Norman Bel Geddes

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Norman Bel Geddes
Norman Bel Geddes extracted.jpg
Born (1893-04-27)April 27, 1893
Adrian, Michigan, U.S.
Died May 8, 1958(1958-05-08) (aged 65)
New York City, U.S.
Nationality American
Occupation Theatrical Designer
Industrial designer
Notable work Airliner Number 4
Futurama
Mark I computer case
Spouse(s) Helen Belle Schneider
Edith Lutyens Bel Geddes
Children Barbara Bel Geddes
The insignia used by Bel Geddes in his published works
Norman Bel Geddes with part of the Shell Oil City of Tomorrow. Photo: Frances Resor Waite c.1937.

Norman Bel Geddes (born Norman Melancton Geddes; April 27, 1893 – May 8, 1958) was an American theatrical and industrial designer.[1]

Early life[edit]

Bel Geddes was born Norman Melancton Geddes in Adrian, Michigan, and raised in New Philadelphia, Ohio, the son of Flora Luelle (née Yingling) and Clifton Terry Geddes, a stockbroker.[2] When he married Helen Belle Schneider in 1916, they combined their names to Bel Geddes.[3] Their daughters were actress Barbara Bel Geddes[4] and writer Joan Ulanov.[5]

Career[edit]

Bel Geddes began his career with set designs for Aline Barnsdall's Los Angeles Little Theater in the 1916–17 season, then in 1918 as the scene designer for the Metropolitan Opera in New York. He designed and directed various theatrical works,[6] from Arabesque and The Five O'Clock Girl on Broadway to an ice show, It Happened on Ice, produced by Sonja Henie. He also created set designs for the film Feet of Clay (1924), directed by Cecil B. DeMille, designed costumes for Max Reinhardt, and created the sets for the Broadway production of Sidney Kingsley's Dead End (1935).[citation needed]

Bel Geddes opened an industrial-design studio in 1927, and designed a wide range of commercial products, from cocktail shakers to commemorative medallions to radio cabinets. His designs extended to unrealized futuristic concepts: a teardrop-shaped automobile, and an Art Deco House of Tomorrow.[7] In 1929, he designed "Airliner Number 4," a 9-deck amphibian airliner that incorporated areas for deck-games, an orchestra, a gymnasium, a solarium, and two airplane hangars.[8]

His book Horizons (1932) had a significant impact: "By popularizing streamlining when only a few engineers were considering its functional use, he made possible the design style of the thirties."[9] He wrote forward-looking articles for popular American periodicals.[10][11]

In the classic science fiction film of H. G. Wells' Things to Come (1936), he assisted production designer William Cameron Menzies on the look of the world of tomorrow, including the design of an Art Deco-style gyrodyne.[citation needed]

Bel Geddes designed the General Motors Pavilion, known as Futurama, for the 1939 New York World's Fair. For that famous and enormously influential installation, Bel Geddes exploited his earlier work in the same vein: he had designed a "Metropolis City of 1960" in 1936.[12]

Bel Geddes's book Magic Motorways (1940) promoted advances in highway design and transportation, foreshadowing the Interstate Highway System ("there should be no more reason for a motorist who is passing through a city to slow down than there is for an airplane which is passing over it"), along with aspects of driver assist and autonomous driving.[13]

The case for the Mark I computer was designed by Norman Bel Geddes. IBM's Thomas Watson presented it to Harvard. At the time, some saw it as a waste of resources, since computing power was in high demand during this part of World War II and those funds could have been used to build additional equipment.[citation needed]

Death and legacy[edit]

Bel Geddes died in New York on May 8, 1958.[3] His autobiography, Miracle in the Evening, was published posthumously in 1960.

Bel Geddes is a member of the American Theater Hall of Fame, a distinction he shares with his daughter, Barbara Bel Geddes.[14] The United States Postal Service issued a postage stamp honoring Bel Geddes as a "Pioneer Of American Industrial Design".[15]

The archive of Norman Bel Geddes is held by the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin. This large collection includes models, drafts, watercolor designs, research notes, project proposals, and correspondence. The Ransom Center also holds the papers of Bel Geddes' wife, the noted costume designer and producer Edith Lutyens Bel Geddes.[16]

Gallery[edit]

Selected publications[edit]

See also[edit]

References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ Dyal, Donald H. (1983). Norman Bel Geddes: Designer of the Future. Monticello, IL: Vance Bibliographies. ISBN 9780880665841. 
  2. ^ Pylant, James (2005). "The Midwestern Roots of Barbara Bel Geddes ("Miss Ellie")". GenealogyMagazine.com. Datatrace Systems. Archived from the original on August 27, 2012. Retrieved October 21, 2012. 
  3. ^ a b Magill, Frank N. (2013). The 20th Century A-GI: Dictionary of World Biography, Volume 7. Routledge. p. 1319. 
  4. ^ Fox, Margalit (2005-08-11). "Barbara Bel Geddes, Lauded Actress, Dies at 82". New York Times. 
  5. ^ Ratliff, Ben (2000-05-07). "Barry Ulanov, 82, a Scholar Of Jazz, Art and Catholicism". New York Times. 
  6. ^ Works, Bernhard Russell (1966). Norman Bel Geddes: Man of Ideas (Thesis). Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press. OCLC 3116381. 
  7. ^ Tinniswood, Adrian (2002). The Art Deco House. New York: Watson-Guptill. p. 20. ISBN 9780823003150. 
  8. ^ Stephens, Ian (March 29, 2009). "Huge Aviation of the 1930s: The K-7 and The Bel Geddes #4". Fly Away Simulation. Retrieved October 21, 2012. 
  9. ^ Meikle, Jeffrey L. (2001). Twentieth Century Limited: Industrial Design in America, 1925–1939 (2nd ed.). Philadelphia: Temple University Press. p. 48. ISBN 9781566398923. 
  10. ^ Bel Geddes, Norman (November 1934). "Streamlining". Atlantic Monthly: 553–558. 
  11. ^ Bel Geddes, Norman (January 1931). "Ten Years From Now". The Ladies' Home Journal: 190. 
  12. ^ Wolf, Peter M. (1974). The Future of the City: New Directions in Urban Planning. New York: Watson-Guptill. p. 28. ISBN 9780823071821. 
  13. ^ Magic motorways by Norman Bel Geddes, 1940, pp. 43-56. Quote: "But these cars of 1960 and the highways on which they drive will have in them devices which will correct the faults of human beings as drivers. They will prevent the driver from committing errors. They will make it possible for him to proceed at full speed through dense fog."
  14. ^ "Theater Hall of Fame members". 
  15. ^ Hopper, Grace Murray (January 7, 1969). "Computer Oral History Collection, 1969-1973, 1977" (PDF) (Interview). Interviewed by Uta C. Merzbach. Washington, D.C.: Archives Center, National Museum of American History. Archived from the original (PDF) on February 23, 2012. Retrieved October 21, 2012. 
  16. ^ "Norman Bel Geddes Theater and Industrial Design Papers". www.hrc.utexas.edu. Retrieved 2016-02-29. 

External links[edit]