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The rise and propagation of international exhibition culture during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries Architectural History II Martina Contento

Figure 1.1, Chicago’s Columbian Exposition

International exhibition played a significant role during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, in nations all over the world. A new exhibitionary culture rose, which allowed nations to showcase their progress in the arts and technology. Exhibitions became a collective place for comparing and ranking a nation’s success. They were a successful way of expanding global markets and educating the masses about nations beyond their reach. Every nation’s purpose for hosting an exhibition varied due to unique social, political and economic climates. Chicago’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 is an example of a fair whose architectural and urban planning was interrelated with these conditions. The grand, temporary exhibition empowered the American people and ignited a sense of hope for better living conditions during a time of poverty and corruption associated with Industrialization. Chicago was a perfect example of a growing American city whose rapid expansion of the Industrial Age brought along poor living standards and conflicts between social classes.1 With the triumph of the 1889 Paris Universal Exposition in France, it was expected that the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition would achieve a similar, if not 1

P. Barrett ‘World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893’ (http://columbus.iit.edu/)

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higher, level of success in celebrating of the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s voyage to the New World of America.2, 3 Not only was the fair a celebration, but it was also valuable for several cultural reasons. During this time, there was a necessity to uplift American moral as the result of prior economic depression. The Industrial Revolution led to merciless living conditions, with overcrowding, pollution and poor sanitation. There was tension between the classes, which resulted in conflicts like Chicago’s bloody 1886 Haymarket Riot.4 On a more local level, the fair was an effective way of uniting Chicago after the disastrous fire of 1871.5 There was a collective sense of relief when American citizens walked into the fair and saw the technological advances that their nation had put forth. In Robert Herrick’s Memoirs of an American citizen, he reflects upon the fair, ‘the long lines of white buildings were ablaze with countless lights… In that lovely hour, soft and gentles, the toil and trouble of men, the fear that was gripping men’s hearts in the markets, fell away from men and in its place came faith.’6 The fair provided Americans with the feeling of pride and nationalistic dignity when their nation’s art and technology was showcased and ranked on a superior level to that of other nations. The rapid progression of America’s 400 years in existence was evident in this fair. This essay will mainly focus on the prominent Jackson Park area containing the American contribution to the exposition. The massive 600-acre site of the fair was difficult to deal with, as most of the soil was dreary, sandy, prone to overflow, and looked inadequate to sustain the weight of a simple structure.7 Landscape designer Frederick Law Olmsted overcame these challenges and organized a fair consisting of fourteen colossal buildings, designed in a combination of beaux-arts and neoclassical styles that were borrowed from Europe; an attempt to reach their cultural level and stature.8 The fourteen buildings, which became known as the ‘Great Buildings,’ were matching in height, enclosing a lagoon from which two massive sculptures rose.9,10 Architecture stimulated positive feelings within the American people. The classical style of the fair exhibited a historical and cultural aspect that America wanted to showcase, even if it wasn’t the reality of the 2

R. Rydell, J. Flindling, and K. Pelle, Fair America, p. 32. R. Rydell, J. Flindling, and K. Pelle, Fair America, p. 40. P. Barrett ‘World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893’ (http://columbus.iit.edu/) 5 R. Rydell, J. Flindling, and K. Pelle, Fair America, p. 40. 6 R. Rydell, All the World’s a Fair, p. 38. all the worlds a fair, quote by Robert Herrick, memoirs of an American citizen, 1905” 7 N. Bolotin, C. Laing, The World’s Columbian Exposition: The Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, p. 9. 8 J. K. Rose, ‘Reactions to the fair’ (http://xroads.virginia.edu/~ma96/wce/reactions.html) 9 N. Bolotin, C. Laing, The World’s Columbian Exposition: The Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, p. 9. 10 N. Bolotin, C. Laing, The World’s Columbian Exposition: The Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, p. 11. 3 4

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American culture.11 Chicago had already demonstrated technological prowess in the form of skyscrapers prior to 1893, hence their need to emphasize their apparent lack of national identity and culture.12 Europe, on the other hand, had an abundance of culture, and its exposition’s architecture emphasized the improvement in technology, as seen in Joseph Paxton’s technologically advanced Crystal Palace for the 1851 Great Exhibition.13 The scale and aesthetics of the fair made it an unforgettable site (Fig. 1.1).14

