Vertical Gardens

The arrival of spring compelled me to dive into the Architecture & Planning Library stacks this week looking for some greenery. I leafed through several lovely books about gardens in Europe, the United States, and Japan, spent some time with works on topiary, and then I found Vertical Gardens.  As an avowed urbanite I am very interested in the greening of city spaces, so I was delighted to find this book with its focus on the utilization of “vegetal vigor” on the vertical plane.  The expense of horizontal space in cities often precludes the development of the gardens and green spaces that so greatly improve quality of life for city dwellers, but the designers featured in this book have found ingenious ways to work with limited horizontal space in interior and exterior design, public and private space, and in a wide variety of built environments. My favorites are the designs that incorporate flora into the facade of a building, blurring the distinction between artificial and natural, interior and exterior space, and dynamic and static.  I would love to spend time in any of these spaces, wouldn’t you?

Vertical Gardens includes an introduction by Jacques Leenhardt which briefly discusses the history of gardens and architecture, vegetation in an urban context, and aesthetics of vertical gardens, short essays by Anna Lambertini, and large color photographs by Mario Ciampi. Celebrate National Landscape Architecture Month by exploring the Architecture & Planning Library’s collection!

Add comment April 15th, 2014 katherineisham

Medieval Landscapes

With an eye to National Landscape Architecture Month, I selected several works from the Architecture and Planning Library, which examine medieval landscapes and gardens.

Anne Jennings and Sylvia Landsberg provide introductions to medieval gardens and gardening. Their works are highly illustrated, relying on medieval manuscripts. Both authors also offer practical information or “How To’s” for the modern gardener interested in creating medieval inspired gardens of their own.

Anne Jennings. Medieval Gardens. London: English Heritage, 2004.

Sylvia Landsberg. The Medieval Garden. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2003.

My interests, however, lie not in the medieval garden but rather within the intentional construction of a larger landscape- those that extend beyond the castle or cloister walls. I am concerned with the site of building as it reflects a conscious choice to create relationships– to the built environment such as a castle to abbey, to natural features such as mountains and rivers, and to places of significance whether it be historical, familial, or political boundaries. I am interested in view points and issues of approach, of what can be seen or not seen. Castle Rising, Norfolk is an excellent example of a castle’s relationship to the surrounding landscape, as examined by Robert Liddiard. Other interesting expressions of these relationships can be found at the Sutton Hoo Burial or Knowlton Church and Earthworks.  Knowlton consists of a twelfth-century Norman church built at the center of a henge. For those interested in these types issues, you might find these works insightful:

Tadhg O’Keeffe. Ireland’s Round Towers: Buildings, Rituals and Landscapes of the Early Irish Church. Tempus: Stroud, 2004.

Oliver H. Creighton. Designs Upon the Land: Elite Landscapes of the Middle Ages. The Boydell Press: Woodbridge, 2009.

Robert Liddiard. Castles in Context: Power, Symbolism, and Landscape, 1066-1500. Macclesfield: Windgather Press, 2005. (PCL)

Richard Bradley. An Archaeology of Natural Places. New York: Routledge, 2000. (PCL)

Add comment April 10th, 2014 jessica

Society of Architectural Historians Conference in Austin: Then and Now

It’s official: The Society of Architectural Historians Annual Conference is underway in our beloved Austin! Please visit here for a full listing of the conference’s events.

Because of the conference’s focus on architectural history, along with the opening of Emily Ardoin’s exhibit “Inside Modern Texas: A Case for Preserving Interiors,” we decided to delve into our archive’s bountiful resources to see if we could uncover material that was especially pertinent to the conference’s visit. The Alexander Architectural Archive holds the namesake of Drury Blakeley Alexander, architectural historian and Professor Emeritus at the University of Texas, who was an active member of the Society of Architectural Historians and believed wholly in the value of archival materials and research.

