David Winton Bell Gallery

Past Exhibitions

September 11, 2020 - December 18, 2020



Architectural Historian Vincent Scully called Raymond Hood “the greatest skyscraper architect of all time” and the New Yorker once labelled him the “brilliant bad boy of architecture.” His sophisticated, visionary, irreverent – and astonishingly timely - work deserves a reevaluation.

Raymond Hood and the American Skyscraper brings together approximately 70 architectural drawings, photographs (historic and newly-commissioned), models and books. The exhibition opens with an examination of Hood’s early life and education. He was born and raised in Pawtucket, RI where he attended public school until beginning college at Brown University. During his two years at Brown, Hood took courses that prepared him for the pursuit of architectural studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. His training at all three institutions, materials from which are included in the exhibition, allowed him to develop his signature strengths: functional clarity, technological expertise and stylistic variety.

The exhibition focuses on a selection of Hood’s built and unbuilt skyscrapers. From his unexecuted high-rise projects in Pawtucket and Providence (1911, 1916) a direct path leads to the winning entry at the Chicago Tribune Competition (1922–25), where he faced a large group of internationally recognized competitors. Hood went on to design the American Radiator Tower (1924), the Daily News and McGraw Hill Buildings (1929, 1931) in New York City and became lead architect for Rockefeller Center (1930). Hood easily mastered different styles (Gothic, Neo-Renaissance, Moderne) and developed plans for future skyscraper cities. His modernity was not tied to architectural form, but rather to his innovative use of technology and his careful analysis of functions. One of his lesser known contributions is his intense use of color and the conception of an “Architecture of the Night” (his term) of carefully planned illumination for vibrant nocturnal skylines.

About the Co-Curators

Dietrich Neumann is a professor of History of Art and Architecture and director of Urban Studies at Brown University.

Jonathan Duval is a PhD student in the History of Art and Architecture at Brown University. Before coming to Brown, Jonathan received a BA in architectural studies and art history from Tufts University and worked for several years as the curatorial assistant of the Architecture and Design collection at the MIT Museum.


Raymond Hood and the American Skyscraper is made possible by generous support from  Shawmut Design and Construction and the Brown Arts Initiative.