Figure 1.1, Chicago’s Columbian Exposition

The fair could be used as a method for exploring ways in which city planning could be improved. Regardless of the immense 600-acre site, the construction period of the fair was relatively short due to the new prefabrication technology utilized in the ‘Great Buildings.’ It was one of the first landmarks to use the steel frame construction, which is now commonly referred to as the ‘Chicago frame.’15 The steel to iron modification resulted in the increased growth in railways and skyscrapers.16 The expanded railway system also significantly contributed to the speed and success of the fair’s construction and attendance.17 The emphasis on transport in the Columbian Exposition was an unprecedented move by world fair organisers, playing a significant 11

G. Ciucci, K. Dal Co, M. Manieri-Elia, and M. Tafuri, The American City, p. 19. G. Ciucci, K. Dal Co, M. Manieri-Elia, and M. Tafuri, The American City, p. 19. G. Ciucci, K. Dal Co, M. Manieri-Elia, and M. Tafuri, The American City, p. 19. 14 R. Rydell, J. Flindling, and K. Pelle, Fair America, p. 37. 12 13

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U. Pfammatter, The Making of the Modern Architect and Engineer, p. 173. U. Pfammatter, The Making of the Modern Architect and Engineer, p. 173. 17 G. Ciucci, K. Dal Co, M. Manieri-Elia, and M. Tafuri, The American City, p. 15. 16

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role in the transition of America into its’ Industrial 20th century. This can be illustrated by the industrial scale usage of electricity, unseen in any previous exhibition; in fact, ten times more electricity was consumed than in the Paris Exposition of 1889.18 This displays ways in which the fair benefited from Industrialisation. The fair gifted architects with the tools for improved means of urban planning, and citizens of the emerging, mass-producing cities, with a glimpse of a healthier life. Although the exhibition was constructed in a fast, transient manner, it still served as an effective blueprint for permanent future cities. The conditions in prominent American cities were ones of pollution, disease, and overcrowding. The Exhibition became known as the ‘White City’ due to the architects’ decision to paint the buildings surrounding the lake a ‘dazzling white.’19 The bright, white stucco exterior of the buildings gave a clear contrast to Chicago’s grim outside tenements. The elegant and aesthetically beautiful combination of water, gardens, and grand buildings created vivacious public spaces, clean streets and a healthy atmosphere, contrasting to the current living conditions of the slums. Three miles of canals wrapped around the ‘Great Buildings’, with statues and fountains rising from them.20 The canal interlaced the buildings in a poetic, picturesque way. Frederick Law Olmstead, a prominent landscape designer of the fair, used the water of Lake Michigan for these canals, and excavated the area to form a series of islands and lagoons, with bridges, docks and piers extending from them.21

Figure 1.2, Columbian Exposition’s central court

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N. Bolotin, C. Laing, The World’s Columbian Exposition: The Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, p. 9. R. Rydell, J. Flindling, and K. Pelle, Fair America, p. 34. 20 N. Bolotin, C. Laing, The World’s Columbian Exposition: The Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, p. 11. 21 N. Bolotin, C. Laing, The World’s Columbian Exposition: The Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, p. 9. 19

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The exhibition became an ideal, small-scaled city. Montgomery Schuyler, a prominent fair critic, not only admired the landscape plan, but also recognized the strong architectural unity of the fair (Fig. 1.2).22 Another highly appraised aspect of the Columbian Exposition, by other architectural critics, was the self-sufficiency with which it operated, and the meticulous attention given to public sanitation.23 The design of the fair's ‘White City’ was ideal, it’s organization allowed for the segregation of the different governments, and each of the buildings was representative of the nation’s individual character.24 Shops and commercial exhibits, on the other hand, were located in the midway, which was separated from the main fair ground.25 The planning’s beauty and success sparked the idea that architecture could be used as a device to solve the apparent social conflicts.26 The grand, picturesque fair empowered the nation. Its’ organization and harmony made it an exemplary city for future planning. In 1909, the fair’s architect Daniel Burnham published his “Plan of Chicago”, which used the Chicago fair as reference for the city’s development until the mid twentieth century.27 Furthermore, the Columbian Exposition had its own department of publicity, which proved to be highly effective in spreading information about the Exposition worldwide.28 Images have said to been found at locations as remote as the Sahara Desert.29 This allowed for a global influence on architecture due to the publication of architectural plans and images. Chicago’s plan became the American ‘adaptation’ of the grid plan.30 Despite the classical architectural style, the planning was socially progressive, and its aesthetics had social and economic implications.31,32 The Jackson Park area housed the U.S. contribution to the fair, which evoked a sense grandeur through its orthogonal grid planning.33 The regularisation and modularity of the grid gave a sense of social order and stability that the U.S. was lacking. The expansive scale of the American buildings provided a strong contrast to the less commanding buildings of the other nations’

