and the Pan-American Exposition
Part II - "The Architectural Scheme"
The "Progress of Man"
A Definitive Style
Architecture and Color
of the Board of Architects of the Pan-American Exposition, saw the exposition's
layout as an "artistic composition." Formal symmetry governed
the plan and uniformity of scale was one of the most important harmonizing
factors. Since the architects also had the advantage of grounds that lay
adjacent to the Frederick Law Olmstead designed Delaware Park, "it
was apparent that the Exposition must be strongly influenced by its proximity
to the Park; but, as it was out of the question to alter the Park, even
to the extent of removing any great number of its beautiful trees, and
it was therefore impossible to extend the Exposition into the Park, it
was decided to extend the Park into the Exposition, ... and thus to make
them part of each other."1
view from the Casino and in Delaware Park. Proximity to Delaware
park was advantageous to planners. The New York State Building is
on the left of the "Bridge of the Three Americas." To
the right is the roof of the Horticulture building.
A shaded walk
near the Triumphal Bridge
overall "block plan" was based in simple lines, with the main
axis running north and south, surrounded by the secondary axes. Carrère
referred to the main axis as the "Axis of the Esplanade," which
took the visitor from the Triumphal Bridge to the Electric Tower. The
major buildings were grouped on the secondary axes, with symmetry and
balance maintained by placing buildings of different character and purpose,
but similar size and structure directly opposite one another across the
" ... the visitor
will see what is meant by "formality picturesquely developed"
when looking at the attempt to balance two buildings as totally
different in character, purpose, and design as the Horticultural
Building on the one side of the Esplanade and the Government Building
on the other, or the Electricity and Manufactures Buildings On the
one side of the main axis and the Liberal Arts and the Agricultural
Buildings on the other... ."2
Joann Thompson points out
that "[t]he intention behind this arrangement was to achieve a unified
effect, which did not necessarily imply an identical, neatly symmetrical
image, but instead, a dialog of similar masses. So, in spite of the formality
of the plan, an element of flexibility was not only desirable, but was
actually incorporated into the designing of the whole."3
Thus while the buildings opposite each other across the main axis differed
in design and ornamentation, they, in essence, were of similar size and
shape. The maps below illustrate this "symmetry of scale." [Click
on each to view larger versions.]
|"The idea of a comprehensive
view arranged along a dominant axis was one which figured frequently
in turn-of-the-century City Beautiful schemes, for which Buffalo's
exposition became an example."4
canal, one of the more popular features of the exposition, may have served
an entertainment function by affording visitors an opportunity to tour
the Exposition by boat. To Carrère, however, the waterway had a
more functional purpose in serving as the boundary of the Exposition's
main architectural group. Beyond the canal lay the secondary buildings,
restaurants and of course, the Midway. Carrère describes this:
In order clearly to define the importance of this architectural
setting, and also to make room for the numerous secondary buildings
and side-shows, which could not well be brought into harmony with
this main part of the composition, the very interesting feature
of the canal was adopted at the suggestion of the laymen of the
Board. This canal places the main part of the scheme within well-defined
and formal limits and permits of all the more freedom beyond its
boundaries. It is the means of separating the discordant elements
of the scheme and yet of harmonizing them."5
approaching the Exposition, ideally, the visitor was to enter the grounds
via the Lincoln Parkway Gateway. "From this setting, the full beauty
of the Exposition unfolded as a meticulously designed asthetic experience."6
Indeed, Carrère's intention was to lead the visitor along the principal
approach, through the park, "so that the spectator, as he approaches
the Exposition, will see it develop gradually until he reaches the Bridge,
when the entire picture will appear before him and almost burst upon him."7
It is unfortunate that this experience was missed by the majority of visitors,
who, instead of walking into the Exposition through the main gate, arrived
by rail and thus entered the grounds through the north gate (behind the
Approaching the Triumphal Bridge from the south. Left:
The approach looking south. Right:
Outside the Lincoln Gate looking north..
The "Progress of Man"
In addition to
serving as components of Carrère's "artistic composition,"
the buildings of the Pan-American Exposition were designed and positioned
to illustrate a more symbolic ideal which appealed to the Exposition planners.
