Books of the Trade

Valentin Biston. Nouveau manuel complet du charpentier, ou, Traité simplifié de cet art : suivi d’un petit traité de géométrie descriptive renfermant la solution des problèmes dont on fait le plus fréquemment usage / par MM. Biston et Hanus ; avec une introduction et un appendice par C. BoutereauParis: Librairie encyclopédique de Roret, 1861 (1865 printing). 

Batty and Thomas Langley. The Builder’s Jewel: or, The Youth’s Instructor and Workman’s Remembrancer. London: J. Tiranti [1928] (originally published 1741).

Today I wanted to share two well used books I found in Special Collections. The first is a handbook on carpentry written by  Valentin Biston and published in 1861.  The text includes chapters on the elements of geometry, types of trees, theories of force, construction, and tools & instruments. It concludes with an appendix to include numerous plates and a glossary.

The second is a collection of plates by Batty and Thomas Langley, originally published in 1741 but reprinted again in 1928. According to Thomas Langley, the book was intended as a pocket guide for the job site:

Notwithstanding there are many Volumes already extant, on the Subject of Architecture; yet as not one of them are made a fit size for the Pocket; and it being an Impossibility for the general Part of Workmen to retain and carry in their Minds, all the useful Rules and Proportions, by which Works in general are performed: I have therefore at the Request of many good Workmen, and for the Sake of young Students, compil’d this work; wherein I have reduced the whole of such short and easy Rules, that the Workman not only at his first view, renew his Memory, as Occasions may require, but Apprentices, who may be absolutely unacquainted with this noble Art… (Introduction)

A previous owner of this edition appears to have made well use of The Builder’s Jewel and Treasury. On front endpapers, he has pasted in his own drawing, entitled “Improved Compass Spiral Volute”. Furthermore the plates appear to have been set out of order and do not match the list in the Table of Contents. Someone has renumbered the illustration list to correspond to the order of the plates.

Little Churches of France

Albert A. Chadwick. Little Churches of France: Their Origin; Their Characteristics; Their Periods. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1930.

I was curious which churches in France would be described as “little”. Santa Sabina, an Early Christian church in Rome, is often described as such. To be sure, compared to St. Peter’s or other cathedrals, it is indeed a little church. I had always imagined Santa Sabina to be little like a small country church. I was shocked at the size when I saw it the first time. Since then I always take “little” with a grain of salt.

It was not the size of the churches documented by Chadwick that surprised me but rather the diversity. Chadwick writes in his introduction:

It must not be assumed from this that France has not her fair share of charming, small, parochial churches. They are there in large numbers and of greater variety than in England, but they are difficult to find. The average Frenchman cannot tell you where to look for them; he will answer your query vaguely, “I do not know; perhaps in Burgundy.” This is because they lie largely in the villages off the beaten tracks- and the French railroads and motor roads have a happy faculty of passing such villages by. (pg. 1)

Perhaps I am not supposed to admit this, but I did not recognize a single church in Chadwick’s collection. To be fair, medieval French architecture is not in  my wheelhouse, though I expected to know at least a handful of the plates. While Chadwick’s introduction is quite broad and general and his use of the terms “primitive Romanesque” and “primitive Gothic” is problematic, the collection of plates is quite remarkable. If one is so inclined to broaden their knowledge of French medieval and Renaissance architecture, spending some time with these plates is a must.

Dublin of the Future, 1922

Patrick Abercrombie, Sydney Kelly, and Arthur Kelly. Dublin of the Future: The New Town Plan, Being the Scheme Awarded the First Prize in the International Competition.  Liverpool: The University Press, [1922].

The frontispiece for Dublin of the Future, entitled “The Last Hour of the Night” and created by Harry Clarke, drew me into the work. The image was unexpected and felt out of place in a planning report.

The Last Hour of Night

The plan itself has a complicated history. In 1914 The Civics Institute of Ireland held a competition seeking entries to redesign Dublin; however, the outbreak of World War I delayed judgment. A winner could not be selected until 1916, but then civil war further delayed the publication of the plan until 1922.  According to the authors:

The authors…were in a dilemma: whether to publish at this late hour the original scheme which gained the first premium in the Competition; or to set work to bring their plan up to date in view of every circumstance of increased knowledge and altered conditions. The last course they decided was impossible without being unfair: they could not revise and redraft their plan without having before them the work of the other competitors, many whose solutions they recognised as superior to their own. 