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R. Rydell, J. Flindling, and K. Pelle, Fair America, p. 38. R. Rydell, J. Flindling, and K. Pelle, Fair America, p. 38. R. Rydell, J. Flindling, and K. Pelle, Fair America, p. 38. 25 P. Barrett ‘World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893’ (http://columbus.iit.edu/) 26 P. Barrett ‘World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893’ (http://columbus.iit.edu/) 27 R. Rydell, J. Flindling, and K. Pelle, Fair America, p. 38. 28 R. Rydell, World of Fairs, p. 23. 29 R. Rydell, World of Fairs, p. 23. 30 G. Ciucci, K. Dal Co, M. Manieri-Elia, and M. Tafuri, The American City, p. 1. 31 G. Ciucci, K. Dal Co, M. Manieri-Elia, and M. Tafuri, The American City, p. 7. 32 G. Ciucci, K. Dal Co, M. Manieri-Elia, and M. Tafuri, The American City, p. 21. 33 G. Ciucci, K. Dal Co, M. Manieri-Elia, and M. Tafuri, The American City, p. 21. 23 24

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exhibits.34 These sections of the exposition presented a multitude of styles that were insightful but had little architectural significance for the future of urban planning.35 The significance of the Columbian Expositions’ ‘White City’ was not the classical style it was in, but instead in the urban planning solution that was developed from it.36 It was the solution that blossomed into the City Beautiful Movement. This picturesque, ideal and beautified metropolis became what nations strived for in its own cities.37 Although not conceptually significant, Beaux-Arts architecture was still prevalent in the City Beautiful Movement as it produced a sense of order and harmony.38 An example of a city whose planning was inspired by the movement was Washington D.C.39 A previously failed attempt at planning and building the city of Washington D.C. had left monuments devoid of symbolic meaning and unrelated to one another.40 The planners, following the ideals the City Beautiful Movement, aimed to create an urban fabric that connected the monuments and brought a sense of unity and beauty to the city.41 The City Beautiful Movement considered both the urban realm and public spaces.42 This can also be illustrated in Olmstead’s planning for Central Park after his contribution to the exposition.43 In this plan for Central Park, he planned for a natural utopia within a chaotic, high-rise metropolis.44 Besides urban planning, the Columbian Exposition also influenced the future of entertainment within the public realm. It is important to mention that the exposition not only served the purpose of educating, but also entertaining. The ‘midway’ section of the exhibition contained the native villages of the fair, and provided visitors the opportunity to witness the lives of tribal people, an experience that was new to most Americans.45 This, along with the fair’s theatricality and diversion attractions like the famous Ferris wheel, brought a new idea of ‘collective entertainment.’46 This concept is illustrated through Coney Island amusement park and the Disney World theme park that took off in the 19th century.47 Even the concept of the exhibition, a non-permanent, inexpensive model city, is similar to that of a

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G. Ciucci, K. Dal Co, M. Manieri-Elia, and M. Tafuri, The American City, p. 21. G. Ciucci, K. Dal Co, M. Manieri-Elia, and M. Tafuri, The American City, p. 21. G. Ciucci, K. Dal Co, M. Manieri-Elia, and M. Tafuri, The American City, p. 52. 37 G. Ciucci, K. Dal Co, M. Manieri-Elia, and M. Tafuri, The American City, p. 52. 38 G. Ciucci, K. Dal Co, M. Manieri-Elia, and M. Tafuri, The American City, p. 52. 39 G. Ciucci, K. Dal Co, M. Manieri-Elia, and M. Tafuri, The American City, p. 52. 40 G. Ciucci, K. Dal Co, M. Manieri-Elia, and M. Tafuri, The American City, p. 53. 41 G. Ciucci, K. Dal Co, M. Manieri-Elia, and M. Tafuri, The American City, p. 53. 42 G. Ciucci, K. Dal Co, M. Manieri-Elia, and M. Tafuri, The American City, p. 49. 43 G. Ciucci, K. Dal Co, M. Manieri-Elia, and M. Tafuri, The American City, p. 53. 44 G. Ciucci, K. Dal Co, M. Manieri-Elia, and M. Tafuri, The American City, p. 49. 45 J. K. Rose, ‘Legacy to the fair’ (http://xroads.virginia.edu/~ma96/wce/legacy.html) 46 J. K. Rose, ‘Legacy to the fair’ (http://xroads.virginia.edu/~ma96/wce/legacy.html) 47 J. K. Rose, ‘Legacy to the fair’ (http://xroads.virginia.edu/~ma96/wce/legacy.html) 35

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theme park.48 The monumental scale of the fair was meant to give the appearance of classical grandeur and monumentality, but was achieved with economical efficiency through the temporary structure that reflected utopian ideals, similar to that of a theme park.49 Walt Disney's EPCOT Centre, which is an acronym for 'Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow', is inspired the by the expositions' focus on entertainment and the utopian ideals expressed through its’ beaux-arts architecture.50 The exposition was a catalyst for a thriving entertainment industry, which has grown through America in the 20th century and to the modern day. Although many architectural critics state that the use of Beaux-arts and neoclassical architecture in the exposition brought America to the cultural level of Europe, many also disagreed.51 American architect Louis Sullivan, who had played a significant role in American architecture in the 19th century, saw America as a unique nation with a different identity to that of Europe.52 He was within a new generation of forward thinking architects, who disregarded older styles and instead attempted to create an American architectural identity that would fit a specific land.53 By the end of the fair, he claimed that it had ‘set back American architecture by forty years.’54 The fair might have created a completely different outcome had he had a bigger role in the planning of the fair.55 Despite the critique of Louis Sullivan and other critics, the Columbian Exposition of 1893 proved to be very influential on a local, national, and even global scale. The fair shifted the power away from the Atlantic.56 Along with the fair’s $1.4 million profit, the fair demonstrated to be of great success culturally and architecturally.57 Rather than using a political agenda to improve American life and redistribute wealth, the exposition prompted the belief that architecture and planning could lead to widespread social reform.58 The term "Dream City" was coined to describe the Columbian exposition, which reflected the utopian ideals of a city that could reshape the social fabric of a nation.59 48

G. Ciucci, K. Dal Co, M. Manieri-Elia, and M. Tafuri, The American City, p. 20. G. Ciucci, K. Dal Co, M. Manieri-Elia, and M. Tafuri, The American City, p. 20. J. K. Rose, ‘Legacy to the fair’ (http://xroads.virginia.edu/~ma96/wce/legacy.html) 51 J. K. Rose, ‘Reactions to the fair’ (http://xroads.virginia.edu/~ma96/wce/reactions.html) 52 J. K. Rose, ‘Reactions to the fair’ (http://xroads.virginia.edu/~ma96/wce/reactions.html) 53 J. K. Rose, ‘Reactions to the fair’ (http://xroads.virginia.edu/~ma96/wce/reactions.html) 54 J. K. Rose, ‘Reactions to the fair’ (http://xroads.virginia.edu/~ma96/wce/reactions.html) 55 G. Ciucci, K. Dal Co, M. Manieri-Elia, and M. Tafuri, The American City, p. 10. 56 G. Ciucci, K. Dal Co, M. Manieri-Elia, and M. Tafuri, The American City, p. 8. 57 R. Rydell, J. Flindling, and K. Pelle, Fair America, p. 28. 58 P. Barrett ‘World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893’ (http://columbus.iit.edu/) 59 P. Barrett ‘World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893’ (http://columbus.iit.edu/) 49 50

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Bibliography Barrett, P. ‘World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893’ (http://columbus.iit.edu/) Bolotin, N., Laing, C., The World’s Columbian Exposition: The Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 (Illinois, 2002). Ciucci, G., Dal Co, K., Manieri-Elia, M., and Tafuri, M., The American City (Massachusetts, 1979). Peters, T., Building the Nineteenth Century (London, 1996). Pfammatter, U., The Making of the Modern Architect and Engineer (Birkhauser, 2000). Rose, J. K., ‘Reactions to the fair’ (http://xroads.virginia.edu/~ma96/wce/reactions.html) Rose, J. K., ‘Legacy to the fair’ (http://xroads.virginia.edu/~ma96/wce/legacy.html) Rydell, R., All the World’s a Fair (Chicago, 1987). Rydell, R., World of Fairs (Chicago, 1993). Rydell, R., Flindling, J., and Pelle, K., Fair America (Washington D.C., 2000).

Image Sources Figure 1.1 http://news.beloblog.com/ProJo_Blogs/architecturehereandthere/plancolumbian.jp Figure 2.1 http://www.radford.edu/rbarris/Women%20and%20art/amerwom05/columbianex postion.html

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Architectural History II: Writing Sample