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Studies for Beacon of Progress

Major collection: Architecture & Design
Named collection: Désiré Despradelle Collection
Object type: drawing
Maker: Despradelle, Constant Désiré
Date made: 1893 - 1900
Materials: graphite; ink; trace paper; paper
Site location: Chicago, Illinois
Measurements: 30 in x 12 1/2 in; 4 1/2 in x 4 1/2 in; 17 1/4 in x 6 1/2 in; 3 1/4 in x 3 1/4 in; 30 1/4 in x 12 1/4 in; 31 1/2 in x 26 in
Plan type/view: section; plan

Five pieces of trace paper mounted to one paper. Each trace sheet is numbered in graphite pencil in the lower right corner. Drawing 1: sketch section of beacon in pencil; sketch auditorium section; sketch auditorium plans; plan detail sketches. Drawing 2: auditorium plan in black ink. Drawing 3: sketch section in brown ink with calculations. Drawing 4: floor plan of an upper story in black ink. Drawing 5: section in perspective of monument.

Building a tower of 1500 feet--three times the height of the Washington Monument--presented enormous challenges. A solid stone obelisk of this height would have been structurally impossible and an all-metal tower would have been too unstable, especially given its waterfront site in a famously windy city. As the design of the Beacon evolved, Despradelle hollowed out the interior using a steel and concrete frame to support a granite facing, greatly reducing the building dead load. In using a steel frame structure, Despradelle applied a developing technology that made tall office building construction possible. The Beacon's interior program provided for nearly four million square feet of space. The main feature of the interior was an auditorium seating 23,000 on six levels, sketched here in several plan iterations. Other proposed spaces were to be occupied by a museum of American history, an observatory, and a laboratory for the U.S. Weather Bureau.

Related People

thumbnail Despradelle, Constant Désiré

Related Sites

thumbnail Beacon of Progress