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September 9, 2017 to December 17, 2017

The Wallach Art Gallery
Lenfest Center for the Arts
Columbia Manhattanville
125th and Broadway

Wallach Art Gallery

Living in America: Frank Lloyd Wright, Harlem, and Modern Housing

Image: The Broadacre City Model, Section B, 1935. Photo by Roy E. Petersen. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library , Columbia University, New York.

Join the Arts Initiative for a Museum Meet Up at this exhibition.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Broadacre City is not often thought to have much in common with early public housing in Harlem. But the two have much more to do with each another than one might imagine.Originally exhibited in 1935 at Rockefeller Center, Broadacre City famously envisioned a completely decentralized society of private-property owners living and working in small, self-governing, agrarian communities connected by vast networks of highways and monorails. In it, Wright’s lifelong fascination with farming, freeways, and utilities met with his doctrinaire stance on individualism and private property. At the same time, debates in cities like New York over property rights and public goods, as well as calls for “urban renewal” responded to the same set of circumstances—to the question of how to live in America, especially under the New Deal—but with markedly different outcomes. Setting Broadacre City and related projects from Wright’s later career side-by-side with a series of contemporaneous public housing projects in Harlem, this exhibition asks that these two apparently distinct histories be seen as one.

The centerpiece of the exhibition at the Wallach Art will be the 12 x 12-foot model of Broadacre City—a spectacular component of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives, which was jointly acquired by the Museum of Modern Art and Columbia’s Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library in 2012. Juxtaposed with the model and other materials from the Archives, are a rich selection of drawings, photographs, and documents relating to important housing projects in Harlem. 

The connections among seemingly unrelated processes made visible in the exhibition invite the audience to engage critically with questions of inequality, identity, and governance that continue to inform housing design and policy. They also ask us to reconsider possible answers to another, related question: How to live in America, today?

Living in America at the Wallach Gallery is presented in correlation with Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive, open to the public at the Museum of Modern Art from June 12 through October 1, 2017. An essay by David Smiley building on Living in America’s exhibition themes will be included in the MoMA catalogue, which will be organized as an anthology.

Related event: Exhibition Opening Reception, September 8, 6 to 8pm