The Daring
Diagonal
Virtual
Museum

A division of the Center
for the Study of Diagonality
in World Culture

Daring Diagonal Virtual Museum
HOUSE OF TOMORROW
House of Tomorrow, Indiana
Fred Keck, architect
1933
Executed by:
Date:

The glass and steel HOUSE OF TOMORROW was designed by Chicago architect George Fred Keck (1895-1980) for the Century of Progress International Exposition in Chicago in 1933. The exposition celebrated innovations in architecture, science, technology, transportation, new building materials and design in general. The House of Tomorrow was supported by a steel, prefabricated framework that allowed the house to be erected in three days.

Unfortunately, the house was not located in a prime location at the fairgrounds. But it was still quite popular and was one of five other houses loaded on barges after the fair and floated across Lake Michigan to Beverly Shores, Indiana (Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore) where the houses are currently being restored by the National Park Service and Indiana Landmarks.

Keck was born in Wisconsin and studied engineering and then architectural engineering before opening his own practice in 1926, following a short stint working in New York. This educational background accounts for his technological orientation in design. Keck was influenced by the Deutscher Werkbund, the work of Mies van der Rohe, and the International Style generally, which had its roots in Europe. Le Corbusier, the famous 20th century Swiss architect also impacted the young Keck, particularly his 1926 book Towards an Architecture. In fact, Keck designed the House of the Future starting with the mechanical system and worked outwards, an approach seemingly in contrast with Corbu’s highly sculptural approach to design. According to Robert Bruce Tague (chief draftsman for the Keck office for ten years starting in 1934) “Keck was the only major architect in Chicago doing Modern. There was nothing else modern to look at except the Art Deco office buildings of Holabird and Root.” While this sounds like something of an exaggeration, it can also be said that Keck was also influenced by a fabulous, (mostly) three-story brick, octagonal house with wrap-around porches that had been built in 1854 at 919 Charles Street, in Watertown, Wisconsin, the block that young Keck lived on before moving to Chicago.

The House of Tomorrow is significant because it showcased modernist design in a building that clearly broke from the orthogonal geometry that mostly dominated residential architecture prior to the 1930s. The House of Tomorrow may also have been inspired by Buckminster Fuller’s 1920 Dymaxion House, a six-sided, single family dwelling designed as a machine for living. The Dymaxion House was never built.

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