This fact was proven when Donna Coates, our Curatorial Assistant for Technical Services, informed me that Alexander’s collection included folders upon folders of saved Society of Architectural Historians conference materials. These folders contain invitations, programs, general correspondence, and more! I couldn’t believe that such a treasure is held within our very own Archive walls, provided by the namesake of the Archive itself. I also gained respect for low-grade hoarders; if I could high five Alexander for ensuring he retained nearly ALL of the materials of the conferences he attended, I totally would.

One of the many postcards addressed to Alexander inviting him to SAH Conferences. This one is dated 1953 from New York City.

As I began sifting through the boxes that contained these folders, I became overwhelmed with the material. I also found myself simultaneously wishing that I could round up every interested individual in the Austin area and show them all of these wonderful treasures that Alexander had left for Archive users to potentially uncover and explore. As I grappled with the best way to present this material – ranging from the conference held 50 years ago, to showing snippets of material from every recent decade – I finally stumbled upon the folder I was looking for: the SAH Conference of 1978, which was held in nearby San Antonio.

The official brochure of the 31st Annual Society of Architectural Historians Conference amidst additional documents and correspondence.

This folder was so much fun to sift through, as it was full of correspondence between Alexander and professors from neighboring Texas universities. Alexander, for the 31st annual conference, wanted to bring together architectural history professors from across Texas and set up a collaborative session on Texas architecture – very similar to this year’s Austin Seminar. His dedicated effort to weaving a special Texas flair into the 31st Annual Conference was apparent, and, as evidenced by the official conference material from that year, certainly was not a fruitless effort. The conference featured several speakers presenting on topics relating to architecture in Texas, and he helped plan a day tour to Austin to unfurl the treasures that serve as some of the cornerstones of our great city.

A tour map of Austin for the conference. I want to go on this today!

Looking through these folders not only made me excited for this year’s Society of Architectural Historians Conference, but also reaffirmed how lucky we are to have such an incredible Architectural Archive as a resource for research and beyond. It is truly fitting that the namesake of the Archive contributed so greatly to the field of architectural history. Cheers to you, Blake Alexander!

Here’s the text tour associated with the above map. In addition to this week’s conference events, this may be a fun addition to your lineup – comparing Austin’s urban fabric to what was in 1978!

Add comment April 9th, 2014 Stephanie Phillips

Fin-de-Siècle Architecture: Modernismo

Fin-de-Siècle Architecture = Seikimatsu Kenchiku by Riichi Miyake with photos by Tahara Keiichi is a beautiful oversize six volume set documenting architectural and ornamental styles from the end of the nineteenth century and beginning decades of the twentieth century. Each volume contains fantastic large color photographs of exteriors and interiors plus architectural sketches and renderings, elevations, details, and city plans.  Volume 2 Modernismo and Architectural Millennium documents buildings from the Catalan Modernismo movement in Barcelona which was synchronous to several design movements in other countries (Art Nouveau, Liberty, and Modern style in England and France, Jugendstyl in Germany, Sezessionstyl in Austria, Floreale and Liberty in Italy, and Modernisme in Spain) that were influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement and Gothic revivalism, with the additional influence of the Moorish design prevalent in Spain. These design influences combined with Catalan nationalists’ desire to create a distinct national identity from Spain, bourgeois patronage with ample money and construction industry resources, and available land within the city of Barcelona produced one of the most vibrant and distinctive styles of architecture in history. The architects’ use of curved lines, vegetal and organic motifs, asymmetry, and dynamic shapes embellished with a fantastic combination of decorative ironwork, glazed tile, stone, exposed brick, colored glass, sgrafitto, wood, and marble created a rich mosaic of shifting shapes, textures, and colors unlike any other built environment in the world. You may not be familiar with the term “Modernismo”, but you know the style when you see it. 

