Tuesday, April 10, 2007

On Intelligence

Ultimately, those who are extremely good at what they do, and at thinking in general, end up with Utopian visions. These designs are often good indicators of the values of the culture that these people lived in. One of these ideals that I found very interesting was the Frank Lloyd Wright designed "Broadacre City".

The basic plan of this city was to massively decentralize the urban area, spreading out individual houses on an acre of land each. In this way it could be considered the ideal version of modern suburbia, spread out far more than the current iteration. The decentralized nature of this scheme was reliant on the cars as the primary form of transportation, and would have been very hard for pedestrians to get around. All of the houses were of Wright's Usonian design. The houses were where the plan truly excelled. Designed in the middle of the Depression, the houses were single story, cost effective and roomy single family dwellings. Compared to most of the other houses of this time, these houses were efficient and utilized local materials, helping to reduce cost and integrate them into the landscape.

I think that other than the massive reliance on the car Wright's idea was fairly sound. An acre would be enough to a small family to support some of its food needs, and the large roofs would provide a good base for solar panels. By making family units more self-sufficient and based locally then many other services can be decentralized. You are already able to purchase many goods online, further expansion of this service would result in less waste and more efficient production of goods. One of the main problems of capitalism is the tendency to overproduce, leading to periodic depressions as supply outstrips demand, and the unit price falls below the production costs. This is again helped by the the move to local and on-demand goods and services: eliminating steps in the supply chain allows suppliers to more accurately gauge demand.

The one assumption that is difficult to make is that the population will either hold constant or decrease. The massive population density of the cities is what make them good for large populations; they keep the population from overrunning the areas they need for food. Obviously, a smaller population would allow for expansion outwards by self-sufficient households. Ideally this would result in small self-sufficient communities served by public transportation, thus bringing the agrarian ideal that America was founded on closer to fruition.

Hypothetically, a movement of this sort would move the population out of urban centers, and since cities typically are hard to reconvert back into fertile ground, much of their area would be abandoned. Industry would likely remain, but with the general move towards automation, fewer people would have to remain in the cites to work, and with the widespread use of public transit these few people could also live outside of the city.

I think it makes some degree of sense, but like most projects of this nature it will likely never be attempted.
Robert Alverson



Ryan said...

Pretty good. Drier than a stale graham cracker, but well reasoned and well spoken. All your writing is good. Then read my blog and you get great writing.

Ryan (the lil bro)

Ryan said...

where the hell is my picture on your flickr?