Usonian Ideal

I recently received an email with a link to a planned community that Frank Lloyd Wright was involved with back in the 1940s.  Recently, Forbes magazine set out to do an article on the 10 Prettiest Neighborhoods in the U.S., and this 1940s Wright project, the only Frank Lloyd Wright planned community to actually reach fruition, was named one of the ten.  Located in Pleasantville, New York, this Usonian community built almost three-quarters-of-a-century ago still reigns as a model of beautiful design married to a naturalistic theme.  Wright’s quest for  buildings that grow organically from their surroundings was perfectly realized here.  According to the article, Wright designed three of the homes and approved the designs for the other 44.

All these homes can be classified as Usonian.  According to, Frank Lloyd Wright coined the phrase “Usonian”, which he derived from the words United States of North America.  These homes were supposed to be democratic in nature, and their design was to avoid the ostentatious and lean toward the pragmatic.  They usually were one story homes without basements and garages and according to Wright, affordable by the “common people.”  (A bit patronizing, maybe?)  The Usonian-style was a major contributor to the development of the ranch-style home of the 60s and 70s.

The real beauty of this 100 acre community to me is the way it coexists with the land on which it is built.  I had a chance to visit one of Wright’s Usonian homes this fall in Southwest Wisconsin, and that blending with nature aspect was what struck me most.  It was not a blight on the face of land on which it sat, but rather a perfect complement like the solitary call of a loon echoing across the surface of a serenely calm northern lake.  I don’t know if it was by chance or by plan that Wright chose to be involved with planning the perfect Usonian community in “Pleasantville,” but it is certainly the perfect appellation.

While you may not be able to easily drive to Pleasantville to view these homes, there are many ways to view them on the Internet.  The following are my suggestions:  The Reisley House | The Friedman House | Usonia

(These sites and their content are the property of their respective creators.)

Wright-Designed Usonian Home in Southwester Wisconsin

Frank Lloyd Wright Usonian Home in Southwest Wisconsin Circa 1950