Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Fall 2012 Newsletter

I Have Seen the Future: Norman Bel Geddes Designs America

When you drive on an interstate highway, attend a multimedia Broadway show, or watch a football game in an all-weather stadium, you owe a debt of gratitude to Norman Bel Geddes (1893–1958). Bel Geddes was both a visionary and a pragmatist who had a significant role in shaping not only modern America but also the nation's image of itself as leading the way into the future. Bel Geddes was a polymath who had no academic or professional training in the activities he mastered—designing stage sets, costumes, and lighting; creating theater buildings, offices, nightclubs, and houses; and authoring prescient books and articles.

The exhibition I Have Seen the Future: Norman Bel Geddes Designs America explores the career of this complex and influential man through more than 60 projects from the Ransom Center's Norman Bel Geddes collection.

This slideshow highlights some of the items on display in the exhibition, which runs from September 11 through January 6.

The exhibition will be accompanied by the book Norman Bel Geddes Designs America (Abrams), which explores the career of Norman Bel Geddes (1893–1958), one of the twentieth century's foremost theatrical and industrial designers. This companion volume explores Bel Geddes's life and career in comprehensive detail through nearly 100 projects, ranging from streamlined airplanes, ships, and cars, to stage sets, appliances, and much more. Both the exhibition and the book bring together never-before-seen drawings, models, photographs, and films drawn from the Ransom Center's Bel Geddes collection. Bel Geddes is perhaps best known for his Futurama display for the General Motors "Highways and Horizons" exhibit at the New York World's Fair of 1939–1940, which to this day remains a useful model for city planning and design. The exhibition is curated by Donald Albrecht, who contributed the book's introduction and serves as its editor. Twenty scholars have contributed essays.  

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