Frank Lloyd Wright is sometimes described as the American architect. Like a lot of influential architects and urban planners (Le Corbusier, Ebenezer Howard) he didn’t actually get that much built. I’ve seen the Guggenheim museum in New York and I quite like that, but I think his real legacy may have been how he foresaw America’s spatial future. Writing in the early 20th century, Wright anticipated (and welcomed) how mass car ownership could create a landscape where every American lived in self-sufficient isolation on a square mile of land, only needing to engage with a wider community when visiting large-scale regional shopping centres.
This fantasy of the pioneer spirit still resonates, but one of the things I like about being in America is how you can sometimes catch glimpses of the stolen wilderness. There are birds that look and sound amazing, like some that I saw from the train yesterday as it passed through the New Jersey marshland. Don’t know what they are, but we don’t have them in Bethnal Green. And the trains themselves can still evoke images of an American past. The guards jump off the train to announce its destination and shout ‘all aboard’.
Perhaps the thing I like most about America is that it has all the pleasures of being in a foreign country, without the language barrier.