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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Urban Planet Weird Wednesdays: Roadtown, history’s longest utopia

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Weird Wednesdays on Urban Planet takes a look at obscure, absurd, and curious things about cities around the world.

In 1910, Edgar Chambless released his plans for his utopia Roadtown, a completely linear city with everything the community needed housed in one miles-long stip and completely self-contained (picture an excessively large skyscraper laid on it’s side).

The idea was for the building to be three storeys high, and two units wide, with three subway tunnels running directly beneath. The top floor would be encased in glass and feature a promenade and bicycle paths, with the middle and ground floors being the residential and commercial/working units, respectively. Along the length of the building would be communal  farmland.

The linear nature of the building would allow for easy installation of utilities like power and water. Chambless took the notion of municipal services even futher and proposed that dirty dishes and linens from all the living units would be deposited into a chute which would bring them to a centralized washing depot.

Though it might seem crazy now, Roadtown actually had some pretty big supporters in its time, like Thomas Edison who contributed patents towards the idea.

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  1. This reminds me of the town of Fermont, Quebec (near the border with Labrador) which has a 1.3km long building containing most of the Town’s apartments, shops, and amenities, and which acts as a windbreak protecting the rest of the Town from harsh winter weather. The only thing missing is a subway!

  2. That’s awesome, thanks for sharing Matt.

    As well, here is a piece from a 1932 copy of Popular Science that proposes a similar small scale linear structure, specific for transportation.