Frank Lloyd Wright and The Living City+-

Project : Frank Lloyd Wright: The Living City

Sponsor : Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein – 1997

Firm : George Ranalli Architect


In 1997, chief curatorDavid G. De Long of Frank Lloyd Wright And The Living City,  and the distinguished curatorial team of C. Ford Petross, Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer, Peter Reed, Mathias Schwartz-Clauss, Alexandra Gerny of Vitra Design Museum, and David Hanks of Exhibitions International, New York conceived of a show of over 100 of Frank Lloyd Wright’s drawings, photographs, models, and more than 60 examples of his decorative arts designs, for a travel exhibition.  George Ranalli Architect had the privilege of contributing a composite three-dimensional, hypothetical study model of Wright’s vision for The Living City.  Wright published The Disappearing City in 1932, after which he fabricated the three-dimensional model Broadacre City, and a rendered site plan, exhibited in 1935.  In 1958, Wright’s expanded treatise was published as The Living City.  George Ranalli Architect interpreted Wright’s Living City thesis as a three-dimensional typography, incorporative of Wright’s 1958 perspectives, and  Wright’s built and unrealized commissions.

The Living City Hypothetical Study Model was fabricated at GRA,  New York City. The large 64-sq.-ft. model, fabricated in birch plywood, basswood, plexi-glass, foam, and wood veneer, in four interlocking sections, incorporates Wright’s sweeping perspective of expansive hilly terrain, and includes 150 structures –residences, civic buildings, bridges, towers, a large-scale sports stadium, commercial developments, spiritual structures, and a series of building designed for pragmatic programs, including filling-stations, and school and farm buildings. Since completion, the model of Wright’s The Living City has been exhibited worldwide, in the travel exhibitions Frank Lloyd Wright And The Living City, and Frank Lloyd Wright: Organic Architecture for the 21st Century.

The Living City model familiarizes museum visitors with detailed three-dimensional views of Wright’s thesis for a decentralized sustainable city. The Living City model  was informed by Wright’s publications, including Plans 1-2, Plans 3-5, and also the firsthand accounts from Wright’s apprentices – Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer and John Rottenbury. The Living City model offers a comprehensive survey of Wright’s unrealized projects, such as Charles Ennis House, Los Angeles, 1923-24; Sports Club and Resort for Hunting Hartford, Hollywood, California, 1946-48; Pittsburgh Point Civic Center, Pittsburgh, 1947-48; Golden Beacon Tower, Chicago, 1956-57, and Wright’s built masterpieces, such as Marin County Civic Center, San Rafael, California, 1956-62.

In 2011, Frank Lloyd Wright: Organic Architecture for the 21st Century celebrated the 100th anniversary of Taliesin, Wright’s home, studio, and school in Spring Green, Wisconsin. The exhibition took a look at the work of America’s most celebrated architect, including The Living City, from the contemporary perspective of “green building” concepts, including energy efficiency, pre-fabrication technology, climate, transportation, social equity, and urban planning.  Brady Roberts, chief curator of Milwaukee Art Museum, exhibited Frank Lloyd Wright’s scale model for Broadacre City and GRA’s model of Wright’s The Living City, for the first time together, on February 12 through May 15, 2011,  as part of the comprehensive show of Wright’s drawings, architectural models, furniture, films, and photographs of over 40 projects. GRA’s model of The Living City was also used in a Guide for Teachers of Grades K–12, for gallery and online implementation.

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SOURCES: Frank Lloyd Wright and the Living City at the Vitra Design Museum, Koplos, Janet, January 1999, Art in America; Jan 1999, Vol. 87 Issue 1, p111: