based upon a regime, proposed earlier for Broadacre City, of an industrial job plus self-supportive homesteading. For this project Wright designed the berm-type house. […] « [page 76]

    3 a b Published in 'House and Home' in February 1959, on page 127
    » Builder Jim De Reus tells you: "What we learned from Frank Lloyd Wright" « [details according to Sergeant, reprinted on page 152] this image is also featured on page 137 heading: 'CHAPTER 5 Popularizing Organic Architecture'
    caption from 'House and Home': » "THE CREW AND I are proud of this Frank Lloyd Wright house. Here we are on the gravel court leading up to the entrance. That's me in front. Behind me, from left to right: three masons, tender, concrete finisher, driver, apprentice, and three carpenters." «

    4 a b » "Usonia" was his [Wright's] name for the reformed American society that he tried for the last 25 years of his life to bring about. « [page 16]

    5 » It has been suggesred that Wright picked up the name on his first European trip in 1910 when there was talk of calling the U.S.A "U-S-O-N-A" […] « [page 16]

    6 In my view it doesn't matter where Wright got his terminology from, whether he fooled us (1927 VI.) 19 1957 II.) 24 1958 VII.)20 ), was ingeniously cunning IX.) 23 , or simply mistaken. If I would promote let's say a "website on architecture", I would opt for a name, my target group [clients] could already relate to in a positive way, and I would make certain they understood what these positive connotations actually were. I.) 4
    For the term 'USONIA' see http://en.wikipedia.org/ and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk

    7 a » In London in 1939 he [Wright] both confused this and revealed plans for another group; he referred to Taliesin as Usonia I, Lansing as Usonia II and a project for Wheeling, West Virginia, as Usonia III. « [page 78, see also: http://www.archive.org/]
    So far there are:
    3 to 4 'Usonia I' (Taliesin, Lansing, Jacobs House, La Miniatura VIII.) 21 )
    2 'Usonia II' (Lansing, Pleasantville)
    and no 'Usonia III' …
  2. IN: 'The Essential Frank Lloyd Wright: Critical Writings on Architecture' edited by Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer, published by Princeton University Press 2008 http://press.princeton.edu/

    8 From: 'The Architectural Forum', 1938
    » To take this matter of an organic architecture a little deeper into the place where it belongs - the human heart - the design matter in this issue [of 'The Architectural Forum', 1938] falls rapidly into the following sensuous expressions of principle at work. It is a sense of the whole that is lacking in the "modern" buildings I have seen, and we are here concerned with that sense of the whole which alone is radical. […] « [page 292 …]

    » A pressing, needy, hungry, confused issue is the American "small house" problem. […] It is, first, common sense that might take us along the road to the better thing.
    What would be really sensible in this matter? Let's see how far the Herbert Jacobs house at Madison, Wisconsin, is a sensible house. This house for a young journalist, his wife, and small daughter, is now under roof: cost $5,500, including architect's fee of $450. […] «
    I.) 1 [page 310; republished (very similar) in 'The Natural House' 1954; page 339]

    24 Excerpt from: 'A Testament' by Frank LLoyd Wright, published by Horizon Press, New York, 1957 http://www.steinerag.com/ http://books.google.at/

    'Book One: Autobiographical, Part Three: Concerning the Third Dimension'
    » Usonia
    Samuel Butler, author of The Way of All Flesh, originator of the modern realistic novel, in his Erewhon ("nowhere" spelled backwards) pitied us far having no name of our own. "The United States" did not appear to him a good title for us as a nation and the word "American" belonged to us only in common with a dozen or more countries. So he suggested USONIAN - roots of the word in the word unity or in union. This to me seemed appropriate. So I have often used this word when needing reference to our own country or style.
    Imagine far a moment what fertile Usonian manifestations of well - disciplined human imagination our environment might be today if, instead of the panders to European dead - ends, creative thought and feeling had been encouraged, the creative sense of space in architecture properly recognized - and now become intrinsic! If teachers had become enriched by such experience, and cultivated it as basic element of their own education, they would have been free to cultivate our democratic vision, might have buttressed our American spirit against the confusion and conformity that beset us now. With their help we might now be able to see spiritual entity as beauty - beauty as ethical - and ethics as more important than morals, or money, or laws. lf the meaning of the word Usonian had only thus become truly characteristic of the unity of our national life we would have earned this title, and Usonia would be ours. «
    [page 411]
  3. 'Frank Lloyd Wright 1943-1959: The Complete Works' [Volume 3] by Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer, edited by Peter Gössel, published by Taschen 2009

    Img. _01 Craftsmen working on the Carroll Alsop House [photograph by Hedrich-Blessing 1958, detail, page 115] I.) 3 V.) 17

