From the summer of 1933 to the fall of 1934, more than 38 million fairgoers visited a 3-mile stretch along Lake Michigan, home to Chicago's second World's Fair. Millions more experienced the Century of Progress International Exposition through newspaper and magazine articles, newsreels, and souvenirs.Read more...
From the summer of 1933 to the fall of 1934, more than 38 million fairgoers visited a 3-mile stretch along Lake Michigan, home to Chicago's second World's Fair. Millions more experienced the Century of Progress International Exposition through newspaper and magazine articles, newsreels, and souvenirs. Together, all marveled at the industrial, scientific, consumer, and cultural displays, many of which were housed in fifty massive and colorful exhibition halls, the largest architectural project realized in the United States during the Great Depression.
In the richly illustrated Building a Century of Progress, Lisa D. Schrenk explores the pivotal role of the 1933 Chicago World's Fair in modern American architecture. She recounts how the exposition's architectural commission promoted a broad definition of modern architecture, not relying on purely aesthetic characteristics but instead focusing on new design solutions. The fair's pavilions incorporated recently introduced building materials such as masonite and gypsum board; structural innovations (for example, the first thin-shell concrete roof and the first suspended roof structures built in the United States); and new construction processes, most notably the use of prefabrication. They also featured curiosities like the giant, constantly operating mayonnaise maker and the glass-walled House of Tomorrow, which had no operable windows. Schrenk shows how the halls' designs reflected cultural and political developments of the period, including the expanding relationships between science, industry, and government; the rise of a corporate consumer culture; and the impact of the Great Depression.
Many of the designs provoked intense responses from critics and other prominent architects, including Frank Lloyd Wright and Ralph Adams Cram, fueling heated debates over the appropriate direction for architecture in the United States. Demonstrating the rich diversity of progressive American building design seen at the fair, Building a Century of Progress captures a crucial moment in American modernism.
Lisa D. Schrenk is assistant professor of architecture and art history at Norwich University and former education director of the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio Foundation.
- ISBN-13: 9780816648368
- ISBN-10: 0816648360
- Publisher: University of Minnesota Press
- Publish Date: June 2007
- Page Count: 357
- Dimensions: 10.76 x 7.8 x 1.09 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.81 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page 46.
- Review Date: 2007-06-18
- Reviewer: Staff
The organizers of the Century of Progress International Exposition chose as their motto “Science Finds—Industry Applies—Man Conforms.” With the Great Depression at its worst, they wanted to offer the country a vision of modernity where science and industry worked together to improve every aspect of daily life. They built three million square feet of exhibition space in pavilions that stretched along three miles of landfill on Chicago’s southern lakefront. During the exposition’s two seasons, 38 million fairgoers watched the manufacture of everything from cars to tin cans, visited model homes with all the latest conveniences (one had a small airplane hanger), and saw ethnographic displays from around the world. Schrenk, an assistant professor of architecture at Norwich University, provides a good discussion of the debates on modern architecture that surrounded the design of the fair. But as her focus shifts to the innovative materials and building methods that went into producing the exposition, chapters on gypsum board, Masonite, glass bricks and thin-shell concrete roofs can be slow going for general readers. The 170 illustrations and 26 color plates, including architects’ designs and the fair’s promotional material, provide a sense of the vision that informed the undertaking. (Aug.)