One of the new books I wanted to highlight this week is Christopher Long’s new book on modern architecture in Vienna, The New Space. He writes in the introduction:
My project, however, is an effort to suggest a different reading of their spatial programs, one that does not entirely replace the old one, but seeks to offer a significant amendment: that a core part of the spatial explorations of all three architects [Strnad, Frank, and Loos] had to do not only with the design or configuration of spaces, but the ways in which the experience of space through movement might affect the viewer or inhabitant. (pg. xiii)
Congratulations to Professor Long on his new book!
I selected to highlight this book for our students in Interior Design. Marella Caracciolo Chia writes of hers and Oberto Gili’s inspiration for this book:
The concept of rooms that reveal a good story is what this book is essentially about. Oberto Gili and I started talking about recording our “journey” through these “narrative interiors” ever since we met in 1993… We discovered many beautiful interiors but what stayed with us were the ones belonging to highly creative individuals. Domus plays tribute to Italy’s centuries-old tradition of using arts and crafts to create masterful interiors. (pgs. 10-11)
Stop in today to check these works out as well as the many others that arrived this week!
We received several new books this week, but one in particular caught my eye – Laube and Widrig’s Archigraphy. I rather love the interplay between the representation of lettering with a building or architectural style. The authors write:
It is only when architects and graphic designers enter into an open dialogue that the two disciplines are able mutually to enrich one another. Convincing, multilayered solutions are generated particularly when the theme of signage is integrated into the planning process at an early stage. (pg. 5)
The work is divided in two sections. The first consists of a series of four thematic essays. The first essay considers the history of text and architecture, while the last the tension between the two. The second half of the books includes 28 case studies from contemporary projects.
First, I would like to call attention to William Allin Storrer’s two new books on Frank Lloyd Wright that just arrived – Frank Lloyd Wright: Creating American Architecture and Frank Lloyd Wright: Designing Democratic America. Storrer notes in both works, “It is, too, a personal memoir and distillation of what my 66 years ‘with Frank Lloyd Wright’ has come to mean to me” (Designing Democratic America, IV; Creating American Architecture, III). Each work focuses on domestic architecture – Creating American Architecture specifically on Wright’s Prairie architecture and Designing Democratic America on his Usonian designs.
Betancur and Smith examine Chicago as a case study for understanding the history and future of neighborhoods. They write:
We argue that current theories – the tools used by academics and policy makers to explain how and why neighborhoods change – limit our ability to interpret what is actually happening while at the same time advancing in a veiled form a specific position or point of view and mandate. In particular, long-standing assumptions about what a neighborhood is and its importance in our lives rely on an image from the past that never existed and ignores or hides the realities on the ground. (pg. vii)
I am particularly excited about Niall Atkinson’s book on Renaissance Florence. While I was not anticipating his work, I find medieval and Renaissance Florence incredibly engaging and it is always one of my favorite sections to teach. I am curious how The Noisy Renaissance will either act as a companion piece to Marvin Trachtenberg’s Dominion of the Eye: Urbanism, Art, and Power in Early ModernFlorence by enhancing our understanding of Renaissance Florence or perhaps challenge Trachtenberg’s interpretation of the city experience. Atkinson writes:
The Renaissance city was by no means a quiet place. In a variety of ways it spoke directly to its inhabitants, who, irresistibly, were drawn to speak back. With its buildings and spaces, walls and gates, doors and windows, it facilitated and obstructed the flow of information, the dissemination of official messages, the telling of stories, the performance of music, the rhythm of prayer, the trade in secrets, and the low-frequency murmur of rumors, lies, and gossip. The built environment was not a stage upon which a discordant urban drama played out, but the very medium that gave that drama form, shaped its meaning, and modulated its towns. The city expressed the most compelling aspects of its design when people danced on its surfaces, crowded its spaces, poked holes in its walls, and upended its hierarchical organizations. And it is through these exchanges that we can learn a great deal not only about how contemporaries understand the buildings and spaces that surrounded them, but how they participated in a collective dialogue that continually reinforced, undermined, and reconfigured architectural meaning (pg. 4).
For the past seven years, UT’s School of Architecture has been posting videos of lectures, forums, and other presentations hosted by the school to their dedicated Vimeo page. The turnaround is superb; many events held just this fall, like a talk given in October by alumnus Craig Dykers of Snøhetta, are already available online for anyone who missed them, whether for reasons geographical (hard to find a cheap flight from Oslo) or spatial (they simply couldn’t find an open seat in the packed lecture hall).
