Utopian City Planning: 4 Amazing Failures

Ready for some amazing utopia fails? io9 has rounded up 10 utopian cities and communities that never got a chance, for better or worse. Nonetheless, these failures offer interesting historical perspective, expressing "our ideas about what the future of human civilization could look like" and, in some cases, what it does. Here's a look at a few of our favorite utopias that weren't to be.

Vegetarian Utopia Fail

In the mid 1850s, the Vegetarian Kansas Emigration Company sought to found an all-vegetarian settlement near Humboldt, Kansas. The colony would induce thousands "to adopt a system of diet so highly conducive to their happiness and wellbeing," said the settlement idea man Henry S. Clubb. Vegetarians, however, had other plans. When there wasn't enough omnivore interest, the planned community was forced open up to meat eaters.

Officially known as "Octagon City," all homes were to be octagon-shaped (like the example above), based on a psuedoscientific theory from phrenologist Orson Squire Folwer that this was the most practical design. "Ultimately about sixty families came from all over the country to live in Octagon City, but were sorely disappointed when they found that the only building was a 16 x 16 windowless log cabin," io9 reports.

Locavore Utopia Fail

Broadacre City was dreamed up by architect Frank Lloyd Wright in the 1930s. "Imagine spacious landscaped highways …giant roads, themselves great architecture, pass public service stations, no longer eyesores, expanded to include all kinds of service and comfort," wrote Wright of his vision. "They unite and separate — separate and unite the series of diversified units, the farm units, the factory units, the roadside markets, the garden schools, the dwelling places (each on its acre of individually adorned and cultivated ground), the places for pleasure and leisure."

Broadacre City would have a population cap at 10,000 people, and all Broadacre City food, power, and goods were to be locally produced. The closest Broadacre came to reality, however, was in 1943, when Wright compiled a “Citizens’ Petition.” It was signed by sixty-four Broadacre sympathizers (including Albert Einstein and Nelson Rockefeller), according to Next City.

Corporate Utopia Fail

In the 1930s, Henry Ford tried to start an all-American utopia in the Brazilian rainforest, where Ford was building a large rubber plantation. Workers and their families would live in "Fordlandia," where Ford had invested in a power plant, hospital, library, golf course, and housing for employees. He also tried to Americanize them, serving only food like hamburgers in the cafeterias and insisting on nine- to five shifts (local custom had been to work in the early morning and late evening to avoid peak sunlight hours). And he tried to forbid alcohol and premarital sex. Unsurprisingly, workers took to rioting within about a year. Here's a glimpse of an abandoned Fordlandia in 2005:

Indoor Alaskan Utopia Fail

In the late 1960s, planners envisioned a complex, futuristic, and entirely indoor city near oil-rich Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. At "Seward's Success," there would be monorails, sky trams, moving sidewalks, and total climate control (68 degrees at all times). Sounds pretty much like a modern airport terminal? But as a city, Seward's Success failed when the Trans-Alaska Pipeline got held up and the city subcontractor backed out.

You can read about more failed utopias at io9, including nuclear weapon proof "Atomurbia" and "Boozetown," the childfree city for raging alcoholics.

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