During my university years as an architectural student, no American architect was more admired more than Frank Lloyd Wright.
We learned all about Wright's classic structures: Fallingwater, Taliesin West, the Johnson Wax Building, the Bartlesville Tower, the Guggenheim Museum. What we didn't learn about was FLW's dismissive opinion of the old urban centers in general, and his admiration for new low-density development-sprawl-. We were being taught to despise sprawl and say so in the written portions of our exams.
Not until many years later I read FLW's 1932 book "The Disappearing City" and the illustrative model of his proposal for a new Broadacre City-decentralized commercial development, no recognizable urban core, all house lots an acre or more in size, superhighways, greenbelts, and so on; FLW built and displayed many of his futuristic ideas during the Depression years. In retrospect, it seems, ideological bias on campus isn't new.
In 1945, FLW revised and republished his 1932 book as "When Democracy Builds"; the content remained the same while the now-offensive anti-urban title ("The Disappearing City") was replaced with something suitably meaningless.
A Wikipedia search finds that FLW's book was published again in 1958 with a more pro-urban title as "The Living City"; it was reprinted again in 1970 and reviewed again in 1997 by Penn professor David deLong (who was careful to follow the new rules of academic political correctness and find the idiosyncratic architect "something of an embarrassment"). He repeated the claims of a 1930s art-historian who deemed Wright's proposals "consistent with physical and spiritual decay"; he also repeated other claims that FLW's designs were "socialistic", and framed his critique to describe Wright as creating "city-scaled images" after earlier describing the minimum-one-acre-house-lot-with-garden design basis for Broadacre City as "radical".
Not much has changed since my own school days: the academy has a problem with Wright; but he is too famous to criticize overtly, too pro-low-density/pro-sprawl to be socially acceptable to the gentry-left.
To test my thesis and have some fun at the same time, you might attend an anti-sprawl hearing and raise the question of FLW's Broadacre City (assuming none of your critical graduation credits might be at risk). Sit near the exit door.
Meanwhile, in the dozen years since deLong's review, a major prediction of his has proven quite spectacularly wrong: he writes that "...Wright was not prescient... hardly anyone raises vegetables in the [acre-sized house lot] gardens that Wright thought fundamental to Broadacre City". Take that, all you new-victory-garden/self-sufficiency/grow-your-own/local-vore advocates. To dedeLong's probable chagrin, it's now incontrovertible that SPIN, the imperfect acronym for Small Plot INtensive farming, has spread nationwide-it is in most major cities and suburbs and is rapidly becoming emblematic of the whole lawn-to-garden movement embraced by suburbanites and the vacant-lot gardens embraced by landless urbanites.
The latter approach, gardens remote from houses, is the best smart-growth proponents can offer for families who actually live in the rowhousing (or on the tiny lots too small for the gardens) which the smart-growthers, when pressed, agree would be nice.
Thus, as seen in places from Middlebury to Burlington, the solution is for a local business (in a sprawl-design low-density-development zone with unused acreage) or for a city government with available parkland, to slice it up into family-size gardens.
The problem with such away-from-home gardening is that other eyes are watching the crop and there's frequently the result that the daytime grower isn't the nighttime harvester. Even the Burlington Free Press wrote about the "your-food-is-my-food" entitlement problem in its 20 March issue.
Veggie raising aside, there are other functions of large-lot design attractive to the majority of Americans who aren't persuaded by smart-growth ideology. They range from (frequently illegal, less frequently enforced) poultry raising to sustainably cut-your-own stove-wood, and for the super green-minded, they range from zero-purchased energy on-site waste disposal to tree cover which has a negative carbon footprint.
If you look down on the outer suburbs of the Eastern Seaboard megalopolis in a jetliner from atop the troposphere, you can't even see streets and houses in blue-state places like Pound Ridge, N.Y., or Andover, Mass.-the continuous tree cover which obscures them.
The high social status, large-lot high property taxpaying residents beneath the cover would doubtless consider themselves environmentally sensitive and ecologically pro-active; this explains why the small-lot advocating smart-growthers rarely attack them head-on. Just like Frank Lloyd Wright.
Former Vermonter Martin Harris lives in Tennessee.