It was therefore decided, in the face of the drawbacks given above, to issue the Competition Scheme, supplemented with many drawings subsequently prepared to elucidate further the authors’ recommendations, reinforced by data which was in their possession at the time (but which haste had prevented them from presenting) and revised so far as was consistent  with its original framework….

…it may serve as a starting point, and possibly as a quarry of ideas, from which the final plan may be built. (pg. x)

New Books at the Architecture & Planning Library: Tradition and Modern Design

This week we have many inspiring and intriguing new books at the Architecture & Planning Library. Fall is a time of transition, which might be why I was drawn to books about reworking traditional design and materials to create something modern. These are some of my favorites from the New Books table:

Here, there, everywhere edited by Renny Ramakers and Agata Jaworska is a compilation of 16 projects by design company Droog  in locations ranging from the Canadian Arctic to the deserts of Dubai.  The book includes realistic and purely imaginative projects that address economic, social, and ecological issues at a local level.  Content includes essays, conversations and talks accompanied by photos and illustrations.

Holz = Wood: best of Detail edited by Christian Schittich discusses theory and knowledge about the use of wood as a modern construction material. This book contains thirty case studies of interior and exterior construction projects using wood as the primary design element. Projects are beautifully documented with photographs, floor plans, and cross section drawings.

Village Textures edited by András Palffy documents the concepts and designs of an international study-group on the development of historical village structures in Eastern Austria. Participants planned the addition of thirty housing units for seven sites to test strategies to counter urban sprawl in villages. Photographs and information about the villages are followed by multiple models and site plans.

*Clicking the title of any book in this post will link you directly to the library catalog.

Buildings in the Countryside, Durham

County Council of Durham [England]. Buildings in the Countryside: Notes for the Guidance of Developers. 1952.

This might be one of the best introductions, I have read recently:

If we are are justified in refusing to accept the obviously bad architecture we are certainly not justified in hampering architectural progress in any way. If our forebears had taken a negative attitude we might still be building in the Gothic or even Norman styles.

To sum up.

It is impossible to be dogmatic about design. The suggestions in this booklet are not expected or intended to be slavishly copied; rather should they be used as a guide. 

Wherever possible an architect should be employed to design buildings. This booklet is no substitute for his services. (pgs. 2-3)

William A. Geenty, County Planning Officer, issued this booklet arising from a need to address the destruction of the countryside by poorly designed buildings and as an extension of the County Development Plan. The advice is intended to meet “the short-term…problems of the siting and design of buildings in the landscape, village planning, layouts, densities, colliery waste heaps, quarry workings and the like.”  (Foreword)

The council offers a wide range of advice to include village planning, the consideration of landscape, and the design of houses. For example, designers should return to the planning principles of pre-industrial villages in order to achieve successful siting within the landscape. Accordingly to Geenty, “These villages are invariably well sited in relation to the land masses and natural features; they belong to the landscape and enhance its interest.” (pg. 8)  He also advises that skylines be taken into consideration when siting a single or group of houses in the open landscape. He argues that the skyline is often neglected, which results in “a spotty broken effect”. (pg. 17) Finally, extensive discussion is given to the design of houses appropriate for the countryside, to include basic principles such as horizontal masses over vertical or the placement of doors and windows; diagrams and photos of good and bad design; and actual designs submitted to the planning authority with their amendments.

New Books at the Architecture & Planning Library: Identity and Interior Design

Interior design is based on expectations and aspirations of how the inhabitants of a space will live and behave.  In this way interior design not only reflects the lifestyle of the inhabitants, it can be used to project personality traits the inhabitants wish to convey. Several new books at the Architecture & Planning Library this week focus on the fascinating intersection of interior design with personal identity.

Biography, Identity and the Modern Interior edited by Anne Massey and Penny Sparke is a collection of essays that consider the historical insights that can be gleaned from investigating the lives of individuals, groups, and interiors. The authors use case studies to explore the history of the interior as a site in which everyday life is experienced and the ways in which architects and interior designers draw on personal and collective histories in their practice.


Bachelors of a Different Sort: Queer Aesthetics, Material Culture and the Modern Interior by John Potvin examines the ambivalent and uncomfortable position bachelors have held in society by considering the complicated relationships between the modern queer bachelor and interior design, material culture, and aesthetics in Britain between 1885 and 1957. The author discusses the interiors of Lord Ronald Gower, Alfred Taylor, Oscar Wilde, Charles Shannon and Charles Ricketts, Edward Perry Warren and John Marshall, Sir Cedric Morris and Arthur Lett-Haines, Noël Coward and Cecil Beaton.

