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Exclusive: Tour Frank Lloyd Wright’s unbuilt cooperative housing project

Created for a group of autoworkers and teachers near Detroit, these unbuilt homes show the architect designing for the common man.

Frank Lloyd Wright often fancied himself an architect of the common man, and while the cost of hiring him suggested otherwise, he did create numerous projects meant to elevate the lives of those with more modest means. In the early ‘40s, Wright embarked on one such scheme that, while it would remain unfinished, saw him toy with new construction methods for the common man.

In 1941, a group of teachers, autoworkers, and other middle class professionals, which banded together in the ‘30, decided to embark on an experiment in cooperative living. Using the name Cooperative Homesteads, they purchased a 160-acre farm on land that is now part of the suburb of Madison Heights, planning to build a back-to-the-land community. As they began planning and designing their future home, the group met Taliesin apprentice Aaron Green who, seeing the similarities between the homesteaders’ idealistic vision and his boss’s Usonian structures and Broadacre City plan for decentralized country living, felt Mr. Wright would want to get involved.

Soon, Frank Lloyd Wright was designing small homes for the future residents of this worker’s utopia. By 1942, he had sketched plans for small homes built with rammed earth construction, a quirky and affordable addition to his body of work (and a new spin on the term Prairie style). Wide overhangs with large glass windows would protect the berms, which would be covered in grasses and moss, while allowing daylight into the modest cottage-sized homes. The site was to have 79 homes, each with two bedrooms and a breezeway carport, as well as a workshop and storage space for dry goods and vegetables. It was a vision of limited self-sufficiency; workers, sustained by their factory jobs, would also grow most of their own food on their own plot of land.

While ground was broken on the first home and bulldozers began piling dirt and forming its outer shell, the plan quickly fell apart. The speedy mobilization for World War II meant that the professional who would soon be moving into these Wright homes were soon conscripted into service. The project was abandoned, never to be picked up again.

This virtual tour was created by Archilogic, a firm that specializes in creating 3D models for architecture and real estate, and allows users to upload floorplans and create their own virtual tours. Check out their tours of unbuilt Frank Lloyd Wright projects, including the Ralph Jester House and the Dr. Hugh Pratt Home. Recently, Archilogic officially released spaces.archilogic.com, which allows users to create their own virtual tours by signing up here.