    10 Usonian Housing Project for Walter Bimson 1957 Phoenix, Arizona
    [page 495]

    11 In order to reduce costs » […] the Usonian Automatic aimed at keeping as much skilled labor off the site as possible, and bringing the factory-assembled products to the site instead. « [page 216]

    12 5314.021 publication drawing (of the exhibited Usonian House)
    5314.003 plan and elevation label:
  4. 'Frank Lloyd Wright 1917-1942: The Complete Works' [Volume 2] by Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer, edited by Peter Gössel, published by Taschen 2010

    Usonia II, Housing Project for Seven Teachers at Michigan State College, 1939 [page 417, 418]
    13 3912.002 general plan … label:

    14 3813.010 details
    » In all, 58 houses were constructed based on this building system. « [page 416]
    FDN 3813.011 []

    15 3702.022 floor plan label:
    » … HOUSE FOR MR AND MRS H A JACOBS MADISON WIS … « [page 280] http://www.savewright.org/

    16 4010.002 plans label:
  5. IN: 'Frank Lloyd Wright: From Within Outward' published on the occasion of the exhibition 'Frank Lloyd Wright: From Within Outward' at the Guggenheim Museum NY 2009, by Skira Rizzoli Publications Inc. 2009

    'Frank Lloyd Wright and the Romance of the Master Builder' by Richard Cleary [page 47 - 57]

    17 Featured again on page 56, Richard Cleary identifies » Contractor Jim De Reus and Crew in front of the Carroll Alsop House, Oskaloosa, Iowa, 1947 … «

    18 » Anxious to demonstrate the feasibility of his schemes, he [Wright] went to great lengths to help clients realize them. […] In an interview nearly fifty years later, [by Greg Williams, November 1989, William Wesley] Peters described how he and another apprentice, Cary Caraway, did their best to meet the Pews' $6,700 budget (equivalent to about $100,000 in today's dollars) by using recycled materials, employing a small crew, and doing much of the work themselves. Despite such efforts, he recalled losing approximately $1,100 on the commission. « [page 55]
  6. 'Frank Lloyd Wright on architecture: selected writings 1894-1940' by Frank Lloyd Wright edited by Frederick Albert Gutheim, published by Duell, Sloan and Pearce, New York 1941

    19 » 1927: The Pictures We Make
    "The American Way." Nationality is a craze with us. But why this term "America" has become representative as the name of these United States at home and abroad is past recall. Samuel Butler fitted us with a good name. He called us Usonians, and our Nation of combined States, Usonia. Why not use the name?
    It expresses well our character and is a noble word. That I presume is why no one uses it. […] «
    [page 100]
  7. 'The Living City' by Frank Lloyd Wright, published by Horizon Press, 1958 http://www.archive.org/

    20 [page 77]
  8. 'The architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright: a complete catalog' by William Allin Storrer, Frank Lloyd Wright, published by University of Chicago Press, 2002 http://books.google.at/

    21 » […] Wright considered La Miniatura […] the first Usonian home. […] « [page 392]

    22 » [… Millard (La Miniatura), Storer, Freeman, Ennis ] Here Wright is halfway through his career as he enters, by his own statement, the Usonian era. […] Wright invented the textile-block method of construction, which ties these first Usonian houses to his last Usonian automatics in a perfect circle. […] « [page xviii] http://www.franklloydwrightinfo.com/
  9. 'In The Cause Of Architecture: Commentaries in Memoriam' by John W. Geiger http://jgonwright.com/

    23 a b » In the 30's he [Wright] needed a fresh word that was uniquely his own to reference the new work typified by the Jacobs #1 house. He coined 'USONIAN' and attributed it to Samuel Butler to give it credibility in the first instance. It eventually became his own ID tag, which is why he invented it in the first place. The association with Butler became irrelevant, as he knew it would. « http://jgonwright.com/
  10. 25 In the spirit of collective retroactive narrative generation. Besides, my stories [on this] are as good as anybody's.
    See some more: http://www.savewright.org/ and http://savewright.org/ and http://en.wikipedia.org/

    26 "Altruism" is a good sentiment / justification / wrapping / camouflage / meaning / framing device / … [depending on one's standing / notion of purpose]. What's flabbergasting is that Wright's architecture can actually be told, for architecture isn't a language





more Broadacre


File Log

  • Preliminary version ...
  • Outlining Broadacre City became necessary in the course of my urban diploma project 16/3 in 1999. Published online the same year in German, this 'preliminary' English translation became available in 2007.
  • All links to http://contentdm.unl.edu/ [University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libraries] have been updated (25.11.2008).
  • Links to http://www.mcah.columbia.edu/ [Columbia University in the City of New York] added (2.8.2009)
  • All dates according to source [!]. Wikipedia and 'The Complete Works' by Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer accomplish a certain 'conventionalisation', superseding conflicting 'chronologies' supported by [prior] publications of the time.
<h3>&copy; Franz Sdoutz, October 2011</h3>

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