Our own Morgan Meis in The New Yorker:
Frank Lloyd Wright hated cities. He thought that they were cramped and crowded, stupidly designed, or, more often, built without any sense of design at all. He once wrote, “To look at the plan of a great City is to look at something like the cross-section of a fibrous tumor.” Wright was always looking for a way to cure the cancer of the city. For him, the central problem was that cities lacked essential elements like space, air, light, and silence. Looking at the congestion and overcrowding of New York City, he lamented, “The whole city is in agony.”
A show currently at the Museum of Modern Art—“Frank Lloyd Wright and the City: Density vs. Dispersal”—documents Wright’s attempts to fix the problem of the city. As it turns out, Wright wavered on the matter. Sometimes he favored urban density. Other times he dreamed a suburban or rural fantasy.
The exhibit at MOMA is a single room. Entering it, you are confronted by a model and drawings, from 1913, for the San Francisco Call Building, which wouldn’t have been out of place in Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis.” The drawings use heightened perspective and exaggerated angles, and they make the building look futuristic and imposing, even today. The show also features the plans, including an eight-foot model, for Wright’s famous mile-high skyscraper, known as the Illinois, which would have been five hundred and forty-eight stories high and would have housed a hundred thousand people.