Happy Birthday, Blake Alexander

Blake Alexander in his UT office
Blake Alexander in his UT office

Blake Alexander, namesake of the Alexander Architectural Archive, was born on February 4, 1924 in Paris, Texas. He was a longtime architectural educator at the University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture as well as a dedicated force in the education, documentation and preservation of Texas heritage.

Professor Alexander first started the collection that today is known as the Alexander Architectural Archive in 1958 when he adapted an assignment for his architectural history course at UT to follow the Historic American Building Survey (HABS) format. This required students to measure and document historic Texas structures. The documentation collection quickly outgrew his office and began to collect in a small storage room, dubbed “Alexander’s Closet”.

Blake Alexander with Ty Cox at Winedale's Lewis Place (Stagecoach Inn)
Blake Alexander with Ty Cox at Winedale’s Lewis Place (Stagecoach Inn)

During the 1960′s, a student brought Professor Alexander large paper sacks full of water-damaged drawings that had survived the 1900 Galveston hurricane. The drawings were from prominent local architect Nicholas Clayton, and sparked the idea to welcome the donation of original drawings by Texas architects that deserved to be preserved. In 1979, The University of Texas Libraries began to collect these drawings in “The Architectural Drawings Collection”.

The “Architectural Drawings Collection” was renamed the “Alexander Architectural Archive” in 1998 after the Texas Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians launched a campaign to honor the archives founder and recognize Professor Alexander’s pioneering contribution to the preservation of our architectural history. Today, the archive contains over 200,000 drawings and over 61 linear feet of papers, photographic materials, models and ephemera representing projects from Texas and beyond. The archive and Professor Alexander’s efforts have been an invaluable resource for restoring some of Texas’ most important and beloved buildings.

Happy Birthday, Blake Alexander!

To Better Know a Building Exhibit: Little Chapel in the Woods

Little Chapel in the Woods
Little Chapel in the Woods

The Architecture & Planning Library and the Alexander Architectural Archive are pleased to announce the second installment in the To Better Know a Building series.  Buildings featured in this series are selected by popular vote and exhibited the Battle Hall reading room.  The Little Chapel in the Woods, designed by architects O’Neil Ford and Arch Swank, is this semester’s winning entry.  It will be represented by the original construction drawings and photographs from the Ford collection. These pencil on paper drawings are a fine example of the art of construction drawings.

The To Better Know a Building series seeks to explore buildings through the drawings and other visual items found in the archive and library. Working drawings, including plans, elevations, and sections, often communicate the realization of design intent and are ideal  vehicles in teaching through example. 
 Exhibit openings include remarks by architects, and observations are encouraged from attendees to help promote discussion in understanding both the building and the profession.

Brantley Hightower will help celebrate the exhibit opening by offering remarks about the Little Chapel in the Woods. Hightower is an educator, author and founding partner in the San Antonio firm HiWorks.  He received a BA and a BArch degree from UT Austin as well as a MArch degree from Princeton.

Attendees will also have an opportunity to vote for the next building featured in this series from a list provided by the Alexander Architectural Archive.

Please join us for the exhibit opening reception Monday, February 16 at 6pm in the Architecture and Planning Library reading room. Austin’s Pizza will be provided while it lasts.

New Books at the Architecture and Planning Library: Spain & Rome

Two new books at the Architecture and Planning Library consider the relationship between Rome and Spain during the Early Modern Period.

Deupi, Victor. Architectural Temperance: Spain and Rome, 1700-1759.  New York: Routledge, 2014.

Victor Deupi in his work, Architectural Temperance: Spain and Rome, 1700-1759, examines the relationship between Rome and Spain under the new reign of the Bourbon monarchy. Deupi writes, “…I have attempted to approach pivotal moments in the architecture and culture of early eighteenth-century Spain through an examination of the latter’s engagement with Rome.” (pg. xiii) Two of the topics addressed in Architectural Temperance include patronage and “the transmission of architectural thought”. (pg. 2) For example, Deupi examines the education of Spanish architects through both academies and travel to Rome.

Temperance

Freiberg, Jack. Bramante’s Tempietto, the Roman Renaissance, and the Spanish CrownNew York: Cambridge University Press, 2014.

