Orville Simpson II (1923-2015), a lifelong Cincinnatian, was a self-taught planner, architect, designer, and artist who created “Victory City,” a futuristic vision of a metropolitan complex he began working on at the age of 13.
The untrained artist and amateur city planner spent six decades detailing a concept that would become a model of efficiency and sustainability for urban planners worldwide. His drawings counteracted suburban development’s stark invasion of rural farmland, which he had witnessed growing up in Ohio between Cincinnati and Dayton.
He began with a 102-story tower that bore a slight resemblance to the era’s most recent architectural phenomenon, the Empire State Building. Over time, his concept grew to anticipate and offer solutions to many of the unforeseen consequences of urban sprawl – things like air pollution, traffic jams, resource scarcity, energy inefficiency, ecological loss and lack of sustainability.
“Each time I added a new layer to Victory City, another challenge would present itself,” recalls Simpson. “I constantly assessed the relationships between each of the city’s components. How would the agricultural farms transport food most efficiently to the cafeterias? How would residents visit their families in other cities? These are the questions I challenged myself to answer with every new sketch.”
Despite never graduating from high school, his early survival depended on the shoestring income of several labor-intensive jobs. Eventually, his frugal lifestyle paired with a few savvy investments provided him the means to live comfortably and pour all his energy into Victory City. The result of Simpson’s artistry is an abundant collection of colorful concepts. His drawings detail everything from the museum-like murals on the main building’s walls to the specially designed, 500-person capacity elevators.
In 2011, the University of Cincinnati received a substantial endowment from Orville Simpson who spent his adult life thinking about the problems of urban sprawl, overcrowding, crime and pollution. During this time — with no formal architectural, planning, or artistic training — Simpson dedicated his life to designing his solution to these problems through the conception of Victory City. Simpson’s desire to see future urban planners, architects and designers implement aspects of his work has resulted in the creation of the Simpson Center for Urban Futures.
The Orville Simpson Archive spans six decades with materials created by Simpson that are comprised of: sketches, architectural plans, building models, letters, photographs, and manuscripts that offer detailed insight into Simpson’s process of creating Victory City.