I Have Seen the Future: Norman Bel Geddes Designs America is a landmark exhibition exploring the career of one of the twentieth century's foremost theatrical and industrial designers. This book will explore the career of this complex and influential man through approximately fifty projects, bringing together never beforeexhibited drawings, models, photographs and films. The exhibition will be curated by Donald Albrecht, the Museum of the City of New York's Curator of Architecture and Design, who will also serve as the book's editor. In addition to Donald Albrecht, who will contribute the Introduction to the book, seventeen scholars will contribute essays. Norman Bel Geddes (1893 1958) was an innovative stage designer, director, producer, architect, industrial designer, futurist and urban planner, to name a few of his many talents. Bel Geddes's professional credo was to simplify, to unify, to use form to communicate (and, at times, shape) function and to question the status quo. His research based approach to problem solving followed by his complete re imagining of a design problem, as if starting from scratch, resulted in the creation of a new, ideal product.
Throughout his multi faceted career, Bel Geddes was a paradoxical figure made up of equal parts visionary and pragmatist, naturalist and industrialist, democrat and egoist. A number of products and practices now taken for granted can be traced directly back to Bel Geddes. His impact on the American landscape ranges from the U.S. federal highway system to all weather sports stadiums, revolving restaurants, modular domestic appliances and stylish home entertainment systems. In society at large, he played a seminal role in shaping the expectations and behavior of consumers. Bel Geddes helped transform both the industrial design and theatre design professions into the modern businesses they are today, while his theatre productions, which seamlessly fused sound, light and visual spectacle, set the stage for such immersive audience experiences as rock concerts. In addition to these real accomplishments, Bel Geddes, more than any designer of his era, created and promoted a dynamic vision of the future; streamlined, technocratic and optimistic.
Believing that communication was the key factor shaping the modern world, Bel Geddes popularised this vision through drawings, models and photographs of spectacular vehicles, buildings and products featured in books with poetic titles like Horizons and Magic Motorways. His most notable effort in this regard, however, was his Futurama display for the General Motors "Highways and Horizons" exhibit at the New York World's Fair of 1939/40, which adopted the motto "I Have Seen the Future." Futurama's giant model of an American city in 1960, complete with glass clad skyscrapers and multi level super highways gave Depressionera Americans genuine hope for a better future within their lifetimes. Today, as seen in the "retro futurist" looks of theme parks and animated television programs, Bel Geddes's vision of the future remains central to the twenty first century American imagination.