Beacon of Progress
More like Sauron’s New Digs. Would have been taller than Sears/Willis Tower or would have pushed it to surpass this behemoth.
Completed in Boston and in Paris, Désiré Despradelle’s drawings for the Beacon of Progress afford a powerful visual image of the architect’s vision. The excitement and imagination coursing through the work is evident. The monument itself was to be:
“… placed on Jackson Park, the site of the World’s Fair, facing Lake Michigan. It is to be connected with principal roads and avenues of the park, the chief access being from the lakeside by a maritime boulevard … In the place of honor … are written the names of the thirteen original colonies; and upon the stela guarded by the eagle is the goddess of the twentieth century, the modern Minerva, flanked by ranks of lions roaring the glory of America….”
Drawings for the Beacon make extensive use of iconographic techniques. The 13 original colonies were represented by female figures, each one different from the next. An amphitheater at the base was to seat 100,000 people and sweeping piers extended into the lake for regattas. Despradelle planned elevators to transport visitors to various viewing platforms and to the beacon, which formed the summit of the main obelisk.
The final drawing, which is 15 feet high by 10 feet wide, attempts to capture a sense of the Beacon’sscale and strength. According to one source, Despradelle dealt with the challenges presented by the project with his usual good humor. When he had finally completed the drawings, on a much larger scale than originally planned, Despradelle realized that he had not taken into account enough load bearing for the granite to accommodate theBeacon’s expanded height. His solution was to “… restudy the size of the chamber—or, if there isn’t enough time before the contract must be let, we shall have to put in some steel!”
Despradelle designed the Beacon with visionary appeal that captured the attention of his contemporaries. Although many critics, primarily Americans, felt it was wonderful to look at but impossible to build, others, predominantly his French countrymen who were perhaps more comfortable with grand gestures, felt that it was indeed an appropriate monument and that any technological obstacles could be overcome by the American ingenuity Despradelle was celebrating in the monument. Among the dozens of congratulatory letters he received on the project were the comments of his former patron Jean Louis Pascal, as well as letters sent by leaders in the French art and architectural communities, including Emile Vaudremer, Paul DuBois, Auguste Bartholdi, and Honore Daumet. That the French government retained two of the drawings was in itself an honor shared with few other architects.