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Authors on Architecture: Thomas on Furness
Lecture and Book Signing
Saturday, January 04, 2020

Join the SAH/SCC for a new take on Philadelphia-based architect Frank Furness (1839-1912) by author George E. Thomas from his book Frank Furness: Architecture in the Age of the Great Machines (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018) on Saturday, January 4th, 2020 at 4PM at the Gamble House (Charles and Henry Greene, 1908).

Misunderstood and reviled in the traditional architectural centers of New York and Boston, Furness’ projects, commissioned by the progressive industrialists of the new machine age, intentionally broke with the historical styles of the past to work in a modern way—from utilizing principles based on logistical planning to incorporating the new materials of the industrial age. Lavishly illustrated, the book includes more than eighty black-and-white and thirty color photographs that highlight the richness of his work and the originality of his design spanning more than forty years.

In his sweeping reassessment of Furness as an architect of the machine age, Thomas grounds him in Philadelphia, a city led by engineers, industrialists, and businessmen who commissioned the buildings that extended modern design to Chicago, Glasgow, and Berlin. Thomas examines the multiple facets of Victorian Philadelphia’s modernity, looking to its eager embrace of innovations in engineering, transportation, technology, and building, and argues that Furness, working for a particular cohort of clients, played a central role in shaping this context. His analyses of the innovative planning, formal, and structural qualities of Furness’s major buildings identifies their designs as initiators of a narrative that leads to such more obviously modern figures as Louis Sullivan, William Price, Frank Lloyd Wright and eventually, the architects of the Bauhaus.

George E. Thomas is a cultural and architectural historian who serves as co-director of the Critical Conservation Program at Harvard's Graduate School of Design. His books include First Modern: Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and, with David B. Brownlee, Building America's First University: An Architectural and Historical Guide to the University of Pennsylvania, both available from the University of Pennsylvania Press; and Frank Furness: The Complete Works with Michael Lewis and Jeffrey Cohen. He is also lead author of the Buildings of Philadelphia volume in the Society of Architectural Historians' series Buildings of the United States.

Lavishly illustrated, the book includes more than eighty black-and-white and thirty color photographs that highlight the richness of his work and the originality of his design. The monograph received the 2019 Book Award from the Victorian Society in America. Books will be available for sale and signing. Reception to follow lecture.

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