Directed by Chad Freidrichs
In the 1960s, renowned scientist, inventor, and comic strip author Athelstan Spilhaus sets his sights on solving one of society’s biggest problems: pollution. His answer is a fully-engineered, high-tech Experimental City, designed like a machine for maximum efficiency: a city of 250,000, built from scratch in rural Minnesota in order to avoid the spraw, pollution and baggage of existing cities. Spilhaus finds a champion in Otto Silha, a well-connected newspaper executive with ties to Vice President Humphrey.
The Minnesota Experimental City (MXC) receives the support of powerful government officials – over 100 prominent scientists, political insiders and experts of all kinds. The lineup includes such heavy-hitters as designer and futurist Buckminster Fuller, President Johnson’s physician James C. Cain, civil rights leader Whitney Young, and four-star general Bernard Schriever. With such strong backing, this seemingly improbable dream is on the road to becoming a reality.
To capture the imagination of Space Age America and its politicians, a final high-concept system is proposed by Buckminster Fuller: a massive dome to enclose the entire center of the city. The comforts of a domed tropical atmosphere during Minnesota’s harsh winters are supplemented by Fuller’s estimate that the cost of snow removal would pay for the whole structure in ten years. But the machine malfunctions and the plan falters in the face of protest from a coalition of state conservationists and rural residents, driven by mistrust of the city’s motives and pollution-free claims.
MXC’s opponents publicly air their grievances, which range from concerns over environmental impact and local governance to paranoia about automation and the dark side of technological progress. Technological optimism and new environmentalism collide in The Experimental City. From Chad Freidrichs, Director of The Pruitt-Igoe Myth.