In the approach to and travel through the grounds, visitors would experiencethrough
the sculpture, architecture and colorthe "intellectual progress
The concept originated
with Karl Bitter, the Director of sculpture, who planned symbolic meaning
to the exhibit of sculpture throughout the grounds.
envisioned a profusion of statuary and fountains decorating the grounds,
illustrating in allegory the "Progress of Man." The concept
not only supported but also extended the principal theme of the Exposition:
"To celebrate the achievements of civilization during 100 years
of development in the Western Hemisphere." Whereas the Exposition
intended to focus on one century of progress, Bitter chose to illustrate
man's story on an evolutionary scale beginning with representations
of his origins. Very much influenced by the spirit of social Darwinism
predominant at the time, Bitter saw in the Exposition an opportunity
to depict in allegory and symbol the history of the development of
his sculpture plan, Karl Bitter described the meaning behind the placement
of the principal buildings.
that to the left, on the Esplanade, buildings [the Horticulture
group] as situated containing, in a measure, the examples of our
All these things, only Nature can provide.
other side of the Esplanade, surrounded principally by Government
Buildings, invites us to speak of our people and our institutions.
The institutions of our country form a worthy parallel to
In distinct separation from the above two groups, we find another
group of buildings devoted to Machinery and Transportation, Electricity,
Manufacture, and the Liberal Arts. What is shown therein is neither
a direct product of nature nor attributable to institutions, but
solely to the genius of man, though on the basis of what material
nature has provided and what freedom and liberty the institutions
of his country allow him. Those buildings and the Court of Fountains,
as well as the Mall, around which they are located, are therefore
devoted to the allegorization of that idea."10
of the Exposition as symbolic of the "Progress of Man"
Tower base-symbolic of Buffalo and the "Great Waters"
In the Exposition
plan, the Electric Tower was the focal point of the composition. It represented
"...the culmination of the comingling of Man and Nature, symbolically
suggesting man's intellectual and physical achievement in subduing Nature
and harnessing electrical power."11
Bitter also saw the Tower basin and display of cascades and fountains
as representative of Buffalo and the Great Lakes. "Buffalo's importance,
growth and prosperity are chiefly due to the Great Lakes System and the
waterways on which it is located. Its commerce and wealth are a direct
offspring of the 'Great Waters,' as the Indians called them."12
Even the coloring of the Electric Tower suggested "water," specifically
the water of Niagara Falls. C.Y. Turner spoke of "the beautiful emerald
green hue of the water as it curls over the crest of Niagara Falls. ...
In the tower I have given it marked emphasis... ."13
A Definitive Style
Director of Architecture, John Carrère, intended to base the formal
"scheme" of the Exposition on an identifiable architectural
style, common throughout the plan, there was some question as to what
that style would be. In its promotional publication, The
Its Purpose and Plan, the Exposition
Company explained the ambitions of the Board of Directors, with regard
to architecture and theme:
|This is to be an American
ExpositionNorth, South and Middle Americas and our Islands of
the Seas. Neither Greece nor Rome, nor yet Turkey come into this thing.
It shouldn't be particularly classic, Gothic or Byzantine. Perhaps
we cannot get away altogether from the old principles of construction,
but we can at least make an effort to exemplify American architectural
ideas, if we can find them.14
At the turn of the 20th Century,
however, there was still controversy as to what could be defined as a
uniquely American architectural style. John Milburn, President of the
Exposition Board of Directors, wrote of the Exposition's "grand ideathe
bringing closer together the peoples of this hemisphere in their social,
political and commercial relations."15
Thus, a style indigenous to both North and South America was certainly
a logical consideration.
The United States
Modeled after a Spanish Cathedral
The Spanish-American mission
style was the initial choice, although as Julian Hawthorne wrote of the
Exposition's style in 1901, "[t]echnically, it is a liberal rendering
of the Spanish Renaissance
it symbolizes our welcome to the genius
of the Latins to mingle their strain with the genius of the Anglo-Saxon."16
The term "Spanish-Renaissance" appears to be used most often
to describe the Exposition, both by contemporary and modern critics, although
there is nearly universal agreement that the style was hardly "pure"
in form and that there were conspicuous deviations.
of all the buildings created, some speak of old mission architecture
and some do not. But, still, happily, although their work ran the
whole gamut of architectural orders, combinations and modifications,
yet it came together in harmony. Much of it is Renaissance of the
freest sort; but the Spanish-American idea is dominant there, and
makes itself felt throughout."17
the architects were allowed the freedom to deviate from Carrère's
formal plan was due in part to the temporary nature of exposition architecture.
Most of the buildings were constructed of staffa mixture of plaster,
gypsum and hemp usually reserved for decorative sculptureapplied
over lath and iron frameworks. Since the buildings were only intended
to last a season, architects could experiment with imaginative decorative
effects that would not have been possible on permanent structures.
