Track 2: Materials over Time: Points of Change
Rehabilitation of George Fred Keck's House of Tomorrow from the 1933 World's Fair: Century of Progress
Monday, September 24
10:30 AM - 12:00 PM
Location: BNCC- 101BG
During the 1933 World’s Fair Century of Progress, the Home and Industrial Arts Group included eleven homes to showcase advances in modern materials, interior design and architecture. They were small homes that maximized sunlight and expanded living space to terraces and rooftops. The dodecagon (12-sided) House of Tomorrow was made of steel and glass that caught the eyes of many curious and eager attendees, due to its futuristic concept, that in the future, modern families would travel mostly by air. Sporting a hangar for the family plane, the House of was erected around a central perforated steel mast that was also served as a structural element. The mast cleverly housed plumbing, A/C pipes, gas, etc., to distribute systems throughout the house. An electric dishwasher, glass curtain wall and central air condition, noted as the first ever in a home, contributed to other the modern conveniences.
Designed by George Fred Keck, it was his vision of what modern domestic life could be in the future. Eight-five years later, the technology, materials and design that were showcased then, are common elements in today’s homes. At the conclusion of the Fair, five homes were shipped across Lake Michigan to what is now, Beverly Shores at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Despite recognition by The New York Times as an “indisputable architectural masterpiece,” the House of Tomorrow has sat vacant since 1999.
This session will present the 1933 World’s Fair impact on building technologies, materials, products, furniture and equipment. It will also provide an update for the ongoing rehabilitation and some of the technical and philosophical challenges that we found during design. These challenges included installing a similar curtain wall system that appears as it did 85 years ago, while providing thermal performance and properties of today’s glazing systems. Methods of restoring or replacing modern materials that were only used once or no longer available needed to be determined. The original central air conditioning as noted to be the first ever installed in a home is significant to the House’s history, therefore selection of these new systems were crucial.
An innovative agreement exists between Indiana Landmarks and the National Park Service that is in part funding the rehabilitation. This will be discussed in the session.
Our rehabilitation plan of the House is to create a NEW House of Tomorrow that reflects the original design intent and future ideas utilizing sustainable and innovated systems for a financially viable model that can possibly be used on other similar modern structures. The team wants to make the House of Tomorrow a habitable and accessible home, while preserving the innovative spirit of Architect George Fred Keck.
- This paper will present the impact of the 1933 World’s Fair and discuss how it showcased new modern materials, innovative mechanical systems and new architectural design for the American home.
- Participants will gain insight on Keck's early vision and subsequently, revisions to the house during and after the fair when it was shipped across Lake Michigan.
- This paper will provide information on unique materials and products and the approach to restore or replace them.
- Participants will gain insight on an innovative agreement between the state non-profit organization, Indiana Landmarks and the National Park Service for the rehabilitation of these historic structures.