Norman Melancton ("Big Norm") Bel Geddes was an American theatrical and industrial designer. He was born Norman Melancton Geddes in Adrian, Michigan, and raised in New Philadelphia, Ohio. When he married Helen Belle Schneider in 1916, they incorporated their names to Bel Geddes.
He began his career with set designs for Aline Barnsdall's Los Angeles Little Theater in the 1916-17 season, then in 1918 as the scene designer for the Metropolitan Opera in New York. He designed and directed various theatrical works, from Arabesque and The Five O'Clock Girl on Broadway to an ice show, It Happened on Ice, produced by Sonja Henie. He also created set designs for the film Feet of Clay (1924), directed by Cecil B. DeMille, designed costumes for Max Reinhardt, and created the sets for the Broadway production of Sidney Kingsley's Dead End (1935).
In 1927 he opened an industrial-design studio and designed a wide range of commercial products, from cocktail shakers to commemorative medallions to radio cabinets. His designs extended to unrealized futuristic concepts: a teardrop-shaped automobile, and an Art Deco House of Tomorrow. In 1929, he designed "Airliner Number 4," a 9-deck amphibian airliner that incorporated areas for deck-games, an orchestra, a gymnasium, a solarium, and two airplane hangars.
Bel Geddes designed the General Motors Pavilion, known as Futurama, for the 1939 New York World's Fair. For that famous and enormously influential installation, Bel Geddes exploited his earlier work in the same vein: he had designed a "Metropolis City of 1960" in 1936. His book Magic Motorways (1940) promoted advances in highway design and transportation, foreshadowing the Interstate Highway System along with aspects of driver assist and autonomous driving.
All our texts and many of our images appear under the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike License (CC BY-SA). All our content is written and edited by our community.