Hugh Ferriss was trained as an architect at Washington University in his native St. Louis, Missouri. Though Ferriss had an architecture degree he chose to spend most of his career as a delineator, an artist who creates renderings of other architect’s designs for the purposes of advertising and city planning. In 1912, Ferriss arrived in New York City and was soon employed as a delineator for Cass Gilbert. In 1915, he set up shop as an independent architectural delineator. His drawings were being regularly featured by such diverse publications as Century, the Christian Science Monitor, Harper´s Magazine and Vanity Fair. In 1916, New York City had passed landmark zoning laws that regulated and limited the mass of buildings according to a formula. The reason was to counteract the tendency for buildings to occupy the whole of their lot and go straight up as far as was possible. Since many architects were not sure exactly what these laws meant for their designs, in 1922 the skyscraper architect Harvey Wiley Corbett commissioned Ferriss to draw a series of four step-by-step perspectives demonstrating the architectural consequences of the zoning law. These four drawings would later be used in his 1929 book "The Metropolis of Tomorrow". By the mid-1920s he was in great demand and worked with the most important architects of the period, rendering the Lincoln Center, the Rockefeller Center, the New York Times Building, and the Chicago Tribune Tower, among others. When Le Corbusier and Russian engineer Nikolai Bassov argued over the base of the United Nations headquarters, Ferriss saved the day by blurring the ground floor with foliage: “When in doubt, plant trees.” Without ever formally designing a building himself, Ferris´ monumental, dramatic drawing style had a strong impact on the development of early 20th century American architecture. Since 1986, the American Society of Architectural Illustrators has presented an annual Hugh Ferriss Memorial Prize.
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