Avery Library to Co-Present MoMA Exhibition, “Frank Lloyd Wright and the City: Density vs. Dispersal”

Broadacre City model Frank Lloyd Wright (American, 1867–1959). Broadacre City. Project, 1934–35. Model: painted wood, 152 x 152” (386.1 x 386.1 cm). The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, New York)

Density vs. Dispersal is the first major public display of materials in the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives, which was jointly acquired by Avery Library and MoMA in 2012.  The exhibition is organized by Barry Bergdoll, Acting Chief Curator of Architecture and Design, The Museum of Modern Art, and Carole Ann Fabian, Director, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, with Janet Parks, Curator of Drawings & Archives, Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, and Phoebe Springstubb, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Architecture and Design, The Museum of Modern Art.

According to MoMA’s description, “Through an initial selection of drawings, films, and large-scale architectural models, the exhibition examines the tension in Wright’s thinking about the growing American city in the 1920s and 1930s, when he worked simultaneously on radical new forms for the skyscraper and on a comprehensive plan for the urbanization of the American landscape titled ‘Broadacre City.’ Visitors encounter the spectacular 12-foot-by-12-foot model of this plan, which merges one of the earliest schemes for a highway flyover with an expansive, agrarian domain. Promoted and updated throughout Wright’s life, the model toured the country for several years in the 1930s, beginning with a display at Rockefeller Center. This dispersed vision is paired with Wright’s innovative structural experiments for building the vertical city. Projects, from the early San Francisco Call Building (1912), to Manhattan’s St. Mark’s-in-the-Bouwerie Towers (1927–31), to a polemical mile-high skyscraper, engage questions of urban density and seek to bring light and landscape to the tall building. Highlighting Wright’s complex relationship to the city, the material reveals Wright as a compelling theorist of both its horizontal and vertical aspects. His work, in this way, is not only of historic importance but of remarkable relevance to current debates on urban concentration.”

Avery Library is the repository for all paper-based archival contents of the Wright collection, including 27,000 architectural drawings, the extensive personal and professional correspondence as well as 45,000 historical photographs including both personal and architectural photography of Wright’s works, plus interview tapes, transcripts, and films.  MoMA houses all three-dimensional works, including architectural models, architectural elements and design prototypes. 

Several public programs associated with the exhibition are planned.  On May 9 at 6:30pm, a lecture at the Bartos Theatre, MoMA entitled “Frank Lloyd Wright and The New Deal” will feature keynote speaker Ira Katznelson, Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History, Columbia University.  The event is free and open to the public and is co-sponsored by Avery Library, MoMA, and Columbia University’s Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture.  The lecture is the keynote event for the May 10th Buell Conference on the History of Architecture, “The Figure of Democracy:  Houses, Housing and the Polis.”  The conference will take place in the Buell Center East Gallery on Columbia’s Morningside campus.  For conference program and registration announcements, please follow @buellcenter


The Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library is one of the most comprehensive collections relating to architecture and the fine arts in the world. Avery collects a full range of primary and secondary sources for the advanced study of architecture, historic preservation, art history, decorative arts, city planning, real estate, and archaeology. The Library contains more than 600,000 volumes, including 40,000 rare books, and approximately 2,300 serials. Avery’s Drawings and Archives collection includes more than 2 million architectural drawings and records. For more information, please visit the Avery website.

Columbia University Libraries is one of the top five academic research library systems in North America. The collections include over 13 million volumes, over 160,000 journals and serials, as well as extensive electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, maps, and graphic and audio-visual materials. The Libraries employs more than 400 professional and support staff and hosts over 4.7 million visitors each year.  The website of the Libraries is the gateway to its services and resources: library.columbia.edu.