Details of a
wall of the Temple of Music
to the Temple of Music's wood frame
looks upon an exposition as an opportunity for artistic experiment
and the execution, in temporary materials, of every dream of his
imagination, no matter how fantastic. The fact that these experiments
are temporary encourages him to dare, and one single great success
justifies, in his eyes, the entire experiment. He dares to do in
an exposition, and is allowed to do, what no sensible person would
think of attempting in permanent form."18
Carrère encouraged experimentationwithin reasonable
boundsand the transient nature of the buildings afforded architects
the freedom to try new ideas. Thus,
The Pan-American Exposition was comprised of buildings incorporating decorative
styles from numerous schools. One can see a drastic difference in the
number and intricacy of decorative features when comparing staff-covered
temporary buildings like the Temple of Music and Horticulture Building,
to one designed to be permanent, the New York State Building, which was
of the conservative Doric style and built with marble.
The New York State Building
The Temple of
keeping with the notion of a "unified scheme" in the architectural
planning of the Exposition, Director of Color, C.Y. Turner was invited
to become a member of the Board of Architects.
known as a painter of murals, based his color scheme for the Exposition
on Bitter's "Progress of Man" allegory. He wrote:
considering a scheme of color treatment for the Pan-American Exposition,
the Architecture, Sculpture, the purpose and character of the Exposition
each had to be taken into account. The plan of Mr. Karl Bitter, Director
of Sculpture, ... seemed to me a very logical and proper treatment
of the Exposition ... . Taking it for granted, then, that as we enter
the grounds from the Park through the forecourt, the causeway bids
welcome to the visitors and the countries taking part in the Exposition,
we would come upon the elementary conditions, that is, the earliest
state of man suggested on one side, and primitive nature on the other.
I concluded that the strongest primary colors should be applied here,
and that as we advance up the grounds the colors should be more refined
and less contrasting, and that the Tower, which is to suggest the
triumph of man's achievement, should be the lightest and most delicate
Mark Bennett described Turner's
process: "To produce the exquisite color effects of the Exposition,
Mr. Turner procured from the architects small sketches of all buildings,
from which models were made on the scale of one-sixteenth of an inch to
the foot. These were grouped upon a platform 12 by 16 feet, according
to the plan prepared by John M. Carrère, to whom was entrusted
the arrangement of the ground plan of the Exposition. Each model was colored
according to the general scheme and its relationship to surrounding buildings
was studied. Even the color of the sky, the grass and flowers, the pools
and fountains, was taken into consideration. Many of the models were painted
several times before the proper color note was hit upon to complete the
Studio - Watercolor drawings served as guides for painting the Exposition
Grouping the Models
of the Exposition Buildings - C.Y. Turner sits at the far left.
Turner, in mapping out his color scheme, adhered to Mr. Bitter's idea
of the evolution of man, and one who takes his first glimpse from
the south will notice that the coloring upon the buildings at that
point begins with the cruder colors, the strong reds, yellows, greens,
and blues which the barbarian selects, and it gradually melts into
orange reds, gray blues, buffs, and violets, until it culminates at
the Electric Tower in ivory yellow, with a setting of the delicate
green which repeats the chromatic note of Niagara Falls."
Ernest Knaufft. 21
The colors as
applied to the principal buildings were described as follows: 22
with details in brilliant blue, green, rose and yellow.
with details in primitive colors.
- Temple of Musicred.
- Restaurant groupivory,
accented with green and gold.
- Electric Towerivory,
yellow, gold and green.
- The roofs are generally
of red tile, though prominent towers and pinnacles are in many cases
decorated with green, blue green or gold.
- All buildings have a play
of color about their entrances, balconies, pinnacles and towers.
Pan-American Exposition was not the first exposition to use color in its
architecture, but it was the first attempt to completely unite a
color scheme with the structures in an overall visual impression of meshed
coloring.23 The vibrant color scheme
led to the Exposition being labeled as "The Rainbow City." Although
most visitors seemingly approved of the vibrant coloring, it provoked
from contemporary critics reactions "ranging from cautious approval
to hoots of derision. ... The polychrome experiment looked unsettling
and raucous to contemporary eyes blinded by the dazzling purity of the
"White City" [1894 Chicago World's Fair.] In the light of expectations
generated by the earlier fair, the planners of the Pan-American were courageous
to adopt such a novel color scheme."24
same color scheme, the subject of controversy and conflicting opinions
among critics, was viewed quite differently as a component of the Expositions
nighttime illumination. In fact the illumination itself and the embellishing
effects of the color scheme were almost universally applauded by critics:
is, next to illuminated night, the enchanted hour at the Exposition.
