Festival Celebrates Life and Legacy of Architect Frank Furness

A series of exhibits, lectures and symposia hosted by Philadelphia area institutions including the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University, the Library Company of Philadelphia, the Athenaeum of Philadelphia, and many more, are being held to celebrate architect Frank Furness’s career, his designs and his influence on modern architecture.

In 1873, the young Louis Sullivan was drawn to the office because he saw Furness designing buildings “out of his head” instead of out of books, an idea that Sullivan transmitted to his pupil Frank Lloyd Wright and that remains the core of modern design. In 1000 projects Furness used the new materials and forms of the industrial age to re-imagine the art school as a factory for art, the library as a machine for learning, and the bank as an engine of commerce. (frankfurness.org)

His work can be seen at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the University of Pennsylvania Library, and the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia.  Unfortunately as tastes changed, a number of his buildings fell into neglect and were demolished.

Most of the exhibits open in mid-September to November and run for a short time; often closing in December or January.  The list after the break includes many, but not all of the events and exhibits scheduled during the Frank Furness Festival.  More information on upcoming exhibits, lectures and symposia will be made available at frankfurness.org.

The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (September 29 – December 30, 2012)
“Building a Masterpiece: Frank Furness’ Factory for Art” 

This will have all of the drawings that the FF office used to build the building as well as images that give an idea of what the competitors proposed.  This is the first time the FF drawings have ever been shown together and is one of the most complete sets of drawings for a major Victorian building. Parallel exhibit a the same time of paintings by William Trost Richards, the brother of one of the competitors for the PAFA building.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art (October 6, 2012 – December 30, 2012)
“Learning from Frank Furness: Louis Sullivan in 1873”  

The exhibit centers around the great desk which FF designed for his brother Horace Howard Furness, and shows the development of Furness ornament which led the way to Louis Sullivan’s design work in Chicago. The exhibit brings together other pieces of FF furniture and drawings that Sullivan made while in the Furness office and carried with him through his life; giving them to Frank Lloyd Wright who gave them to the Avery Library. Another spectacular piece in this exhibit is Thomas Eakins “Fairman Rogers, Four-in hand coach” which makes the connection between art and the modern world that parallels what Furness was doing in architecture.

Related images from Philadelphia Museum of Art:



The Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania (October 5 to mid-December)
“Frank Furness: Making a Modern Library”

This exhibit will present materials on six Furness libraries in a Furness library together with an overview of the library building in Philadelphia from the 18th century Library Company through the University of Pennsylvania Library. Among the remarkable objects is a model of Addison Hutton’s Ridgway Library, now the High School for Performing Arts on South Broad Street, the Furness perspective of the Penn library showing its built-in capacity to grow with the collection. The show will conclude with Louis Kahn’s Exeter Library and Venturi, Scott-Brown’s Bard Library to show the continuing evolution of the library building in Philadelphia designer’s hands.

The Paul Peck Center of Drexel University (Mid- September to mid-December)
“Bank with Frank: The Commercial Architecture of Frank Furness”

The Peck Center will house a digital exhibit on Furness’ commercial designs together with access to the best preserved of Furness’ brilliant banks, the Centennial Bank now the Paul Peck Center at Drexel University.

The Library Company of Philadelphia (September 17th to April 13, 2013)
“Frank Furness: Working on the Railroads”

The Library Company brings materials from their collection together with never-before exhibited drawings and objects from the Furness railroad practice; it compares the various strategies that Furness devised to give identity to the great corporations that were reshaping the nation. The exhibit will include pieces of locomotives and signs and elements from Broad Street station as well as important art works by artists who painted and engraved views of Broad Street Station.

The Athenaeum of Philadelphia (29 November to 13 January 2013)
“Recent Acquisitions: The notebooks of Frank Furness”

First Unitarian Church, (2125 Chestnut Street) (October 5 – December 14, 2012. Wednesdays and Fridays, 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. or by appointment: 215-563-3980)

“Still Standing: Frank Furness as Street Preacher”

Frank Furness’s father in a lecture to the AIA in 1870 suggested that architects were like “street preachers” in their ability to communicate ideas and values. Among the most personal buildings that Furness designed was the new church at 22nd and Chestnut for the congregation that his father had led from the 1820s. This will show images of the original Furness design, Furness drawings and the original building cash book listing expenditures on the building as well as some of the leaded glass and the church furniture that Furness designed for the church.

Frankford Historical Society (1507 Orthodox Street, Philadelphia) September 11 – 30 October

“Frank Furness in Uniform 1861-1865,”

Among the artifacts will be one of the battle lances that Furness’ unit carried into battle in the Civil War and which were later memorialized in Furness’ monument to his regiment at Gettysburg.

Art in the Age Gallery, (116 N. 3rd Street) October 5 – TBD

“Furness in the ‘Hood: Nearby sites of Furness banks,”, organized by Dan Abraham, images of demolished Furness banks in the vicinity of the gallery with interpretation by artists at the sites of the Furness buildings

Bryn Mawr College, Canaday Library, Bryn Mawr College, main campus

“Frank Furness in space: The suburban architecture” organized by Jeffrey Cohen, Bryn Mawr College, entrance gallery of the Canaday Library. Mid September – Mid-December

This exhibit will feature rare Wells & Hope plates from “Suburban Philadelphia” with plans of houses and comparisons with contemporary house designs.

Second Presbyterian Church, Parish Room, 21st and Walnut Street, Spring 2013

“Frank Furness West of Rittenhouse: the urban residential architecture of Frank Furness,” organized by Jeffrey Cohen, Bryn Mawr College

In addition there will be a number of events that fill out the fall:

On September 14th, a Pennsylvania Historic & Museum Commission Marker commemorating the birthplace of Frank Furness was dedicated at 1426 Pine Street (Furness’ home).

September 20: Tour of the Wilmington Railroad Center, AMTRAK station, B & O Station, and Furness’ Security Trust & Safe Deposit with reception to follow at the Delaware Historical Society.  A special exhibit, Frank Furness and his B & O Stations in Delaware and Maryland will open on September 22 in the Willingtown Square Gallery.

September 24: Library Company of Philadelphia, public opening and gallery lecture by George Thomas, 5:30 PM at the Library Company. Registration is available online.

October 27: The University of Pennsylvania Architectural Archives
“Frank Furness: Making a Modern Library”

Take advantage of this unique opportunity to spend 90 minutes in the Reading Room of the Frank Furness-designed Fisher Fine Arts Library with three architectural historians and one practicing architect, all closely associated with Furness’s work. The discussion will focus on the ways that Furness’s design for the Fine Arts Library profoundly influenced modern library design. Participants include Dr. James F. O’Gorman, a leading architectural historian and author of The Architecture of Frank Furness; George E. Thomas, Gr’75, noted cultural historian and author of Building America’s First University: An Historical and Architectural Guide to the University of Pennsylvania; Henry Myerberg, C’76, founder of HMA2 architects with a specialty in libraries; and William Whitaker, GAr’96, curator of the University of Pennsylvania’s Architectural Archives and the Kroiz Gallery. A continental breakfast will be provided starting at 9:00 AM and an optional tour of the Fisher Fine Arts Library will be available following the program. Space is limited; reserve your space by contacting Penn Alumni Relations at alumni@ben.dev.upenn.edu or call 215.898.7811

November 30- December 1: The Athenaeum of Philadelphia
International Symposium: “Frank Furness: His City, His World”

TBD: Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
International Design Symposium: “Greening Furness’ Red Buildings”