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Tower of Water and Light, Century of Progress Exposition, Chicago, Illinois, Perspective

A work made of graphite on tracing paper.

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  • A work made of graphite on tracing paper.


c. 1929


Voorhees, Gmelin and Walker (American, 1926-1939)
Ralph Thomas Walker (American, 1889-1973)

About this artwork

Beginning in 1929, the planning commission of the Century of Progress Exposition worked on developing a scheme for the fairgrounds, themes for major buildings, and a centerpiece of inspirational proportions. New York architect Ralph Walker, a member of the commission, proposed a Tower of Light and Water, which was a soaring skyscraper-scale sculpture set in a lagoon. Cascading water and the lavish use of artificial light were to add even more drama to the giant structure.
The Depression forced the commission to scale back its plans. A combination of financial doubts (the tower provided minimal rentable space) and technical uncertainties about the complex water feats forced the proposal’s demise. A structure called the Skyride was built in its place as the centerpiece of the Century of Progress. Visitors could ride the aerial gondola between the main fair ground and the Island, or climb one of the 600-ft. towers and have a spectacular view of the city.


Currently Off View


Architecture and Design


Voorhees, Gmelin and Walker (Architect)


Tower of Water and Light, Century of Progress Exposition, Chicago, Illinois, Perspective


Chicago (Building address)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.



Graphite on tracing paper


61 × 58.1 cm (24 × 22 7/8 in.)

Credit Line

Purchased with funds provided by Edward H. Bennett, Jr., Mrs. Michael Goodkin, Andrew McNally III, Mrs. C. Phillip Miller, Mrs. Roderick Webster, and James M. Wells in honor of Mrs. Eugene A. Davidson

Reference Number


Extended information about this artwork

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