Jack Freiberg’s also considers the Spanish crown’s relationship to Rome, though two hundred years prior to the Bourbon monarchy. His interest lies with the patronage of the Tempietto by Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabel of Castile and the continued importance of the building itself. He writes of his inspiration to undertake the research for this book:

The first time I entered the crypt of the Tempietto and made out the names of Ferdinand and Isabel, Catholic King and Queen, inscribed on the 1502 foundation stone, I knew that the relationship of those illustrious monarchs to the most lauded Renaissance building held rich  possibilities for defining the historical underpinnings of Bramante’s architecture. (pg. 2)

Bramante

New Books at the Architecture and Planning Library: Educating Architects

Spiller, Neil and Nic Clear, ed. Educating Architects: How Tomorrow’s Practitioners Will Learn Today. London: Thames & Hudson, 2014.

New to the library this week is Educating Architects, a collection of articles about the current challenges, practices, and needs of those who teach in Schools of Architecture.

EducatingArchitects

I wanted to share two of the articles I found engaging. The first is Michael Sorkin’s article, “250 Things an Architect Should Know” (pgs. 32-39).  It is a short article- quite literally a diverse itemized list. He includes knowledge rooted in the practical, historical, cross-dicplinary fields, philosophical/theoretical/academic, and finally experience,  whether gained as a practicing architect (or student) or from life itself.

The second article is by Mark Morris and entitled “School of Thought” (pgs. 166-176).  I was drawn to the article initially by his reference to the School of Architecture at UT and the school’s dean Harwell Hamilton Harris. Morris examines the recent evolution of architecture schools from the 1950s to the present. He explores the issue of  the “absence of uniqueness” present in many schools today and considers the effect of MOOCs on teaching and the importance of studios (pgs. 173-175).

Staircases

Marwick, Thomas Purves. The History and Construction of Staircases. Edinburgh: J&J Gray, 1888.

I must admit that I have not given a lot of thought to the history of staircases as separate from their actual buildings. Thomas Purves Marwich, however, has written a short treatise for the Silver Medal Prize of the Royal Institute of British Architects on just this topic. The work is divided into two parts; the first entitled, “Historical and Artistic” and the second, “Practical”. Much of the first part of the work considers the intersection of geography and/or style/period with innovations to identify the key characteristics of staircases in, for example, Renaissance France and to trace the evolution of staircase design. The second half of the work addresses issues such as fireproofing and construction.

According to Marwick, the piece written for the competition was highly illustrated; however, the number of illustrations was greatly reduced with the printing of the work.  He writes,

The original was illustrated by one hundred photographs and sketches of important staircases; but as most of these were unsuitable for reproduction, I have confined the illustrative plates to a few selected from “Letarouilly’s Edifices de Rome Moderne,” Nash’s “Mansions of the Olden Time,” and Billing’s “Baronial Antiquities of Scotland,” etc., so as to render the text more intelligible to non-professional readers. (pg. vii-viii)

I was surprised by the lack of accompanying illustrations, diagrams, and drawings. I rather expected to find the nineteenth-century architectural drawings that dismember the buildings into various parts and pieces as a means of documentation and classification.

Chateau de Blois

Suburban Garden Design

Garden design advice with regards to one’s neighbors:

Scott, Frank J. The Art of Beautifying Suburban Home Grounds of Small Extent. Illustrated by upward of two hundred plates and engravings of plans for residences and their grounds, of trees and shrubs, and garden embellishments; with descriptions of the beautiful and hardy trees and shrubs grown in the United States. New York, John B. Alden, 1886, [c1870].

There is no way in which men deprive themselves of what costs them nothing and profits them much, more than dividing their improved grounds from their neighbors, and from the view of passers on the road, by fences and hedges. The beauty obtained by throwing front grounds open together, is of that excellent quality which enriches all who take part in the exchange, and makes no man poorer. As a merely business matter it is simply stupid to shut out, voluntarily, a pleasant lookout through a neighbor’s ornamental grounds. If, on the other hand, such opportunities are improved, and made the most of, no gentleman would hesitate to make return for the privilege by arranging his own ground so as to give the neighbor equally pleasing vistas into or across it. It is unchristian to hedge from the sight of others the beauties of nature which it has been our good fortune to create or secure; and all the walls, high fences, hedge screens and belts of tress and shrubbery…are so many means by which we show how unchristian and unneighborly we can be….To hedge out deformities is well; but to narrow our own or our neighbor’s views of the free graces of Nature by our own volition, is quite another thing. (60-61)

Scott, pg. 60

Cridland, Robert B. Practical Landscape Gardening: The Importance of Careful Planning, Locating the House, Arrangement of Walks and Drives, Construction of Walks and Drives, Lawns and Terraces, How to Plant a Property, Laying Out a Flower Garden, Architectural Features of the Garden, Rose Gardens and Hardy Borders, Wild Gardens and Rock Gardens, Planting Plans and Planting Lists.  New York, A. T. De La Mare Company, Inc., 1927.

