University of Texas at Austin

A. B. Bogart
Geddes's charcoal rendering of Theatre No. 6 exterior

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Norman Bel Geddes Database

Job 141, Chicago World's Fair Advisory Commission, 1929-1932

Summary: Bel Geddes proposed numerous projects for Chicago’s 1933-1934 Century of Progress International Exhibition. In 1929 he was hired to develop a complete program of theatrical entertainment for the upcoming fair as well as a plan for the fairground’s illumination. His theaters were to be distinctly radical and, as Geddes wrote, “free in form and proportions, offering unlimited scope to every type but especially to encourage new forms in dramatic writing.”

Geddes’s designs for the exhibition, heralded by the New York Times as “Theatres for the Age of the Machine,” are among his most beautiful and imaginative architectural accomplishments, but none were built. One reason was the 1929 stock market crash. Perhaps even more significant was his forced removal from the design board by some unemployed Chicago architects because he was “neither educated nor licensed to practice architecture,” despite support from prominent architects including Frank Lloyd Wright.

For individual plans, see Theatre Number Six (job 15 ex 143), Theatre Number Fourteen (job 144), Divine Comedy Theatre (job 147), Open-Air Cabaret (job 148), Temple of Music (job 149), Water Pageant Theatre (job 165), Fountain of Light (job 182 ex 175), Illumination Plan (job 182), Transportation Building (job 182 ex 183), and Architectural League Exhibit (job 201).

See also Industrial Job Files Aquarium Restaurant (job 142), Island Dance Restaurant (job 145), Sea Food Restaurant (job 150), and Aerial Restaurant (job 169).

Hunter Code: XH 1
Hunter Guide: page 248

(click image for description)

Box/Location Folder Description
flat file e 1 Preliminary Sketches --- 3 Site plans.
theater box 198 i 1-2 Publicity --- Clippings.
theater box 198 j 1 Correspondence --- NBG - Daniel H. Burnham 1930, 1943.
theater box 198 j 2 Correspondence --- Meeting Minutes Apr1929-Jan1930.
theater box 198 j 3, 5 Correspondence --- Letters rec. re NBG's proposal and questions: Harry Barnhart, Maurice Browne, Sheldon Cheney, Jacques Copeau, Alexandra Exter, Walter René Fuerst, Max Goldschimdt, Harley Granville-Barker, Terence Gray, Samuel J. Hume, Robert E. Jones, Louis Jouvet, Hendrick de Leeuw, Percy MacKaye, Kenneth Macgowan, Richard Ordynski, Isaac Rabinowitz, Gilbert Seldes, Floryan Sobieniowski, Constantin Stanislavsky, Rabindrinath Tagore, H. Th. Wijdeveld, K. Yamamoto, Yui Shang-Yuen.
theater box 198 j 4 Correspondence --- NBG - C.W.F. Advisory Commission 1929-1932.
flat file j 6 Correspondence --- Letter rec. Alexander Tairoff 1929.
theater box 198 o 1 Design costs, billings.
theater box 198 p 1 Specifications --- Clippings 'Six Theatres'.
theater box 198 p 2 Specifications --- Telephone and Telegraph building.
theater box 198 x 1a-b Photograph Record Copy Book.