... [W]hen the dimming of the low lights about you warns that the
climax of the Exposition day has come, go down to where the great
bridge meets the Esplanade and keep your eyes on the Electric Tower.
Faintly the rose-pink color flushes the side of the tall shaft. The
light of the elevator drops twinkling like a falling star through
the grillwork of the tower, The rose deepens and deepens on tower
and dome and pinnacle, and then while the throng on the Esplanade
holds its breath the light slowly rises to the brightness of the sun
but without the glare, the softness of the moon without its coldness.
A wonderful pure, soft radiance falls over the air, a radiance which
brings out every subtle harmony of color, every detail of fretted
architecture, and, behold, that new wonder of the world-the Pan-American
who would visit the exposition at the most opportune time would do
well to behold it first at night, and his station point should be
not at the Propylaea entrance, but at the southern end of the grounds,
where, standing near "French's Washington," he may look
northward over the Triumphal Causeway between the great pylons toward
the Electrical Tower. Here he will see a unique and imposing sight,
that outdoes Chicago, Nashville, Atlanta, Omaha,-a sight the world
has never seen before. At 8 o'clock the ivory city lies half-veiled
in the dusk, when suddenly, but gradually, on every cornice, every
column, every dome, break forth tiny pink buds of light as though
some eastern magician were commanding a Sultan's garden to bloom.
A moment more, and the pink lights glow larger and take on a saffron
hue, and the whole exposition lies before us illumined by 500,000
electric flames (the eight-candle power incandescent light which Mr.
Edison, who developed it, has proclaimed his pet)-and these delicate
lights, some single, some bunched, bring out a thousand delicate tints,
now playing hide and seek and many cartouches, terminals, and arabesques,
now Rembrandting the stucco reliefs, and delicately toning down the
color, till the effect is strikingly allegro.26
Of course, the thoughts
of Ellen Arnold, an Exposition visitor from Connecticutt, sum up what seemed to be the prevailing opinion
of critics and visitors alike,27
illumination was something more than wonderful
on to "Part III: The Buildings"
John M. Carrère, "The Architectural
Scheme," Art Hand-Book,
Official Handbook of Architecture and Sculpture and Art Catalogue to the
Pan-American Exposition. Ed. David Gray. Buffalo, N.Y.: David
Gray, 1901, p. 10. [Click
to view the Art Handbook]. See also Joann
M. Thompson. The Art and
Architecture of the Pan-American Exposition, Buffalo, New York, 1901.
Unpublished dissertation. Rutgers University, the State University of
New Jersey, 1980, p. 31 and Kerry
S. Grant, The Rainbow City:
Celebrating Light, Color and Architecture at the Pan-American Exposition,
Buffalo, 1901. Buffalo, N. Y.: Canisius College Press, 2001,
3. Christian Brinton, "Art at the Pan-American
Exposition," The Critic,
v. 38 (June 1901) p. 512 and Walter Cook, "The Exhibition at Buffalo:
Some of the Ideas Which Have Determined its Artistic Character
the Buildings and Grounds," Scribner's
Magazine, v. 29 (June 1901) p. 765; in Thompson, p. 31.
4. Thompson, p. 31. The "City Beautiful Movement"
was a reaction to the increasingly grimy and industrial nature of 19th
century cities. City Beautiful proponants called for a harmonious environment
characterized by a paradigmatic arrangement of buildings, open garden
spaces and controlled traffic paths. John Brisben
Walker wrote of the Pan-American Exposition as a model for the city of
the future. See Walker's "The
City of the FutureA Prophecy," The
Cosmopolitan, v. 31, no. 5 (September, 1901) pp. 473-475. For
an informative look at the "City Beautiful Movement" and Washington,
D.C.'s example, see Julie K. Rose's City
Beautiful: the 1901 Plan for Washington D.C. , URL: http://xroads.virginia.edu/~cap/citybeautiful/dchome.html.
5. Carrère, p. 15-16.
6. Grant, p. 19.
8. Thompson, p. 32; Grant, p. 19.
9. Grant, p. 12.
10. Karl Bitter, "The Sculpture Plan,"
Handbook, 1901, pp. 49-50.
11. Thompson, p. 35.
12. Bitter, p. 50.
13. C.Y. Turner, "The Color Scheme," Art
Handbook, p. 20; Grant, p. 13.
Exposition, Buffalo May 1 to November 1, 1901. Its Purpose and Plan.
[Buffalo, N. Y. : The Pan-American Exposition Company], 1901, p. 28.
15. John G. Milburn, "The Purposes of the Exposition,"
Handbook, p. 7.
