Ten Buildings That Changed America: Watch the Debut Episode from the New PBS Series

Every­one on the inter­net knows the bit­ter dis­ap­point­ment of click­ing on lists that sound more inter­est­ing than they turn out to be, just as enthu­si­asts of Amer­i­can his­to­ry have grown weary of hear­ing claims about what has or has­n’t “changed Amer­i­ca.” (Last year, com­e­dy writer Ali­son Agosti ele­gant­ly smacked down both trends in one tweet.) But I have a feel­ing that PBS and sta­tion WTTW’s new series Ten Build­ings that Changed Amer­i­ca can pull the com­bi­na­tion off with snap­pi­ness and insight. Host­ed by Geof­frey Baer, tele­vi­sion per­son­al­i­ty and not­ed enthu­si­ast of Chica­go (an Amer­i­can built envi­ron­ment if ever there was one), the show promis­es a look at, among oth­er archi­tec­tur­al win­dows onto the Amer­i­can spir­it, “a state capi­tol that Thomas Jef­fer­son designed to resem­ble a Roman tem­ple, the home of Hen­ry Ford’s first assem­bly line, the first indoor region­al shop­ping mall,” and “an air­port with a swoop­ing con­crete roof that seems to float on air.”

You can watch the debut episode of Ten Build­ings that Changed Amer­i­ca online. It begins the cross-coun­try archi­tec­tur­al road trip in Rich­mond, Vir­ginia, where Baer vis­its future Pres­i­dent Thomas Jef­fer­son­’s state capi­tol build­ing. “As a found­ing father of the Unit­ed States, Thomas Jef­fer­son was pas­sion­ate about America’s inde­pen­dence from Britain,” says the show’s page on the build­ing. “He was no fan of the king of Eng­land and, by exten­sion, no fan of the Geor­gian archi­tec­ture that bore the kings’ name,” an incli­na­tion which got him look­ing toward France for inspi­ra­tion. Sub­se­quent episodes will exam­ine oth­er strik­ing, inno­v­a­tive, influ­en­tial, and oft-imi­tat­ed Amer­i­can build­ings: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House in Baer’s beloved Chica­go, Mies van der Rohe’s Sea­gram Build­ing in New York City, and even Frank Gehry’s Dis­ney Con­cert Hall, the still-con­tro­ver­sial new icon of the down­town Los Ange­les where I type this very post.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The His­to­ry of West­ern Archi­tec­ture: From Ancient Greece to Roco­co (A Free Online Course)

David Byrne: How Archi­tec­ture Helped Music Evolve

An Ani­mat­ed Tour of Falling­wa­ter, One of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Finest Cre­ations

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on lit­er­a­ture, film, cities, Asia, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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