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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: 16 in x 11 3/4 in; 17 1/4 in x 13 in
Plan type/view: elevation

Elevation sketch labeled "No.2".

Despradelle made many preparatory sketches for the Beacon between 1893 and the presentation of the project at the Paris Salon of 1900. Early sketches reveal a stepped spire more akin to the tower of a Gothic cathedral; later concepts adopt the more severe form of the obelisk. In every sketch the essential elements of verticality and monumentality are present. The Beacon drawings were a pedagogical model of an iterative design process that Despradelle made use of in teaching. In 1903, a journalist for the Washington Post, shown Despradelle's MIT office with the Beacon drawings on display, noted, "the growth of the idea in his mind [is evident] through a long line of designs."

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