The article below was contributed to the Graphicine website by Roxana Wax. It features some of Hugh Ferriss’ most outstanding architectural and industrial drawings and sketches. As noted by Wax, Ferriss was a man whose visions weren’t appreciated during his lifetime, yet his influence is beyond dispute.
One aspect of Ferriss’ visions that stands out is the foreboding nature of his metropolis of the future. The structures, while beautiful in their lines and perfect geometry, are sometimes giant megaliths that dwarf all human dimensions. They are, in fact, indicative of the impersonalization of the early 20th century – the rise of the somewhat soulless vision of a mechanized bureaucratic system where civilization would now be measured by the size and style of its structures and buildings, rather than the former measures of culture like the arts (at the one side) and the simple beauty of the family farm (on the other).
It’s often pointed out that the structures which a culture builds far outlast all other impressions. This is clear from the ancient pyramids to the Grecian temple remains. While the pyramids left an enduring image of mystery and genius, and the Greeks left the imagery of beauty and thought, today’s structures are rarely built to last. One wonders, does Ferriss’ works relate more to the 21st century future still to come?
It’s no wonder that Ferriss’ works became an inspiration of dystopian metropolises like Batman’s Gotham – this is very much the essence of those visions the brilliant artist presents.
10 February 2014
Hugh Ferriss (1889 – 1962) was an American delineator (one who creates drawings and sketches of buildings) and architect. According to Daniel Okrent, Ferriss never designed a single noteworthy building, but after his death a colleague said he ‘influenced my generation of architects’ more than any other man. Ferriss also influenced popular culture, for example Gotham City (the setting for Batman) and Kerry Conran’s Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
Paul László was a Hungarian-born modern architect and interior designer whose work spanned eight decades and many countries. László built his reputation while designing interiors for houses, but in the 1960s, largely shifted his focus to the design of retail and commercial interiors. – wikipedia
László was the quintessential Atomic Age mid-century designer. In 1952 TIME magazine called him ‘The Rich Man’s Architect’. He did it all – he ‘design[ed] his houses down to the last ashtray or built-in Kleenex holder.’ He also designed a rather mod US Air Force bomb shelter:
Laszlo US Air Force Bomb Shelter Design (image via orhan ayyuce)
Below are some super articles covering Paul Laszlo’s Atomic Age masterpieces. Super thanks to MidCentArc on flickr. (Click on the images for a larger view)
Atomville – At Home, 2004 A.D. – 1954 (Page 1 of 3) – Architect: Paul Laszlo (Popular Mechanics Magazine)
Atomville – At Home, 2004 A.D. – 1954 (Page 2 of 3)
Atomville – At Home, 2004 A.D. – 1954 (Page 3 of 3)
The Paul Laszlo Residence, Beverly Hills, CA (1 of 2)
The Paul Laszlo Residence, Beverly Hills, CA (2 of 2)
Paul Laszlo was truly a Mid-Century visionary – if you could afford him.
Construction of the Atomium, the Belgian pavilion for the World Expo 58 in Brussels, Belgium, 1957. Photo by Dolf Kruger.
Designed by the engineer André Waterkeyn and architects André and Jean Polak, it stands 102 m (335 ft) tall. Its nine 18 m (59 ft) diameter stainless steel clad spheres are connected so that the whole forms the shape of a unit cell of an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times. – geheugenvannederland.nl
Perhaps more than anyone else, Raymond Lowey was the man whose designs define mid-century America. From planes, trains, and automobiles, to the iconic corporate logos that resonate to this day – Lowey’s creations shaped the American cultural identity in the 20th century. Coronare Modestus Faust at Faustian urGe blog published the post below in 2011. While a lot of attention is given to the classic 1946 Albert Frey designed Loewy House in Palm Springs, CA, the last part of the post presents some of the industrial and graphic designs that will probably be very familiar – yet this is the first time you’ll hear the name of the man who dreamed them up. Great trivia to throw out at the next gathering of friends and family.
The Raymond Loewy House, 600 Panorama Road, Palm Springs, California
Raymond Loewy Industrial Designer
Designed by Palm Springs architect Albert Frey, built in 1946-47 as a bachelor retreat, and expanded later when Loewy got married… the house has been restored by metalware manufacturer Jim Gaudineer who said of the design, “When you slide open the glass walls, it’s almost like living outdoors.”
With the lights off and the pool, alone, illuminated by a powerful submerged lamp, “the scene resembles a blue lagoon in a desert oasis, ” Loewy once wrote.
Loewy’s home is a typical Palm Springs modernist villa with a low-slung pavilion and plenty of glass providing striking views of desert, mountains, and the pool and garden… making the private oasis complete.
Loewy despised “bad modern” design, especially furniture, so the size, shape, and rooms of the home and furnishings were kept simple and spare. It is a demure…
‘Phare du Monde’ Concept – Designed by Eugène Freyssinet, France, 1933 (h/t Retronaut.com)
Phare du Monde (“Lighthouse of the world”) was an observation tower planned for the 1937 World Fair in Paris, France. The Phare du Monde, advertised as a “Pleasure Tower Half Mile High” was designed by Eugène Freyssinet, and was to be a 701 metre (2,300 feet) tall concrete tower with a light beacon and a restaurant on the top. A spiralling road on the outside of the tower shaft was to be built for driving access to a height of 1,640 feet, to a parking garage for 500 cars. This focus on the car in such an eye-catching construction has been seen as proof of the car (by 1939) having become “the primary force in determining the appearance of the ordinary landscape of cities.” The costs were estimated to have been $2.5 million; it was never built.
This image is from the, July, 1933, issue of Modern Mechanix Magazine. To read the article click here. It’s interesting that most of the comments on that post refer to the dangers of the outside spiraling auto ramp. Even with today’s standards that would be a daring proposal. Perhaps this part of the design was one of the major stumbling blocks in having the tower built.