Brook Farm

Brook Farm, Massachusetts , USA
Utopian Socialists, Transcendentalists/Fourierists
Single-Family and Gendered Dormitories
1841 - 1858

1 Nest 2 Hive 3,4 Workshop 5 Meadow 6 Phallanstery 7 Pilgrim House 8 Cottage 9 Eyrie

The Brook Farm Association for Agriculture and Education was founded in 1841. Rooted in transcendentalist principles of social reform, the community was critical of industrial capitalism and wanted to create a closer relationship with nature by combining intellectual pursuits and manual labor. Unlike the isolation of Walden Pond, one of the most famous Transcendentalist retreats, Brook Farmers felt that ideal society required the expression of individuality within a communal setting. Principles of egalitarianism and individualistic creative pursuit led to a mix of free-standing buildings ranging from Italianate villa to rural gothic. The Ripley’s lived in the Eerie (9), while other families constructed homes like the Cottage (8). The Hive (2) was the only building with a kitchen, and all meals were taken there communally.

In 1844, Brook Farm adopted Fourierism and built a Phalanstery (6). Like all American Phalansteries, it was a vernacular building that bore little resemblance to Versailles. It was three stories high, with a large kitchen, bakery, lecture hall, and a dining hall that could seat 400 people. There were a dormitories for singles, while the second and third stories had family apartments. Days from completion in 1846, the Phalanstery burned down. Brook Farm’s communal living experiment ended in 1847. The buildings went on to be the Roxbury City Almshouse, Camp Andrew training base, and the Martin Luther Orphans Home.

Painting: 1845 Josiah Wolcott, Brook Farm with Rainbow  Massachusetts Historical Society

Fourierists End Notes

“The architecture of civilization bears the stamp of egoism, corruption, poverty and discord of society...The Association will create Her Architecture, and it will be one of combination and unity...When men will be associated and united, one great, elegant building will replace hundreds of isolated and miserable constructions of civilization” (Albert Brisbane)

Ungers, Liselotte, and Oswald Mathias Ungers. Kommunen in Der Neuen Welt: 1740-1971. Köln: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1972. Page 70.

Preucel, Robert W., and Steven R. Pendery. “Envisioning Utopia: Transcendentalist and Fourierist Landscapes at Brook Farm, West Roxbury, Massachusetts.” Historical Archaeology 40, no. 1 (2006): 6–19. Page 15

Ibid, 15

Ungers, 71

Annie Schneider

Communes in the New World

The question of how to live together—of how best to live together—is the foundation of any society. The last few years have exposed the fault lines in our current system: climatic catastrophe, economic crisis, supply chain collapse, civil unrest, rampant inequality, and a global pandemic. We live in congested cities and in potentially dangerous proximity, yet remain isolated. In light of these mounting pressures, it’s time to revisit the fundamentals. How to Live Together offers alternative ways of being, thinking, dwelling, and living. It calls into question every basic assumption and prevailing social norm: belief, sex, the nuclear family, property ownership, our relationship to land, production, and consumption. It is both a critique and a roadmap.