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Joseph Urban

Joseph Urban, circa 1915
Joseph Urban, circa 1900. Caricature by Rudolf Swoboda

Joseph Urban (May 26, 1872, Vienna – July 10, 1933, New York City) was an Austrian-American architect, illustrator and scenic designer.[1][2]


  • Life and work 1
  • Legacy 2
  • Book illustrations 3
  • European architecture 4
  • U.S. architecture and interior design 5
  • Notes 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9

Life and work

Urban studied architecture at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna under Karl von Hasenauer. In 1890, he and his brother-in-law, Heinrich Lefler, were among the founders of the Hagenbund. Urban's early work with illustrated books was inspired by Lefler and, together, they created what are considered seminal examples of children's book illustration.

Urban immigrated to the United States in 1912 to become the art director of the Boston Opera Company. Two years later he moved to New York where he designed productions for the Ziegfeld Follies and the Metropolitan Opera. William Randolph Hearst was an important client and supporter. He also co-produced with Richard Ordynski Percy MacKaye's "Community Masque" Caliban by the Yellow Sands.[3]

He died of a heart attack at the St. Regis Hotel in Manhattan.[1]


Urban was one of the originators of the American Art Deco style. Unfortunately, most of his architectural work in the United States has been demolished. Major exceptions include the Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, The New School building, including Tishman Auditorium, popularly known as "The Egg," at The New School and the base of the Hearst Tower in New York City. The color gel Urban Blue (Roscolux #81) is named for him.

Book illustrations

  • Grimm's Märchen (1905);
  • Kling-Klang Gloria (1907);
  • Andersen Kalender (1911); and
  • Marienkind (1914).

European architecture

  • 1900 Wohn- und Bürohaus Wien 8, Buchfeldgasse 6 (with Hermann Stierlin)
  • 1902 Villa Goltz, Wien 19, Grinzinger Straße 87
  • 1903 Villa Wiener, Wien 13, Veitingergasse 21
  • 1907 Villa Redlich, Wien 19, Kreindlgasse 11
  • 1907 Wohnhaus, Wien 19, Krottenbachstraße 11
  • 1907 Villa Max Landau, Semmering, Südbahnstraße 83
  • 1910 Villa Dr. Mair, Scheiblingkirchen, Kreuzackergasse 43

U.S. architecture and interior design

Monument to Joseph Urban in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery

This partial list[4] omits unbuilt projects.

  • Austrian Pavilion, Louisiana Purchase Exposition, 1904
  • Sherman Hotel Tiger Room, Chicago, 1920
  • Wiener Werkstätte Showroom, NYC, 1922
  • C.C. Lightbown House, 4839 Colorado Avenue, NW, Washington, DC, Permit #7278, March 10, 1925, cost $25,000.
  • Mar-A-Lago, Palm Beach, Florida, 1925–1926
  • Demarest Little Castle, Palm Beach, Florida, 1926
  • Paramount Theater, Sunrise Building, Palm Beach, Florida, 1926
  • Biddle House, Palm Beach,1926
  • Bath and Tennis Club, Palm Beach, Florida, July 1926
  • Ziegfeld Theatre, 1926–27
  • St. Regis Hotel Roof Garden, 1927–1928
  • Hotel Gibson Roof Garden, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1928
  • Bossert Hotel, Grill Room, Brooklyn, 1928
  • Bedell Department Store, New York City, 1928
  • William Penn Hotel, Pittsburgh, 1928, 1932
  • (Hearst) International Magazine Building, 1928–1929
  • Central Park Casino, 1929
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art 11th annual exhibition of American Industrial Art, 1929
  • The Gingerbread Castle[5] Hamburg NJ, 1929
  • Tishman Auditorium at the New School for Social Research NYC, 1929–1931
  • Atlantic Beach Club, Long Island, NY, 1930–1931
  • Park Avenue Restaurant, 1931[6]
  • Congress Hotel, Joseph Urban Room, Chicago, Illinois, 1932
  • Omni William Penn Hotel, Urban Room[7] Pittsburgh, PA, 1929
  • Katherine Brush Apartment, 1933


  1. ^ a b "Joseph Urban Dies. Versatile Artist. Won Fame as Architect, Stage Set Designer, Bridge Builder, World's Fair Decorator. Aided Opera And 'Follies'. Landscaped Gardens, Built Country Villas and Furnished Them. Long Celebrated in Europe".  
  2. ^  
  3. ^ Mackaye, Percy (1916). Caliban by the Yellow Sands. New York: Doubleday Page & Co. p. 153. 
  4. ^ [3]
  5. ^ "Gingerbread Castle". Retrieved 2012-04-30. 
  6. ^ Photograph of Park Avenue Restaurant
  7. ^ [4]


  • Randolph, Carter; and Cole; Robert Reed (1992). Joseph Urban: Architecture, Theater, Opera, Film.  
  • Aronson, Arnold; and Ostergard; Derek E. and Smith; Matthew Wilson (2000). Architect of Dreams: The Theatrical Vision of Joseph Urban. NY NY: Columbia University.  
  • Goldberger, Paul (20 December 1987). "At the Cooper-Hewitt, Designs of Joseph Urban". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-06-22. 
  • "Joseph Urban". Architecture LXIX (5): pp. 251–290. May 1934. 

Further reading

  • Curl, Donald W. "Joseph Urban's Palm Beach Architecture". Florida Historical Quarterly 71(April 1993): 436-457.
  • Yann Rocher, Théâtres en utopie, Actes Sud, Paris, 2014: 208-217.

External links

  • Joseph Urban Archive at the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University
  • Joseph Urban's Stage Design Models and Documents Project Columbia University
  • Cinema Treasures on Urban
  • Hearst Tower Photographs
  • New School for Social Research
  • Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) No. NJ-4, "The Gingerbread Castle, Wheatsworth Road, Hamburg, Sussex County, NJ", 8 data pages
  • Antiquity Echoes History, photos, and video of the Gingerbread Castle in Hamburg, NJ.
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