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  • 2001 : Building for space travel - The history of space exploration in an art museum context

    Paper ID



    • J. Zukowsky


    Curator of Architecture, The Art Institute of Chicago






    “Ars sine scientia nihil est,” or “Art without science is nothing.” So said the medieval French Master Mason Jean Mignot, referring to the ‘science’ of geometry that acted as the foundation for good proportions in architecture. Although attitudes in recent centuries have tended to compartmentalize the arts and sciences, two experiences at The Art Institute of Chicago have shown that the fine arts and science and technology all still co-exist within aerospace subjects. The first instance of this investigation was the 1996 exhibition, book, and series of public programs entitled Building for Air Travel. Architecture and Design for Commercial Aviation. This examined the role that architects, industrial designers, and graphic designers have played in creating airports, aircraft factories, airliner interiors and airline corporate identity over the past eight decades. Our current exhibition and public interpretive project 2001: Building for Space Travel is a sequel to that very successful traveling exhibition on commercial aviation. 2001: Building for Space Travel examines the roles that architects and designers have played in the shaping of structures, interior spaces and corporate identity for space exploration, in reality as well as science fiction. The epic film 2001. A Space Odyssey is used as a focal point in the overall interpretation since even leading aerospace figures such as Wernher von Braun encouraged his designers and engineers to use that film as a source of inspiration to make space travel an everyday occurrence for all. Our project examines the role that design arts professionals have played in the history of space travel within three categories that are extensions of life and design activity on earth: our image .of the cosmos, before and after space travel; conflict in space; and exploration of the wilderness. This paper will summarize the themes, installation, and public programs of 2001:Building for Space Travel at The Art Institute of Chicago in comparison with other activities within that museum’s Department of Architecture related to the history of aerospace technology, from exhibitions to archival collections. In so doing, it will present unique circumstances where a fine arts museum has endorsed and successfully implemented a series of programs related to aerospace design and technology.