The Design of the Fair: Encouraging the Progress of Civilization

Dublin Core

Title

The Design of the Fair: Encouraging the Progress of Civilization

Description

The Design of the Fair: Encouraging the Progress of Civilization By Emily Wittman

The physical design of the St. Louis World’s Fair of 1904 conveys the themes of progress toward civilization, imperialism, and racial hierarchy. The Commission of Architects which oversaw buildings and landscape sought to convey a metropolitan future. A core group of Beaux Arts style buildings, sitting in the center of the 1200-acre park landscape, represented this theme to the public, while simultaneously providing a striking contrast to the indigenous design of the Philippines Reservation.1 The Palace of Fine Art (fig. 2) displays an emphasis on classical features, such as symmetry, the continuity of grand pillars on the facade, and the accentuation on verticality of the design. Today it remains a permanent monument to the ideas of classical civilization—harmony, order, and beauty.

Fair organizers segregated the Philippines Reservation from the 400-acre metropolitan center. Over one thousand Filipinos lived for several months in a model “village” composed of various dwellings made of bamboo, nipa, and other materials from the Philippines.2 The exhibits of the Filipinos depicted them as uncivilized indigenous people because the huts, cottages, or houses that they lived in contrasted with the classical civilization area of the fair (fig. 1). The village, the site for combat, ritual dance, and ceremonial performances, convey imperial messages about Filipino backwardness, racial inferiority, and western superiority, against the backdrop of the U.S. occupation of the Philippines.3 Expositions such as the St. Louis World’s Fair demonstrate the ideological power and politics of architectural design.

1 Joseph Heathcott, “Ephemeral City: Design and Civic Meaning at the 1904 World’s Fair,” Journal of Design History 26 (2013), http://jdh.oxfordjournals.org/content/26/1/25.full (accessed December 9, 2014).
2Jose D. Fermin, 1904 World’s Fair: The Filipino Experience (Diliman, Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2004).
3Ibid.

Creator

Left Image: Unknown Photographer, 1904.
Right Image: Cass Gilbert Society

Publisher

Left Image: St. Louis Art Museum
Right Image: Lee Gaskin

Rights

Left image: © Gass Gilbert Society; use of these materials is limited to not-for-profit education and research.
Right image: Photographer unknown, 1904.

Files

Citation

Left Image: Unknown Photographer, 1904. Right Image: Cass Gilbert Society , “The Design of the Fair: Encouraging the Progress of Civilization,” History Corps, accessed April 19, 2018, http://dsph-dev.provost.uiowa.edu/historycorps_sandbox/items/show/240.