For the past three years, we at the Alexander Architectural Archives also have been working (until now behind the scenes) to provide online access to past School of Architecture events, albeit from a different, earlier era, when programs were recorded on audio cassettes instead of HD video. Cassette tapes, unfortunately, are a notoriously unstable storage medium. Their magnetic tape is particularly susceptible to degradation through processes like acid hydrolysis. So, since 2013, we’ve been collaborating with Digitization Services at UT’s Perry-Castañeda Library to digitize a collection of approximately two hundred cassette recordings of interviews and public lectures given at the School of Architecture during the 1980s and 1990s by prominent architects and architectural historians from both the United States and abroad, including AIA Gold Medalists Ricardo Legorreta, Charles W. Moore, Glenn Murcutt, and César Pelli, among others.
Once reformatted, we review all the audio to capture index terms like persons, places, subjects, and architectural buildings and sites mentioned by speakers so that when the digital files are uploaded to Texas ScholarWorks, UT-Austin’s institutional digital repository, keywords and other descriptive metadata can be added with the files to facilitate search and discovery of the recordings. The audio review process can be arduous, as the original recordings, many of which were of slide lectures, have neither transcripts nor listings of images. Often we must ascertain, through minimal verbal description, which building an architect might have been talking about at a given moment during a lecture, even though someone in the audience at the time would have known immediately simply by looking at the slide being shown.
So far around one hundred of these cassettes have been digitized. Of these, we’ve currently ingested digital versions of over twenty-five of these historic programs (each program might have several .mp3 files associated with it) into Texas ScholarWorks. Anyone with a University of Texas EID can sign in and download and listen to them. (The collection can be browsed and bookmarked here: https://repositories.lib.utexas.edu/handle/2152/43672) We also encourage outside researchers who don’t have immediate access to contact us (email@example.com) should they want to listen to any particular recording, which we anticipate they will. To read secondary literature about Fay Jones, for instance, is one thing. To listen to his understated, gentlemanly Arkansan drawl reveal the inspiration behind some of his most cherished and sublime of works—how, say, Thorncrown Chapel winks at Sainte-Chapelle—is incomparably more beguiling.
Southern Architect and Building News is not a traditional Friday Finds – I did not discover it this morning by wandering around in Special Collections. I have been working with this journal run for about a year now seeking funding to have the collection digitized. The challenge with SABN is that the content within the issues has never been indexed. While a patron might be able to find a record of the journal in the library’s catalog, a patron must search through the physical journals to identify any content that might be relevant to his/her research. With that in mind, I am going to share interesting bits of information that I find in SABN from time to time to raise awareness regarding its useful and interesting content.
Flipping through the issues from November 1912 to October 1913, I noticed that Texas architecture and architects were well represented with an emphasis on Dallas and San Antonio. One of the notices that stood out, however, was a short passage about lifting the restriction on wooden shingles in Jackson, Mississippi. The notice reads:
Jackson Can Use Wooden Shingles.
The Jackson, Miss., city council has repealed the ordinance requiring all buildings erected in that city to be roofed with metal or slate. The ordinance originally adopted, after being held up for a year, went into effect two months ago, but there was such strong opposition to it, it has been finally repealed. The opposition contended that it was a detriment to the erection of cheap homes and that its enforcement was to take away the demand for a natural forest resource manufactured in that city. (Southern Architect and Building News 30.1 (1912): 39)
SABN’s content was ever evolving as the journal shifted from trade publication to professional journal. During the 1910s, the journal often included notices about building practices, architects, contractors, suppliers, and new construction underway across the South. While the Jackson, Mississippi notice may seem innocuous it provides context for the use of specific materials for construction in Jackson during the early twentieth century. If the material was digitized with full text search capability, notices like this one could more easily be discovered by researchers.
Professor W. Eugene George’s work, Master Builder of the Lower Rio Grande, published posthumously, arrived this week to Architecture and Planning. George writes in his preface, “When I first encountered the artistry of Portscheller’s architecture in 1961, the identity of the master builder was long forgotten. Unraveling this detective story would take decades and involve generations of Portschellers in Germany as well as scores of researchers in the United States” (pg. xi). In his work, George provides a biography of Heinrich Portscheller, the history of Roma and Rio Grande City, documentation and brief narratives of the works designed by Porscheller, and the current condition of Roma, Texas.
María Eugenia Geurra writes of George’s legacy in the preface to this publication:
At the heart of George’s writing about the architecture of the borderlands has been the tenet that the design of old buildings and the materials used to create them – even those we have experienced as sunbaked ruins on the salty shores of Falcon Lake – reveal intent, character, and culture – not only that of the builder, but also of those who owned or occupied those spaces as homes and businesses. (pg. ix)
Last spring, the Architecture and Planning Library piloted a new lecture series with the mission is to promote innovative scholarship and build a community of practice of Digital Scholars both on a local and national scale. To that end, we developed the lecture series, Digital Scholars in Practice (DSiP), which provides a platform for scholars – who conduct research through digital technologies, who conduct research on digital technologies, and who critically examine digital technologies – to share their research with the UT academic community.
