Norman Bel Geddes (1893-1958)
The American theatrical and industrial designer Norman Bel Geddes was the first person to seriously apply the concepts of aerodynamics and streamlining to industrial design.
In 1927, Bel Geddes left theatrical design, and began designing cars, ships, factories and railways. He rapidly created streamlined forms for objects ranging from gas-ranges to trains, in addition to a revolving restaurant and, in 1929, a 9-deck amphibian airliner that incorporated areas for deck-games, an orchestra, a fully equipped gymnasium and a solarium -- an airborne Titanic!
Airliner no. 4, Norman Bel Geddes with Otto Koller, 1929.
Norman Bel Geddes, Floor plan for Airliner no. 4, note area for deck games, gymnasium, main dining room and orchestra.
Bel Geddes designed the famous General Motors Pavilion for the1939 New York World’s Fair, which include the Highway and Horizons exhibit, more commonly known as the "Futurama".
Norman Bel Geddes, Motor car no. 8, 1931
Norman Bel Geddes, Motor coach no. 2, 1931
Some of Bel Geddes' automobile designs bear a remarkable similarity to Fuller's Dymaxion, at least superficially (they all had four wheels), including Motor Car no. 8, 1931, Motor Coach no. 2 (1931), and the remarkable 1934 patent model pictured below.
1934 patent model, by Norman Bel Geddes.
Like Fuller's later Dymaxion transport, Car no. 8 had the engine in the rear. It also held a large number of passengers (eight), and had unprecedented visibility. Bel Geddes' Car no. 8 also had a vertical fin, like Dymaxion car no. 3, all of this two years before production of the Dymaxion began in Bridgeport, Connecticut. For the 1933 Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago, Bel Geddes proposed an aquarium restaurant under a waterfall and a three-level revolving aerial restaurant that could seat twelve hundred diners, on top of a 278 foot stem. Neither of these projects was realized due to a shortage of funding.
Where Fuller talked about "Nature's coordinate system", Bel Geddes expounded a philosophy of "essential forms" evolved from their systems of use, in his seminal book Horizons, published in 1932. He helped to establish a new professional niche -- that of "industrial designer", arguing for a closer relationship between engineer in design procedures.
Bel Geddes last known car design was for a flying car with a rear-mounted propeller, perhaps inspired by Fuller's early plans for the Dymaxion.
Norman Bel Geddes' Flying Car, 1945
Donald J. Bush, The Streamlined Decade, New York: Braziller, 1975
Ivan Margolius, Automobiles designed by Architects, London: WIley, 2000