Saturday, March 10, 2007

Art Blogging: Norman Bel Geddes

Norman Bel Geddes (1893-1958) was an American Art Deco theatre and industrial designer. Although born into a wealthy family in Michigan, his father lost his fortune in the stock market, and then his life in alcoholism a few years later. Though he now grew up poor, his mother was highly cultured and exposed her son to the arts. Expelled from school in the ninth grade, he was able to get into the Cleveland Institute of Art. Geddes initially entered the field of theatre set design, where he developed innovate techniques in lighting, but later turned to the industrial arts.

Manhattan Cocktail Set (1937). His style reflected norms of Art Deco: precise, symmetrical, machine-made lines formed in the quintessential Art Deco medium: stainless steel.

Geddes was among the first designers to apply the principles of aerodynamics to products, such as this fanciful 1934 car, which never reached mass production.

Geddes is most famous for his creation of Futurama, the pavilion of General Motors at the 1939 World's Fair. This elaborate complex of displays showed Geddes' vision of an industrialized future of peace, prosperity, and flying cars. This is a picture of his scale model city, featuring new transportation flow concepts which would allow for faster, safer traffic of people and products.

The television show Futurama was named in honor of this highly optimistic vision of the future.

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