Ron Arad: Another Twist in the Plot with text by Anatxu Zabalbeascoa is the catalog from a 2013 exhibition of the work of architect and designer Ron Arad, that includes photographs and sketches of some of his most iconic works as well as several mock-ups and architectural projects. Arad considers himself to be a self-taught designer with an approach to form and structure based on freedom from tradition and convention.  ‘The principle is that everything should be based on something that didn’t exist before’, says Arad.


*Click the title of any book in this post to link directly to the library catalog.

Interior Design 1939

Rockwell Kent. The Home Decorator and Color Guide. Sherwin-Williams, 1939.   Dorothy Draper. Decorating is Fun! How to be your own Decorator.  New York: Art & Decoration Book Society, 1939.

I discovered two interior design books both published in 1939. I thought it would be interesting to compare them, as the writers come from distinctly different backgrounds. According to the book’s short biography, Rockwell Kent studied at Columbia and was a writer, painter, and carpenter; whereas, Dorothy Draper was born into New York’s upper class (see Nancy Collins, “Dorothy Draper’s High Style” for her background).

I was surprised to find the same initial advice and attitude expressed regarding interior design. Draper’s book offers more advice and is text heavy, lacking color reproductions (sadly, only the end paper is brightly colored), while Kent’s book offers primarily illustrations. While Draper’s audience is clearly intended to be women, Kent’s intended audience is not as easily identified.


What a lot of stuff and nonsense is being talked and written about taste! One year the fashion experts would have us all be “early Americans.” Sit primly in uncomfortable, straight backed chairs, eat nonchalantly with our legs all tanged in forest of gate-legs… (pg. 1)

So intimately personal is everything that has to do with the home that even the most experienced of home decorators should do no more than help those less experienced to find themselves. Toward the end, the houses shown in this book may help a little, the color charts will help a lot, while the painting instructions printed on the last page of the book may be accepted, kept, and followed as the gospel of good practice in painting. (pg. 2)


Have you considered how much pure stuff and nonsense surrounds this subject of interior decoration? Probably not. Almost everyone believes that there is something deep and mysterious about it or that you have to know all sorts of complicated details about periods before you can lift a finger. Well you don’t. (pg. 3)

Your home is the backdrop of your life, whether it is a palace or a one-room apartment. It should be honestly your own- an expression of your personality. So many people stick timidly to the often uninspired conventional ideas or follow some experts’s methods slavishly. Either way they are more or less living in someone else’s dream. (pg. 4)

It [color] is the rock on which your house is built….I firmly believe that nothing contributes so much to the beauty of this world as color. (27)

Collins, Nancy. “Dorothy Draper’s High Style.” Architectural Digest: May 2006. Accessed October 30, 2014.

APL Spotlight Interview: Katie Pierce Meyer

Though Katie has been with us for a few months now, we would like to officially extend a warm welcome to her! Katie is the interim Architecture & Planning Librarian, replacing Martha Gonzales-Palacios, who has transitioned to a new role at the University of Oregon.

Those of you that are familiar with the library may know Katie – she’s been ‘with’ us in a number of capacities throughout the last few years! Graduate Assistant Stephanie Phillips sat down with Katie to introduce her to all audiences through a Spotlight Interview.


Stephanie:  Tell us about yourself! What is your educational background?

Katie: I received my undergraduate degree in Philosophy from Southwestern University; I have a Masters degrees from University of Texas at Austin in Information Studies (MSIS) and a masters in Architectural History from the UTSOA; I am currently back in the iSchool, working on PhD in Information Studies. My research focuses on complexity of contemporary workplace practices and the preservation of architectural artifacts.

S: What is your history with the Architecture and Planning Library? How did you find yourself in this position?

K: My first semester in graduate school, I did a group project at the Alexander Architectural Archive. I loved working with architectural records and convinced them to hire me; I worked at the archives since May 2006, processing architectural collections. Most recently, I was the project manager for the Charles Moore archives. When the interim Architecture and Planning Librarian position opened up, I thought is was a great chance to do more work in the library and connect with the UTSOA students, faculty, and staff.

S: How would you describe this position? What will you be doing?

K: I will provide reference, research support, and library instruction. It has been a busy semester. I’ve really enjoyed teaching library instruction sessions for undergrads and grad students.

