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St. Louis Regional history comes alive in this joint production by KDHX and the Missouri Historical Society. Stories of our past are connected with the present in these well researched and entertaining short presentations about the people, places, and events that have shaped who we are and who we are becoming. 

Oct 17, 2022

Some artists seem to be way ahead of their time, and they leave their mark because of it. In the early part of the 20th century, Hugh Ferriss was designing cities in a way that still influences today's filmmakers and artists today. Just press play to hear the whole story. ----- 

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Podcast Transcript: I’m Andrew Wanko, Public Historian of the Missouri Historical Society, and Here’s History on 88-one, KDHX. ———

What do Batman’s moody Gotham City, Superman’s soaring Metropolis, Dorothy’s glimmering Emerald City, and the dystopian Los Angeles of Blade Runner all have in common? They all owe some of their style to the drawings of one St. Louisan. ———

Born in St. Louis in 1889, Hugh Ferriss enrolled at age 17 in the architecture program at Washington University. After graduating, he gained a national reputation for his trademark style of architectural illustration. In a 1916 feature in the Post-Dispatch, St. Louisans got a look at ten of his brooding, powerful images of local buildings. In the images, structures like the Art Museum and New Cathedral float half-concealed in shadow above a moody nighttime world. But while Ferriss produced mesmerizing images of real-world buildings, it was his 1929 book The Metropolis of Tomorrow that pushed the imaginative limits of architects, poets, and filmmakers alike. ———

In The Metropolis of Tomorrow, Hugh Ferriss presented hypothetical visions of a near-future megacity meant to show readers where he believed urban life was headed. In his glowing future metropolis, skyscrapers are the size of mountains and floating superhighways cut through buildings. He presents interconnected building-top sky gardens, vertically stacked airports, and suspension bridges with high-rise apartment buildings hung between the cables. ———

Whether you find the Metropolis of Tomorrow’s futuristic city hopeful and heroic, or overwhelming and terrifying, the images themselves are undeniably magnificent. Though Ferriss never constructed a building, few people have had a greater influence on how we perceive cities. Both the aesthetic look and dramatic atmosphere of the Metropolis of Tomorrow have been borrowed thousands of times over, in stage sets, comics, science fiction novels, movies and more. ———

Hugh Ferriss passed away in 1962 and was buried at Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis. In honor of his legacy, the American Society of Architectural Illustrators gives out the annual Hugh Ferriss Memorial Prize for excellence in architectural rendering. ———

Here’s history is a joint production of the Missouri Historical Society and KDHX. I’m Andrew Wanko and this is 88.1 KDHX St. Louis. ———