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Chicago World's Fair 1933 Century of progress Brownie camera

The Hall of Science

The Hall of Science and the Transportation Building were the most recognizable buildings of A Century of Progress. They typified the linear, geometric Art Deco style which was the trademark of this world's fair.

The Hall of Science, which accommodated the central theme exhibition, covered a respectable 67,000 square meters. Its architect, Paul Philippe Cret, chose a U-shaped outline which, with a middle portion and two wings making up a court of honour that was open to the east, provided space for 80,000 persons. Broad staircases and several terraces increased the plasticity of this building. A 53-metre tower at the south-west corner was a visual mark of the unity of this spacious construction. A timber framework covered by prefabricated lightweight building material was placed between the steel columns that formed the constructional skeleton of the building. The interplay of light and shadow on the generous, clearly modeled wall areas, which were designed in the complementary colours of blue and orange, made the architectural forms into an exciting relationship which seemed to change rhythmically depending on the location of the viewer.

The Hall of Science

Hall of Science. Century of Progress. Valdura Wins Again. All World's Fair buildings painted both interior and exterior with Valdura products.

The goal of the exhibition in the Hall of Science was to emphasize the significance of research and demonstrate its impact on the economy and day-to-day life. Already during the run-up to the fair a broad public relations campaign – with a magazine that was established specifically for the fair, special radio program on science and provision of material for the international press – ensured that there was a receptive public.

Bold splashes of color seem almost articulate with the spirit of carnival, a flaming expression of fun and frivolity which is of the very essence of a Fair. And it is interesting to note the percentages of colors used. Approximately twenty per cent of all the painted surfaces is in white, twenty per cent in blue, twenty per cent in oranges, fifteen per cent in black, and the remaining twenty-five per cent is divided among the yellows, red, grays, and green. The result sought was a correlation of many buildings that are different in character, shape and mass, and which are arranged on a very informal plan.

Consider the architecture of the buildings. In most of them there are no windows. These structures are for the most part unbroken planes and surfaces of asbestos and gypsum board and plywood and other such materials on light steel frames, rather than a parade of sculptured ornamentation. "It would be incongruous to house exhibits showing man's progress in the past century in a Greek temple of the age of Pericles, or a Roman villa of the time of Hadrian," said members of the architectural commission.

A Century of Progress considered two things in planning the types of building construction. First, here was a city built for 150 days of life, not for the 30 years that is the anticipated life of a modern building. Second, in construction as well as in architecture, it was intended that here should be a huge experimental laboratory, in which home builders and manufacturers can study, and from which they might borrow for their buildings of the future.

The second World's Fair to be held in Chicago had an ambitious goal: Visitors with a thirst for knowledge were intended to see the past hundred years of science coupled with future benefits for mankind in the shape of elaborate installations and functional factories that were true to the original. This was the birth of the theme exhibition that was later to become an indispensable part of all future World's Fairs. Leading architects from Chicago and elsewhere in the USA designed large, modern halls in Art Deco style which caused a sensation owing to their colorful painting in particular. A lively amusement part offering everything from rocket trips to striptease shows gave visitors plenty to enjoy at this fair.

By October 1933 around 22.5 million people had visited the Chicago fair. This was undoubtedly a respectable success but the takings were insufficient to pay back all shareholders. The exposition committee therefore decided to extend the show and open it for another summer. Although the fair resumed against the backdrop of the continuing economic slump it still promised to be very popular and be a financial success. The half-year break was used to revise and supplement the facilities. Some parts were extended, new ones were set up and others were taken down. Even the lagoons and entrances were converted to meet the expected crowds following the experiences that had been made with the first summer.

Rare Rainbow No 2A Hawk-eye with special Century of progress sticker - Chicago 1933

1933/34 bookmarks

World's Fair,Century of Progress what's left in 2005 (satellite picture)

1933 World's Fair,Century of Progress map

Special version of the Brownie Special No.2

Camera with decorative front panel showing the hall of Science

the Chicago World's fair 1933 Century of progress.

Numbers made: 2000