The primary focus of the lecture series is to connect those interested in digital scholarship with each other, and we also seek to introduce the work, theories, methodologies, and practices of digital scholars to the campus community. In doing so, we hope to engage in the much larger debates around digital scholarship and to situate UT Libraries as a locus of Digital Scholarship.
The spring pilot included two speakers and an accompanying workshop. Danelle Briscoe was our first speaker. She is an associate professor and the Meadows Foundation Centennial Fellow in Architecture. Professor Briscoe’s lecture, Archiving the Information Model, focused on the research from her new book, Beyond BIM: Architecture and Information Modeling.
Our second speaker was Ed Triplett, a recent graduate from the Department of Architectural History at the University of Virginia and currently a Council on Library and Information Resources Postdoctoral Fellow at Duke. His lecture, Mapping and Modeling the Christian Reconquest of Muslim Iberia, discussed his dissertation research and his use of photogrammetry and GIS as applied to his research questions. He also led a work shop on photogrammetry, Capturing Large, Sculptural Art and Architecture with Photogrammetry, in the Scholars Commons Data Lab in PCL. Both the lectures and workshops were well attended and received positive feedback.
Our first lecture of the new term will feature, Benjamin Ibarra Sevilla from the UT’s School of Architecture. Using digital technologies, Professor Benjamin Ibarra will address the challenge of representing and explaining the details and intricacies applied in the design, development, and construction of three sixteenth-century buildings constructed in the Oaxacan Mixteca. His research has received numerous awards.
This semester APL formed a partnership with the newly founded Digital Scholarship team in UT Libraries. We look forward to collaborating with this new unit to promote the work of Digital Scholars on campus. Moreover, we hope the partnership will broaden our network of Digital Scholars. We are also currently developing a website for the lecture series and working to archive the recordings from the lectures.
For the last couple of weeks, I have been working to clean up the data of the 20,000 plus records associated with Special Collections, which were exported from the catalog. The data is pretty dirty and at times overwhelming – but I persevere. I have undertaken the data clean up in stages, which means I try to more or less stick with one type of action taken on the records. First, I corrected about 2,000 records that were misaligned on the spreadsheet. Now, I am working on provenance. As I make decisions about what the data represents, I have tried to consistently document those decisions for the next person who might decide to look at the records.
Last week, I also had a tutorial on how to use OpenRefine. Jessica Trelogan, UTL’s Data Management Coordinator, led the tutorial. It was a great session, and I highly recommend contacting Jessica if your research is data related. One of the things that I learned in the session is that my data is particularly thorny. I will need to spend some time thinking about its structure and checking in with Jessica from time to time. I also learned how to use OpenRefine to help with my data clean up. While the publication information is particularly challenging in my data set, other pieces of data can be quickly normalized and checked with this tool.
The other issue that I recently worked through concerns the representation of provenance. Due to the nature of the export, my records exported all provenance notes for the works if one of the items was located in Special Collections. If a work (a bibliographic record) had three items (three copies of the same book) attached to it, then my record provided all provenance notes attached to the items. For example, the three hypothetical items may belong to Charles Moore, Colin Rowe, and Blake Alexander respectively. Only the Moore and Rowe, however, are housed in Special Collections. The provenance for Alexander was included though not related to any work in Special Collections.
In the end, I had to decide that the provenance notes for items not associated with Special Collections have to be removed in the final version of the cleaned data export. I made this decision, because the assessment is specifically about Special Collections. No item existed in the data upon which to attach the non-Special Collections provenance notes. The data needs to be one to one to accurately assess the collection. Earlier versions of the export will be retained with all the provenance notes.
It was difficult to make the decision to remove the extraneous provenance notes. In a non-quantitative assessment of provenance, there appeared to be a lot of overlap in the collections of Charles Moore, Colin Rowe, and Blake Alexander. More often than not, the Alexander copy was not part of APL’s Special Collections and had to be removed. Removing the Alexander notes was incredibly hard, because I realize the missed opportunity of analysis with regards to those three collections. In the future I hope to be able to undertake an analysis of the connections between the libraries of the donors across all of APL’s collections.
Back in 2014, Stephanie Phillips interviewed APL’s interim Architecture and Planning Librarian, Katie Pierce Meyer, who has since accepted the permanent position at APL as the Humanities Librarian for Architecture and Planning. We have not shone the spotlight on anyone else since, and we decided it was time to recognize the amazing work Tony Tomasello does by caring for APL’s physical collection!
Tony is our local book preservation technician, working in conjunction with Wendy Martin’s team at PCL in Preservation and Digital Curation Services. As a preservation technician, he works 19 hours for UTL. He explains rather modestly the nature of his job:
Ah well, [my role is] the same as everyone’s at the libraries I suppose. Just to see to it that the collection material here is made available to anyone who needs it now and into the future. So more particular just make sure the books are in good shape and can be read without risking its availability for future patrons.
