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R. Vale Faro (1902-1988)

Dates of Interview:

September 16, 1983

Location of Interview:

The Art Institute of Chicago

Interviewer:

Betty J. Blum

Length of Transcript:

45 pages
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Biographical Summary

R. Vale Faro was born in 1902 and studied architecture at the Armour Institute of Technology in Chicago. At Armour, Faro was considered by instructors and fellow students to be a radical because he advocated modern design. Following graduation, he traveled to Paris to further his study of architecture. When he returned to Chicago, he took a job at Schmidt, Garden & Erikson, where he met another vocal advocate of the modern idiom, George Fred Keck, with whom he associated for a brief time in 1926-1927. Faro worked in the firm of Schmidt, Garden & Erikson from the late 1920s until he retired in 1967. His design work at the Century of Progress International Exposition in Chicago in 1933-1934 included the Time-Life Building and the Italian Village. Faro died in 1988 in Madeira Beach, Florida.

Interview Highlights

Faro speaks about attending Armour Institute of Technology; an atelier and Louis Sullivan; being in Paris; working at Schmidt, Garden & Erikson; influences while at Armour; designing the Time-Life Building at the Century of Progress International Exposition; George Fred Keck; designing the Italian Village at the Century of Progress International Exposition; postwar jobs, materials and concerns; use of color; furniture; his successful projects.


Time-Life (aka Time-Fortune) Building, Century of Progress International Exposition; Chicago, 1933-1934.
Photograph by Kaufmann & Fabry; Historic Architecture and Landscape Image Collection,
Ryerson and Burnham Archives, The Art Institute of Chicago.


Italian Village, Century of Progress International Exposition; Chicago, 1934.
Photograph by Kaufmann & Fabry; Historic Architecture and Landscape Image Collection,
Ryerson and Burnham Archives, The Art Institute of Chicago.

Interview Excerpt

"[The Century of Progress International Exposition] was in the middle of the Depression. The Century of Progress practically pulled some architects out of a big hole. Hugh Garden made friends with some Italian person who later on was a waiter. He was one of the top figures in the international Mafia, and he and Garden were very close. [The Italian gentleman] came to Schimdt, Garden & Erikson the second year of the fair and said this Italian group wanted to build an Italian Village.... So I made this drawing for a bird's-eye view of this Italian Village and then after the working drawings were done, Pete Fairbairn did the drawings for it. It came time to pay the architects off, so they made arrangements for a meeting with Richard Schmidt in his office after dark at night. And these gangsters, or these Italian gentlemen, all showed up, with Richard Schmidt in the office, and they paid him in cash and they left. They said, 'Goodnight, Mr. Schmidt.' A highly respectable meeting. And Mr. Schmidt told me the next morning--I had breakfast with him at the University Club--and he said, 'You know, after I had all this money in my pocket, I was afraid to leave the building for fear that they would hold me up and take it away from me.'" (pp. 26-27)

Additional Resources

R. Vale Faro images in the R&B Archives
Related archival materials in the R&B Archives
Works by Faro in the Department of Architecture and Design


Funding for this oral history was provided by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.
Publication of this oral history in web-accessible form was made possible by the generous support of The Vernon and Marcia Wagner Access Fund at The Art Institute of Chicago, The James & Catherine Haveman Foundation, The Reva and David Logan Family Fund of the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, and Daniel Logan and The Reva and David Logan Foundation.