How a $10 Billion Experimental City Nearly Got Built in Rural Minnesota

Spilhaus_NASA (1)

Athelstan Spilhaus (top – right – center) creator of the Experimental City

From by Lorraine Boissoneault:

The future had arrived, and it looked nothing like what city planners expected. It was the early 1960s, and despite economic prosperity, American urban centers were plagued by pollution, poverty, the violence of segregation and crumbling infrastructure. As the federal highway system expanded, young professionals fled for the suburbs, exacerbating the decay.

“There is nothing economically or socially inevitable about either the decay of old cities or the fresh-minted decadence of the new un-urban urbanization,” wrote activist Jane Jacobs in her 1961 book The Death and Life of Great American Cities. “Extraordinary governmental financial incentives have been required to achieve this degree of monotony, sterility and vulgarity.”

For Jacobs and others, federal policies only served to push cities toward greater blight rather than restoration. “There was a deep-felt concern that society was headed in the wrong direction in its ability to address the social issues of the day, e.g. segregation (of age groups as well as races), the environment, and education,” write professors of architecture Cindy Urness and Chitrarekha Kabre in a 2014 paper.

But one man had a revolutionary idea, a plan so all-encompassing it could tackle each and every one of the social issues at once: An entirely new experimental city, built from scratch with the latest technology, entirely free of pollution and waste, and home to a community of life-long learners.

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