NYC and LA – A Tale of Two Cities – Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright

USA – East and West Coast. Is one better than the other? In the eyes of an urban planner from another country, the difference between New York City and Los Angeles City is probably one of the best examples of extreme principles in urban spatial planning.

My wife and I got the chance to visit both cities on December 2016 to February 2017. I took a long vacation from work to visit relatives in LA and NYC. It is both an enjoyable and informative trip. It is like studying two planning principles and actually living it in their model laboratories.

Broadacre City was an urban planning concept introduced by the famous American architect Frank Lloyd Wright which first appeared in his book “The Disappearing City” in 1932.

Broadacre City was designed to be a continuous urban area (horizontal development / not tall buildings) with a low population density. The city had a futuristic highway and airfields. There are living units (farm, factory, roadside markets, leisure areas, schools, and living spaces) assigned an acre (4,046.856 square meters) Living units were organized in a way that people can access any service or commodity within a radius of one hundred and fifty miles accessible by road or air. The design was motor vehicle-friendly.

My relatives in LA all have cars. Each person who knows how to drive owns a car. Personal cars are their primary mode of transportation such as when they go to supermarkets, malls, workplace, outlets, etc. They live in subdivisions in spacious two-storey houses with garages, backyards and laundry areas. I am not comfortable driving in a different country, fortunate for us, we now have Uber.

Charles-Edouard Jeanneret-Gris is known with his pseudonym Le Corbusier. In 1935 he introduced his theory on urbanism and published it in La Ville radieuse (The Radiant City) in 1935. He stated that housing should be assigned according to family size and not economic position. He envisioned building up (vertically/buildings) and not out (horizantal/spatial). His plan is also known as “Towers in the Park”, proposed numerous high-rise buildings each surrounded by green space.

I stayed with my sister in Jersey City for two weeks and was able to stay also in Upper East Manhattan NYC for another week (one of her friends went abroad and he let us stay in his apartment for one whole week). My sister that time doesn’t own a car. She doesn’t need one. We always use the subway and buses to go around and even tried the ferry when we went to Brooklyn. My sister rented a car when we travelled outside the city (Washington DC). Everywhere you can see people walking.

Most people in NYC lives in medium-rise apartments. Their living spaces are small. If the building does not have its own laundry area, you need to go out to a laundry shop to wash your clothes. Living spaces are small but the rent is expensive. This is because of the high housing demand in the city. The city is also famous for its Central Park. It is a public space where people can enjoy their day with different activities. It seems like the park is a communal backyard / relaxation area for the residents.

Which is better? It depends on your lifestyle and preferences. If you enjoy a fast-paced environment living with neighbors next door then NYC is better. If you enjoy the freedom of driving your own car and owning a bigger house then the City of Angels better suits you. I met people that lived in NYC during the peak of their productive careers and later chose to retire in the west coast. I also met young people dreaming to work and live in the Big Apple.

NYC / Le Corbusier or City of LA / Frank Lloyd Wright?

How about you, where do you prefer to work and live?

References / For Further Reading:

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/how-controversial-european-architect-shaped-new-york-180965073/

https://www.biography.com/artist/le-corbusier

https://www.citylab.com/design/2012/11/evolution-urban-planning-10-diagrams/3851/

https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/what-is-a-broadacre-city.html

Image of Radiant City from https://www.archdaily.com/794582/the-stories-behind-17-skyscrapers-and-high-rise-buildings-that-changed-architecture/57cadef9e58ececab70000d5-the-stories-behind-17-skyscrapers-and-high-rise-buildings-that-changed-architecture-image?next_project=no

Image of Broadacre City from https://www.moma.org/explore/inside_out/2014/02/03/frank-lloyd-wrights-living-city-lives-on-conserving-the-broadacre-city-model/

Author: cityplanningcoordinator

A city planning and development coordinator (City Department Head) in a medium-size fast urbanizing city in the Philippines. A certified US Planner, a Philippine licensed Environmental Planner, and a Project Management Professional (PMP).

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