The long-awaited major biography of an important architect who was equally famous in his day for opera, stage, and film designs.
Joseph Urban already enjoyed an enviable reputation in Vienna for architecture, stage design, and book illustration before coming to America in 1911 to design productions for the Boston Opera. Soon his sets and innovative lighting caught the eye of both Florenz Ziegfeld, who lured him away to design the Follies in the 1920s, and William Randolph Hearst, who hired him as artistic director of his movie studio.Urban's lush stagecraft revolutionized American theatre design. In 1917 he was named artistic director of the Metropolitan Opera, and many of his original settings were used into the 1950s.
As an architect, Urban made memorable additions to New York's cityscape. Many have vanished, including the original Ziegfeld Theatre, but the Hearst Building and the New School for Social Research, the city's first International Style building, remain. Several of his works in Palm Beach still stand, including his most extravagant, Mar-a-Lago, the former Post estate now owned by Donald Trump. A study of this scope has long been overdue.