House designs of Norman Bel Geddes : four projects from the collection of the Harry Ransom Center



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In the 1940s and 1950s industrial designer Norman Bel Geddes, like many architects and designers of the day, experimented with home design, in particular low-cost, prefabricated houses and innovative houses made possible by new building technologies. This thesis introduces four such projects: the “Prefabricated House,” designed for quick assembly and comprised of twenty-seven factory-produced units; the “Low Cost Houses,” small houses which are made inexpensive through careful design; the “Expand-a-House,” an innovative way to increase a house’s useable space; and the “Walless House,” which features disappearing walls that completely open a house to the outdoors. These houses are not discussed in books and articles and therefore are among the least known of all of Geddes’s designs. The Norman Bel Geddes Theater and Industrial Design Papers at the University of Texas Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center include correspondence, drawings, and other objects related to the projects; by examining this primary material it has been possible to bring into focus not only the houses themselves, but also Geddes’s design process, marketing schemes, and personality. This thesis begins by briefly examining Geddes’s design career, his design theory set forth in his 1932 book Horizons, and the context of his house projects. Separate chapters examine in detail each of the four house designs.