VISIONS OF THE CITY OF THE FUTURE
In the twentieth century, visions included Frank Lloyd Wright's Broad Acre City, R. Buckminster Fuller's mile-wide geodesic dome for Manhattan, Le Corbusier's Ville Radieuse (the Radiant City), and Paolo Soleri's megastructure, among many others.13 Behind each of these concepts was an idea about how city dwellers should respond to social and technological change.
For example, in the Ville Radieuse, Le Corbusier envisioned high- rise residential towers in a park-like setting. Major roadways would link together sectors of the city. Two of his key ideas are reflected in this urban design proposal. The first stemmed from his idea of returning the land to human use. It is for this reason that his buildings are raised off the ground on columns or pilote; in this way, buildings are not barriers to pedestrian movement along the ground. The second idea is how the organization of the city would change with widespread automobile ownership. Major roadways connect the high-rise housing with commercial and industrial sectors of the city. Le Corbusier sought to find ways for people to be in closer contact with nature and to use advances in technology to free themselves to reflect on their future and place in the world.14
The organization of buildings and patterns of land ownership conceived for Ville Radieuse are in sharp contrast to Frank Lloyd Wright's concepts for Broad Acre City.15 In Ville Radieuse the land would be owned in common, whereas Wright would have each individual or family own a one-acre lot. Homes and industry would be connected by major roadways. Wright felt that individual ownership of land by broad segments of the population was important in preserving a democratic society. His political and social philosophies were translated into the design proposals contained in the plans for Broad Acre City.
The differences in the two plans reflect the different political philosophies of the two men. Wright placed great value on the independence and autonomy of the individual, as suggested by each person owning a plot of land. In contrast, Le Corbusier saw a role for collective ownership of property, suggesting that the overall welfare of society is enhanced if individuals see themselves as part of a larger group and fit into a precise grand design.
Le Corbusier's vision seems very much at odds with Americans' major emphasis on individual choice and minimum regulation but, perhaps surprisingly, his thought was very influential in the United States. He was and is highly regarded within much of the architectural profession and he had a great deal of influence on the design of individual buildings as well as on urban design in general, notably on public housing.
Other visionaries have suggested more radical approaches to structuring the future city. Drawings and models by Paolo Soleri depict megastructures with heights as great or greater than the tallest skyscrapers and
Paolo Soleri's "hyperstructure" in ground-level view (top), and cross-section (bottom). The figure at the upper right is the Empire State Building at the same scale. The structure would be 3,444 feet (1,050 m) high, 10,367 feet (3,160 m) across the base. Population would be 520,000 or about 171,000 per square mile of ground covered, approximately seven times the population density of New York City. Soleri's work is informed by an extremely strong environmental consciousness. The hyperstructure would house and employ a large number of people but with a small "footprint" on the earth and a low per capita energy consumption. Although hyperstructures are not likely to be built in the near future, Soleri's designs have influenced a generation of planners and architects. Influences of his thought may be found in the Houston Galleria and the Atlanta Hyatt Regency.
covering as much as several hundred acres of ground. The structures would contain both housing and employment for a population of 100,000 or more. Soleri has labeled this general set of studies "arcology." Analagous to ecology, which is the study of animals in their natural homes, arcology is the study of how best to build urban structures to accommodate homes, manufacturing, and public facilities in a fashion compatible with nature. In addition to suggesting new ways of organizing living space, Soleri's proposals contain predictions of completely automated manufacturing facilities that might be placed underground. Soleri constructed a small, new community called Arcosanti in the desert north of Phoenix, Arizona to test, on a very small scale, some of the concepts embodied in his megastructure designs.
One task for the urban designer is to combine aesthetic considerations with what we have learned about the relationship between physical design and human behavior to obtain a result that actually improves the quality of people's lives. We have learned through experiences with programs such as Urban Renewal and federally assisted housing that although physical design does affect human behavior, it is far from the most powerful determinant. Rather, it is one aspect of a complex array of physical, social, economic, cultural, and psychological factors that are present in our everyday lives.
For example, public housing experience has taught us that high-rise construction does not necessarily work out well for all populations. It is hard for a mother living on the twelfth floor to keep an eye on her children as they play outdoors. The relative anonymity of a high-rise seems to make high-rise public housing prone to crime and may also make it more difficult for residents to build a feeling of community and mutual help. On the other hand, high-rise development may work very well for a young, affluent population, as many a successful condominium developer could testify. The negative sociological effects that we now know to be associated with some high-rise, high-density housing were not anticipated by Le Corbusier. Rather than take his proposals as ideas to be applied literally to all urban areas and all urban populations, it is best to consider them as options to be explored and evaluated.