He continues discussing the day to day of his job:
I pretty much just do it – the ones that need the most repair, I give my fullest attention so I pretty much just fix them as they come in. I do the most severe ones first or if someone just really needs the book, you know, if it’s in rough shape I’ll do that one really quickly. Special Collections materials, I can say are my highest priority. They’re the most fragile. They’re the ones that are most at risk for long term use, and they’re probably our most valuable materials as well.*
His interest in preservation stems from his love of the relics and experiences of the past – the connections made through the experience of the books themselves. Tony explains:
I guess it starts from my character. I have always had a fondness for old things – old music, old furniture, old books, old ways of doing things, riding bicycles instead of driving cars, looking nostalgically back on trains.
While Tony had worked for the library for several years prior to assuming his current role, he jumped at the chance to become our local preservation technician when the position opened. He was initially trained by his predecessor, Lorrie Dong – a Ph.D. graduate from School of Information at UT. When asked how he developed his expertise, Tony notes:
I had excellent teachers. First Lorrie who trained me before she left. She just taught me all the basics, the procedures I still do the most often which are rebacks, end paper replacements, and tip-ins for pages that have come loose or need to be replaced, and doing minor repairs on tears and things like that. Then I got help from the larger preservation department, and they taught me even more procedures like how to make custom housing for books that we’re really not allowed to repair without ruining their value in someway.
Tony also taught himself other skills that he needs to tend to the collection –
Then there are things I picked up on my own – I watched YouTube videos to learn how to sew. The rest of it is doing it, doing as many repairs as I can everyday I’m here.
When asked about his favorite aspect of the work, Tony explains:
Apart from getting my hands on some really old, rare books from time to time, there are certain satisfactions from the job…like being able to work slowly, take my time in a world that mostly rewards speed. I get to take my time and really care for what’s in front of me. And then there’s a certain satisfaction in the math, just measuring things, drawing straight lines. I think there must be something but not really close to the satisfaction that Kepler must have had when he looked up at the sky and saw that the celestial bodies were moving in a way that his math predicted. I get the same satisfaction when I measure out a new case and find that it fits the books.
In his final thoughts, it was evident that conservation and preservation are less a job and more a calling. He concludes:
I have some vague philosophical ideas about the importance of my work – just about maintaining enduring objects that are the basis of our culture that are ignored by the larger part of the populous. I think it’s important to have little monuments – like little physical reminders of the past. I’m glad that I get to have some part in maintaining those objects. He continues: It would be horrible to loose the paper, the board, and the glue, and the sewing, and the little mementos of past people’s work.
*I asked Dan Orozco to comment upon all the work Tony does for APL, knowing that his contributions are wide ranging. Dan writes of Tony’s work:
It has truly been awe inspiring to see the growth of Tony’s knowledge and abilities at doing book repair. I was very alarmed at the demise of the Kilgarlin Program at the iSchool. We had an impressive run of conservators come through to practice their craft in this position. My fear abated when I saw the skill with which Tony takes care of our Special Collections materials. He also does our pest monitoring and dehumidifiers in Special Collections – very important in a 105 year old building.
If this wasn’t enough, Tony can also provide back up for every position at Architecture. He can create reserve lists, undertake ILS scanning, and he knows our collection as well if not better than most. Recently, Tony created lists in Sierra to oversee a massive weeding project to free up about 300 linear feet in the stacks of the circulating collection. He has also been here to help with extra events in our reading room, from symposiums to filming chancellor McRaven’s interview to hosting first lady Laura Bush. This young man can truly do it all.
William Hall takes a thematic approach to the topic focusing on concepts like form, light, mass, and scale, while James W. Campbell presents the history of brick, beginning with the ancient world and concluding with What Future for Brick? While both works are extensively illustrated, Hall’s work presents almost as a photo essay.
As the six flags that flew over Texas help define its history, the hundreds of Texas churches recognized by historic markers help define the culture, heritage, religion, and architectural identities of the people of Texas. Lone Star Steeples takes the reader on a tour of historic churches across the state. Architectural features, individual stories, cultural markers, and significant events make each church unique and also contribute to the big picture of this big state….
But more than a view of history through church buildings, Lone Star Steeples invites the reader to experience the beauty and integrity of each church building through the eyes of the artist/architect who envisioned and illustrated the book. (Preface, ix)
The Christensens documented more than 60 Texas churches. The book is arranged geographically, dividing Texas into 7 districts: West Texas & Panhandle; North Central Texas; East Texas; South Central Texas; Hill Country; Gulf Coast; and South Texas. Each entry includes at least one watercolor, the location, the date, and architect if known. A brief history is also included.
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