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Design Archives; Charles Blessing Interview


1999 NTW Preservation master Is actually static shots of Blessing’s designs/works and not interview footage, and also includes designs/works of graphic designer Paul Rand, interior designer Melanie Kahane, and architect O’Neil Ford, who were also interviewed as part of the NEA Design Archives project.

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Design Archives
Charles Blessing Interview
Series Description

Series of original interviews. Series release date: 1981

Program Description

240-minute interview on four videocassettes.

Tape 1 (60:00): Introduction; childhood in the Rocky Mountains; desire to be an architect from childhood; education at University of Colorado (architectural engineering); influence of the 20-volume New York Metropolitan Regional Area Plan on his decision to become a city planner; first job opportunities in Detroit; earliest city planning ideas; graduate education at MIT; influence of painting and etching on his planning ideas; influence of Eero Saarienen and George Booth on city planning; anecdote about refusal of city planning job in Washington, DC; first job in New Hampshire; influence of Bullie Mumford on city planning; influence of MIT art history professor Henry Seeber on him; job as librarian at MIT’s architecture library; travel to the world’s great cities as part of his education; issues of spending large sums of money on urban development versus other social programs.

Tape 2 (57:00): Criticism of the mistakes made by modern architects and the International Style; city planning designs in Chicago and Detroit, especially on riverfront properties; issue of autocratic versus democratic government in terms of city planning; how Central Park in New York and parks in Boston were created; possibilities for development in Detroit; damage LeCorbusier and the International Style caused to cities; democratization of architecture; need for public support on important architectural projects; city planning boom in Detroit and Houston in the 1970’s; debate over overbuilding in cities and the falsehood of most of the warnings; examples of Athens and San Francisco as times when public opinion halted disastrous city planning designs.

Tape 3 (57:45): Need for artists and architects to be visionaries and fight against technocrats who dismiss esthetics; changes in Detroit’s cityscape over the years; dramatic changes in cityscapes with advent of cars and highways in the 1950’s; Mies van de Rohe’s Lafayette Park in Detroit and Blessing’s role in it; urban blight in Detroit in the 1950’s, and the City Planning Commission’s plans for improvement; movement of shopping centers to suburbs; Lafayette Park’s effort to keep people and shops in the city; differences between city planning and urban design, and Detroit’s efforts in both fields; his 3-D plans for the entire city, the first of their kind anywhere; refusal to bow to pressures of other city officials when designing; humane elements of Lafayette Park; effects of Detroit’s riots of the 1960’s on the city; city planners need to restore hope in the cities.

Tape 4 (57:30): School system in inner-city Detroit and Lafayette Park; struggle to build the Detroit Medical Center; response to criticism that urban renewal displaces the poor, especially blacks; mistakes made in the urban renewal of Boston’s North End in the 1930’s; some of the failures to deliver housing for the urban poor in city planning, but overall success of the plans; his faith in the future of cities and the public’s desire to see cities survive; idea of the U.S. having a national plan for city development as other countries do, and the need for regional planning commissions; the need for a sense of urgency both nationally and internationally in developing opportunities for urban betterment-- must be more popular education on the subject.



Asset Type

Broadcast program

Media Type


Unedited footage
City planners
City planning
Blessing, Charles A. (Interviewee)
Chicago: “Design Archives; Charles Blessing Interview,” 02/04/1982, WGBH Media Library & Archives, accessed January 19, 2019, http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_F1D7C3D911184136B055D14C37E2FDE6.
MLA: “Design Archives; Charles Blessing Interview.” 02/04/1982. WGBH Media Library & Archives. Web. January 19, 2019. <http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_F1D7C3D911184136B055D14C37E2FDE6>.
APA: Design Archives; Charles Blessing Interview. Boston, MA: WGBH Media Library & Archives. Retrieved from http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_F1D7C3D911184136B055D14C37E2FDE6
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