Building a Century of Progress: The Architecture of the 1933-1934 Chicago World's Fair

By Nalty, Sean | The Virginia Quarterly Review, Winter 2008 | Go to article overview

Building a Century of Progress: The Architecture of the 1933-1934 Chicago World's Fair


Nalty, Sean, The Virginia Quarterly Review


Building a Century of Progress: The Architecture of the 1933-1934 Chicago World's Fair, by Lisa D. Shrenk. Minnesota, June 2007. $39.95

"Science Finds, Industry Applies, Man Conforms" served as the official motto of the Century of Progress International Exposition in Chicago. In her splendid analysis of the cultural iconography and architectural style of the 1933-1934 Chicago World's Fair, Lisa Shrenk acknowledges the aptness of this motto in describing the architectural innovations first presented there. Forced to raise private funds for the project in the midst of the Great Depression, Rufus C. Dawes, president of the fair, and his associates continued to push on with their vision of an exposition that would point the way to a better tomorrow. To this end, lavish designs from noted architects Raymond Hood (designer of the Chicago Tribune skyscraper) and Paul Philippe Cret helped instill a modernist sensibility to the fair and showed how reliance on architectural science and technology would allow for a break with past architectural forms and building methods. Shrenk's book also stresses the transatlantic dimensions of the visions of the American architects. Chicago architect George Frederick Keek's particularly enthusiastic reception of Swiss-born designer Le Corbusier's Vers une architecture (Towards a New Architecture), with its promotion of new building materials for large European social housing projects, directly inspired Keek's House of Tomorrow, situated on the fairgrounds. …

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