16. Julian Hawthorne, "Some Novelties at the
Buffalo Fair," The
Cosmopolitan, v. 31, no. 5, (September, 1901) p. 485.
Exposition, Buffalo May 1 to November 1, 1901. Its Purpose and Plan.
p. 30; Joanna Wood refers to the style as "American Renaissance"
in "My Personal View," The
Criterion, May 19, 1901, p. 12. In "The Pan-American on
Dedication Day," The
American Monthly Review of Reviews, v. 23, no. 137 (June 1901),
William Hotchkiss describes the architecture as "romantic and picturesque"
using the term "Free Renaissance" to describe the buildings'
bracketed eves, airy pinnacles, grilled windows, open loggias, square
towers, fantastic pilasters and tile roofs. C.Y. Turner, Director of Color, wrote, “… the Spanish Renaissance was in the minds of most of [the Board of Architects] the most suitable style. At a later period, this was changed to Free Renaissance, which, of course, permitted the introduction of Italian, German and French Renaissance,” in “Organization as Applied to Art,” The Cosmopolitan, v.31 no.5 (September 1901) p.493; Also using this term is Kerry
S. Grant, who offers detailed descriptions of the style and coloring of
individual buildings in The
Rainbow City: Celebrating Light, Color and Architecture at the Pan-American
Exposition, Buffalo, 1901. Buffalo, N. Y.: Canisius College
Press, 2001. Finally, see Joann Thompson's
Art and Architecture of the Pan-American Exposition, Buffalo, New York,
1901, (Rutgers University, the State University of New Jersey,
1980) where the terms used
to describe the architecture at the Pan-American Exposition include"quasi
Spanish style," "free-form Spanish-oriented structures"
and "fantasy buildings of a freely interpreted Spanish style."
Turner, p. 20.
Pan-American Exposition and How to See It : A Complete Art Souvenir,
ed. Mark Bennett, Buffalo, NY : Goff Company, 1901, [pp. 9-10.]
21. Ernest Knaufft. "Artistic Effects of the
Pan-American Exposition." The
American Monthly Review of Reviews, v.23, no.137 (June 1901)
p. 689. In a lecture by Barbara Seals Nevergold and Peggy Brooks-Bertram,
founders of the Uncrowned
Queens Project, it was suggested that Turner's color scheme may have
also been analogous to prevalent attitudes regarding race and the relationship
of "white" America to its African- and Native-American populations
as well as its "darker" and "subordinate" Central
and South American neighbors. Darker, cruder colors (or skin) were viewed
as savage, primitive and, as Knaufft states, "barbarian" whereas
with progress, evolution and civilization, man grew to be represented
by colors that were lighter, pastel-like and more subtlein essence,
"whiter." While there is no direct evidence to show that the
use of color to convey this attitude was a conscious decision of Turner
or the Exposition planners, the larger societal tendency to equate dark
to "primitive" and light to "civilized," must not
be discounted. From a lecture presented on"The Role and Representation
of African Americans and Persons of Color in the Pan-American Exposition.
Presented at the University Archives, University at Buffalo, The State
University of New York, Buffalo, NY, July 12, 2001. More information on
this topic may be found in the history
section of the Uncrowned Queens web site, URL: http://wings.buffalo.edu/uncrownedqueens/files/history.htm
22. Bennett, [p. 10.]
23. Thompson, p. 86.
pp. 79, 85. Also see Grant, pp. 113-116 and Thomas Leary and Elisabeth
Sholes, Buffalo's Pan-American
Exposition, Charleston, SC : Arcadia Publishing, 1998, pp.
27-46. Katherine V. McHenry wrote in the June 1901 issue of Brush
and Pencil, "Whatever be the popular verdict, whether
the consensus of opinion be in favor of a monochrome scheme, such as was
employed at Chicago in 1893, or of a varied, symbolic scheme, such as
prevails in the Pan-American, it is to the credit of the promoters of
this latter exposition that they had the hardihood to undertake what former
exposition managers feared to attempt, and the ability to carry it out
to a successful issue," (p.156).
Bronson Harrt, "How to See the Pan-American Exposition,"
Everybody's Magazine, v.5, no.26 (October 1901.)
The full text of Harrt's article is available on Sue Eck's "Doing
the Pan..." web site at URL: http://panam1901.bfn.org/documents/howtosee.htm
27. Ellen Arnold, in a letter to her sister Hannah
Allen of Putnam, Conn., September 12, 1901. Private collection. Courtesy of Brenda Battleson.
Return to The Architecture