Have some thought for your neighbor and the passerby. Surely such an opportunity is not to be overlooked, for of all the pleasures none is to be compared with that which brings joy to the heart of others. 

The owner who plans, builds and cultivates beautiful things is a benefactor, and in no channel of thought or activity is there greater or more satisfying response than in the creation of the beautiful in landscape design (Fig. 3), showing a well placed flowering specimen. (pg. 10)

Cridland, fig. 3

Eckbo, Garrett. The Art of Home Landscaping. New York: F. W. Dodge Corp., [1956].

Unless some minimum cooperation between neighbors exists- so that each neighbor thinks about what his planning may do to the people next door, and knows that they are just as concerned with what they may do to him- problems like the elm and the roses are bound to arise. (pg. 259)

Eckbo, pg. 258

Paris 1937

The General Committee of the Exposition. Paris 1937.

Paris 1937 was a monthly publication (May 1936 to October 1937) for the Paris Exposition: Arts, Crafts, Sciences in Modern Life which was held from May to November of 1937.  The General Committee included a variety of information from articles about features and exhibitions of the fair, histories of French regions, schedules and records, to perhaps the most relevant to those interested in architecture- renderings & photographs of the pavilions and changes  made to the architectural fabric of Paris.

Sketch Book

Edinburgh Architectural Association. Sketch Book. Edinburgh: George Waterston & Sons, [1876-1894].

Volume Three (1880-1882) consists of a series of architectural drawings of historical buildings from across Scotland. There is no accompanying text or explanations regarding the architectural works, unless it was included as part of the drawing themselves. The Sketch Book is interesting not simply as a record of historical structures but also because we can see different approaches to drawing & documenting these works.

Concrete Buildings for Landed Estates

Birch, John. Concrete Buildings for Landed Estates in Great Britain and Ireland. London: E. Stranford, 1881.

According to John Birch:

The object of this pamphlet is to stimulate the use of Portland Cement Concrete as a material for the building purposes on landed estates in Great Britain and Ireland, on the grounds of its applicability and economy, more especially where suitable materials are on the spot and labour plentiful. Having had considerable experience of its uses, I venture to recommend it, and beg to submit a few well-chosen and inexpensive designs for the consideration of those who may have occasion to erect such buildings and require to study economy. (preface, vii)

The accompanying designs are well worth a look for those interested in either concrete or nineteenth-century architecture. Birch’s drawings remain picturesque, employing elements such as half-timbering and rustication. If I had not known Birch was advocating for the use of concrete, I would not have guessed that it was the intended material for construction.

New Books at the Architecture and Planning Library: Heart and Home

Linda O’Keeffe. Heart and Home: Rooms that Tell Stories. New York: Rizzoli, 2014.

The journalist, Linda O’Keeffe invites her readers of Heart and Home into the houses and spaces of various professionals of the art and design world. She writes:

Each person featured in this volume feels a strong affection for their possessions, and while most are avid consumers none is fettered to the material world. (pg. 5)

Each chapter explores the narratives of the individual collectors, reflecting on childhood experiences & interests, education, work, partners, and how they interact with space, color, and the objects themselves. The titles of the chapters are intriguing quotes from those interviewed. I was attracted to “Antonio Pio Sarcino: It’s Nurturing to Be Alone in My Own Mind, I Mean, World”, “Marjorie Skouras: Dressing Dinner Tables from Target and Tiffany’s”, and “Philip Michael Wolfson: I’m a Minimalist at Heart but I need to Touch Everything”.

The photographed spaces appear as carefully constructed testaments of their owners. I was surprised by my reaction to the spaces. I appreciated some for their design, while others produced a decidedly negative response. Even the spaces that I appreciated did not feel like home- beautiful perhaps, but not comfortable. Perhaps this feeling is a reflection of O’Keeffe’s closing remark in her introduction:

At the end of the day the colors we respond to and the objects we love reveal who we intrinsically are. They paint our portrait and write our biography. (pg. 5)