Premiers Sunday, May 12th at 9:00pm on WTVP-HD 47.1.
Travel Across America With Host Geoffrey Baer to Explore 10 Buildings
That Changed How We Live, Work and Play
10 BUILDINGS THAT CHANGED AMERICA, a new PBS special about ten
influential American buildings that changed the way we live, work, and play, premieres on
Sunday, May 12th at 9:00pm on WTVP-HD 47.1. Written and produced by Dan Protess and hosted
by Geoffrey Baer, the program was shot on location from Massachusetts to Los Angeles, and
features rare archival images, distinctive animation, and interviews with some of the nation’s
most insightful historians and architects, including Frank Gehry and Robert Venturi.
“You may not have heard of all of these ten buildings, but their influence is all
around you,” says Baer. “There’s a good chance that these revolutionary works of architecture
inspired your local city hall or library, the mall where you shop, the office building or factory
where you work, and maybe even your own house,” he added.
10 BUILDINGS THAT CHANGED AMERICA is a journey that takes viewers
inside these groundbreaking works of art and engineering and reveals the shocking, funny, and
even sad stories of how these buildings came to be. From the glorious Trinity Church, designed
as “an envelope” for the voice of Rector Phillips Brooks (best known today as the writer of
“O Little Town of Bethlehem”) to the Highland Park Ford Plant, designed by Jewish architect
Albert Kahn, whose partnership with Henry Ford flourished despite Ford’s anti-Semitic writings,
the program explores how their construction had consequences — some unintended — on cities and
communities across the country. Ultimately, the program is a journey inside the imaginations of
a group of architects who dared to create these influential structures.
The ten buildings in chronological order are:
Virginia State Capitol, Richmond, VA (1788) – Designed by Thomas Jefferson,
it marked the beginning of the American tradition of modeling government buildings on Roman and
Trinity Church, Boston, MA (1877) – Created by architect H.H. Richardson,
Trinity was the first example of the/his Richardsonian Romanesque style, which was later used
in churches, city halls and county courthouses across America.
Wainwright Building, St. Louis, MO (1891) – Louis Sullivan’s Wainwright
Building was not the first skyscraper, but it gave the modern, steel-frame skyscraper its form.
Historian Tim Samuelson said it “taught the skyscraper to soar.”
Robie House, Chicago, IL (1910) – Considered a masterpiece of Frank Lloyd
Wright’s prairie style, it transformed the American home and even inspired the ranch houses of
the mid-20th century.
Highland Park Ford Plant, Highland Park, MI (1910) – The first home of
Henry Ford’s revolutionary moving assembly line, Albert Kahn’s “daylight factory” design
revolutionized industrial architecture.
Southdale Center, Edina, MN (1956) – America’s first fully enclosed, indoor
regional shopping mall, it established the formula that all indoor malls followed for decades.
Its architect, Victor Gruen, was a socialist who ironically thought shopping malls would cure
Seagram Building, New York, NY (1958) – Mies van der Rohe’s tower on Park
Avenue was the model for modernist skyscrapers built across the country in the mid-20th century:
a dark glass box, set back on an open plaza.
Dulles International Airport, Chantilly, VA (1962) – Designed by Eero
Saarinen, this was the first airport in the world created expressly for jets.
Vanna Venturi House, Philadelphia, PA (1964) – Considered by many to be
the first “postmodern” building. In an age of austere glass boxes, Robert Venturi dared to
design a home that looked like a child’s typical drawing of a house.
Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, CA (2003) – Frank Gehry’s swooping
stainless steel design was a radical departure from the traditional, even stuffy, idea of a
concert hall. It inspired other architects to set their imaginations free.
Accompanying the broadcast is a robust companion website,
wttw.com/10buildings, a mobile-optimized online destination
packed with rich media content including text, photos, video, animation and interactive features that
bring the stories of American architecture to life. The site will feature the stories of the ten
buildings covered in the program, ten more buildings exclusive to the web, and ten trends in
architecture. Visitors to the site will also have the opportunity to share their own picks. Also
included will be a curriculum designed for grades 6-12 which will include five lesson plans, focusing
on five different subjects: art, English, mathematics, science, and social studies.
Geoffrey Baer is known for his masterful storytelling, conversational style,
and contagious enthusiasm. Nationally, Geoffrey has hosted documentaries on the acclaimed architects
Michael Graves and Robert A. M. Stern, and Saved from the Wrecking Ball, a documentary about Mies
van der Rohe’s all-glass Farnsworth House. Geoffrey is familiar to Chicago viewers as the host and
writer of eighteen extraordinarily popular feature-length WTTW specials about Chicago architecture
and history. The programs took viewers on “TV tours” of the city’s lakefront, the Chicago River by
boat, the city’s neighborhoods by “L” train, the boulevards by bike and virtually all of the region’s
suburban areas. He also ate his way through Chicago’s diverse communities in The Foods of Chicago:
A Delicious History, which was nominated for a James Beard Award. Geoffrey appears regularly on
WTTW’s flagship nightly newsmagazine program Chicago Tonight, answering viewers’ questions
about Chicago architecture and history in a segment called Ask Geoffrey. He has been a docent
for the Chicago Architecture Foundation since 1987. He has won multiple Emmy awards, the CPB Gold
Award from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and awards from the Society of Architectural
Historians, the New York Festivals, the U.S. International Film and Video Festival, and the Chicago
Dan Protess has been producing and writing critically-acclaimed television
programs and films for two decades. His work has appeared on PBS, ABC, C-SPAN, and at film and
video festivals across the country. Dan has produced or written 14 documentaries for WTTW Chicago,
including the award-winning A Justice That Heals, Biking the Boulevards, and The Foods
of Chicago: A Delicious History, which earned him an Emmy, and a James Beard Award nomination.
He won a coveted Peter Lisagor Award for his work on WTTW’s nightly newsmagazine program Chicago
10 BUILDINGS THAT CHANGED AMERICA is produced in partnership with the
Society of Architectural Historians. Major funding is provided by The Negaunee Foundation, ITW,
Robert & Joan Clifford, and BMO Harris Bank. Additional funding is provided by the Joseph & Bessie
Feinberg Foundation, Rande & Cary McMillan, Richard & Mary L. Gray, The Robert Thomas Bobins
Foundation, Alexandra & John Nichols, Patrick & Shirley Ryan, The Walter E. Heller Foundation,
in memory of Alyce DeCosta, and Nicor Gas. Funding is also provided by Harriet K. Burnstein, Ken
Norgan, Peter Kelliher II, Millennium Properties, Perkins+Will, USG Corporation, Neil G. Bluhm,
and other generous donors (as of 3/13/13).
10 BUILDINGS THAT CHANGED AMERICA is available on DVD and Blu-Ray from
PBS Distribution: ShopPBS.org; 800-PLAY-PBS,
24 hours a day, 7 days a week. A 144-page hardcover companion book is also available at
About WTTW National Productions
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