S: What are you most excited for in your new position?

K: I am most excited about fostering collaboration between the UT Libraries and UTSOA as well as with the School of Information. I see the potential for exciting projects that bring together the expertise in the libraries, Architecture, and the iSchool.

S: What is your favorite book?

K: Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman. My creative writing teacher gave it to me in high school and I try to re-read it every couple of years. It is a collection of short chapters, each on a different conception of time.

S: What are some of the best resources that the Architecture & Planning Library offers students?

K: We are fortunate to have a dedicated Architecture and Planning Library in close proximity to the School of Architecture. The library has a great collection of books and periodicals, fantastic materials in our special collections, and the Alexander Architectural Archive; a great staff, which I consider a resource; and many more!

S: To put you on the spot – what is the most interesting thing about yourself?

K: Probably my travel experiences. I had an opportunity to travel to Sweden with Wilfred Wang and a group of architecture students a few years ago, while completing my Architectural History degree.  I attended a Digital Humanities Observatory workshop in Dublin and did an internship with ICCROM in Rome. I have tried to take advantage of educational opportunities where I get to travel. Oh, and I love ziplining! We went to Costa Rica for our honeymoon, partially because of the ziplining.

Welcome, Katie! We’re so glad you’re here!

New Books at the Architecture & Planning Library: System Structures, Engineering, and Construction

To paraphrase Larry Speck’s address at the opening of the exhibit “To Know a Building” at the Architecture and Planning Library reading room last week: A great building doesn’t just spring complete from the mind of the architect; it’s creation depends on the collaboration and work of a great team  that includes engineers, construction teams, building managers and clients. Some interesting new books at the Architecture & Planning Library this week focus on this collaborative process of the realization of architectural design.

Architectural System Structures: Integrating design complexity in industrialised construction by Kasper Sánchez Vibaek proposes a system structure in architectural design based on the use of flexible constituent elements (determined by what the current and future building industry is capable of producing) to make decisions about the assemblage of a building.

Collaborations in Architecture and Engineering by Clare Olsen and Sinéad Mac Namara focuses on team-building and problem solving between architects and engineers. The authors, an architect and an engineer with extensive teaching experience, use case studies to discuss architect and engineer collaborations that show how to solve real-world problems and engage creatively with technological challenges.

1 Angel Square by Len Grant documents the construction process of an iconic new building in Manchester, England. The author includes interviews with the project team (clients, architects, engineers, and builders) along side photographs documenting the process from the archeological dig of the site before construction began, to the completed stucture in use.

*Clicking the title of any book in this post will link you directly to the library catalog.

New books this week: rebuilding, reuse, and preservation

My favorites this week from the new books table at the Architecture & Planning Library address issues of the modern urban environment: rebuilding after disaster, repurposing vacant structures, and preserving heritage as an important part of inner-city development.

New Orleans Under Reconstruction: The Crisis of Planning edited by Carol McMichael Reese, Michael Sorkin, and Anthony Fontenot gathers a wide array  of work addressing the devastation of New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina and the subsequet debates over planning and design to rebuild the city. The writers, architects, planners, historians, and activists who contributed to this project are searching for ways to create environmentally sustainable, economically robust, and socially equitable urban environments for the future. This book includes materials on planning, reconstruction of private and public housing and the cultural landscape, urban analysis, and flood mitigation.

Vacancy Studies: Experiments & Strategic Interventions in Architecture with Editors-in-Chief  Ronald Rietveld and Erik Rietveld presents the “strategic Interventions” design approach in the newly established field of vacancy studies, which grew out of the “Vacant NL” exhibition for the Dutch pavilion at the 2010 Venice Architecture Bienale.  This approach focusing on creative temporary use of existing structures addresses the relatively new dynamic created by massive scale vacancy of structures in the Netherlands. The book also covers the  Studio Vacant NL program at the Sandberg Instituut designed to train specialists in the temporay use of vacant buildings and sites.

Heritage as an Asset for Inner-City Development: An Urban Manager’s Guide Book edited by Jen-Paul Corten, Ellen Guerts, Paul Meurs, and Remco Vermeulen is a product of the Course on Urban Heritage Strategies organized by the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands and the Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam.  This book examines the challenges of cultural heritage preservation in urban environments and presents case studies of six cities: Recife, Paramaribo, Pretoria, Accra, Moscow, Pulicat, Jaffna, and Surabaya.

*Clicking the title of any book in this post will link you directly to the library catalog.