Museum for a Small City was commissioned by Architectural Forum and published in May 1943. The magazine asked a group of 23 architects, Louis Kahn, and Charles Eames, to envision the new American City in "194X" (hence the title of the MoMA show). Van der Rohe's collage is ambitious in its reductiveness. The museum is stripped down to space, structure, and art. Published just after the US entered World War II, there's no room for any nostalgia, as made clear by the inclusion a photo-reproduction of Picasso's Guernica at the center of the composition.
In true urban renewal fashion, the urban fabric is a canvas for architectural occupation. Civic life—people, shops, buses, parks—is abstracted to the point of non-recognition.