From the New York Times to the American Theatre and the Wall Street Journal, the media attention surrounding the Harry Ransom Center’s fall exhibition “I Have Seen the Future: Norman Bel Geddes Designs America,” is almost as multifarious as Bel Geddes himself.
Much more than just an exhibit, “I Have Seen the Future” enlivens the life and career of grandiose industrial designer and city planner Norman Bel Geddes. Famous for his utopian predictions for the future, Bel Geddes had a profound influence on all areas of American life—from theater set design and highway infrastructure to football games.
In retrospect, Bel Geddes’ visions really were a peek into the future; surprisingly, some remain beyond even our 21st-century capabilities. Here’s a look at a few of those dreams, imagined by a man truly ahead of his time.
Sky-High Revolving Restaurants
In 1930, Bel Geddes dreamed up a restaurant that would revolve 360 degrees, giving its customers a full view of a city. Though Texans today are well accustomed to Dallas’ Reunion Tower and San Antonio’s Tower of the Americas, the first revolving restaurant was not created until 1959—29 years after Bel Geddes first designed one.
Bel Geddes love for streamlined design and obsession with aerodynamics birthed his vision of a bullet-shaped train to be sided with aluminum. Predicting this between 1930 and 1933, Bel Geddes was decades ahead of the first high-speed bullet trains, which were not launched until 1964.
Streamlined Cars (above)
While cars never became quite as aerodynamic as Bel Geddes envisioned in 1933, Chrysler immediately implemented many of the qualities of his designs in the creation of its 1934 Chrysler Airflow.
Advanced Highway System
The 1939 “Futurama” exhibition at the New York World’s Fair, perhaps Bel Geddes’s most famous contribution to American culture, previewed a world where cities would be connected by seven-lane highways. Bel Geddes’ presentation came a full 17 years before President Dwight D. Eisenhower began creating the interstate system.
Though Bel Geddes was right about many things, his foresight was by no means 20/20. In 1949, Bel Geddes predicted that future society would have flying cars for transport—a dream still yet to be realized 63 years later.
For more information on Bel Geddes and his designs, watch this exclusive video from the Alcalde show on Longhorn Network:
Photos courtesy of The Edith Lutyens and Norman Bel Geddes Foundation. Granted by the Harry Ransom Center.
Richard X Taylor:
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