Alice Constance Austin
Early Life, Education, and Career
Alice Constance Austin was born in 1868 to Benjamin Austin and Ellen Mary Wood in Santa Barbara, California. She was an architect, planner, and radical feminist and is most famous for her design of Llano del Rio, a socialist city in California. She worked for Job Harriman, a socialist who lost the election for mayor of Los Angeles in 1911, to plan a model cooperative community in Palmdale, called the Llano Co-operative Colony. Austin’s plan was a circular city with six sections of living quarters located around a circle in the center that included an assembly hall and administrative offices. Another circle near the center would hold a restaurant, church, school, and a market. The city planned to have more than 10,000 people but only 900 residential units were built.
The houses in the city had modern feminist designs; they were kitchenless houses where hot meals would be delivered through underground tunnels from a central kitchen. There were also communal day-care areas, and Austin minimized interior decorations in the houses to lessen the amount of housework. The homes had built-in furniture, roll away beds, and heated tile floors, and the city planned to have an underground railway to transport commuters, laundry, and supplies. Her city would help eliminate domestic labor, which Austin considered an obstacle to gender equality.
Austin wrote “The Next Step,” published in 1935, about city planning, and although her plans for Llano del Rio were never actualized, they now influence architecture designs nationwide.
Major Buildings and Projects
Llano del Rio Cooperative Colony