Three of the most important architects of the Modernismo style are Lluis Domènech i Montaner, whose work incorporates many Moorish elements (Casa dels Tres Dragons, Hospital de Santa Creu i de Sant Pau, Palau de la Música Catalana), Joseph Puig i Cadafalch, whose buildings are heavily influenced by medieval style (els Quatre Gats, Casa Marti, Casa Terrades), and Antoni Gaudi, whose works incorporate fantastic organic forms inspired by nature (Casa Batlló, Casa Milà, La Sagrada Familia). Also of note are Joseph Maria Jujol, who collaborated with Gaudi on several of his most famous buildings, and Enrique Nieto, whose work as the city architect of Melilla, a Spanish enclave in North America, created the only large concentration of Modernismo style structures outside of Spain.

The six volumes of Fin-de-Siècle Architecture = Seikimatsu Kenchiku (V.1 Art Nouveau and Japonisme, V.2 Modernismo and Architectural Millennium, V.3 Stile Liberty and Orientalism, V.4 The Influence of Secessions, V.5 Arts and Crafts and the Garden City, and V.6 The Rise of National Romanticism) are available for use in the Architecture and Planning Library. Volume 2 contains images of the Palau de la Mùsica Catalan, which inspired the Charles Moore columns at the entrance to the Architecture and Planning Library.
















Add comment April 8th, 2014 katherineisham

“Inside Modern Texas” Opens This Thursday!

A new exhibit, “Inside Modern Texas: The Case for Preserving Interiors,” opens April 10th at 6 pm at The University of Texas at Austin’s Architecture & Planning Library.

“Inside Modern Texas” offers insight on interior design during the period 1945 to 1975, touching upon the development of the profession and the issues faced today in historic preservation. Texas interiors from this period serve as case studies to illustrate emerging ideas in design and practice.

The exhibit includes photographs, original drawings and printed materials from the Alexander Architectural Archive and the Architecture and Planning Library. Featured architects and interior designers include George L. Dahl, Harwell Hamilton Harris, Karl Kamrath, Howard R. Meyer and John Astin Perkins.

Emily Ardoin, a graduate student in the School of Architecture’s Historic Preservation program, curated the exhibit through a new program developed with the School of Architecture.  Head Librarian Beth Dodd hopes that collaborations such as this will provide graduate students with more opportunities to use the archives to produce new scholarship.

“We are always looking for ways to enhance the student experience, and curating an exhibit is an incredibly rigorous process that demands thorough research, careful selection and interpretation of materials, and exhibit design,” says Dodd.  “The endowment created by the late Professor Blake Alexander now enables us to offer our students this funded internship.”

Mid-twentieth-century buildings are gaining widespread acceptance as candidates for historic preservation, but few retain their original modern interiors. Because they are so closely connected to human activity, interiors can be especially important conveyors of historic significance, but they are highly vulnerable to changing tastes and functional requirements. The perceived impermanent nature of interior design components, and historic preservation legislation which often focuses on building exteriors, further complicates preservation efforts.

Repositories such as the Alexander Architectural Archive provide opportunities to study the history of design. “Because interiors are so vulnerable to change, teaching and research rely on libraries and archives for historic documentation,” notes Dodd.  “In this first exhibit, Emily had to dig deep to discover material in the collections of architects who were only starting to recognize interior design as a distinct profession.”

The exhibition will be on display in the Architecture and Planning Library reading room in Battle Hall through September, and is free and open to the public. The opening reception will be held April 10 at 6:00 p.m. in conjunction with the Society of Architectural Historians 2014 Annual Conference.

Add comment April 7th, 2014 Stephanie Phillips

The Arts Connected with Building

T. Raffles Davison, ed. The Arts Connected with Building: Lectures on Craftsmanship and Design delivered at Carpenters Hall, London Wall, for the Worshipful Company of Carpenters. London: B. T. Batsford, 1909.

Carpenters Company hosted a lectures series which included the architects, Robert Weir Schultz (1860-1951), C. F. A. Voysey (1857-1941), E. Guy Dawber, (1861-1938), F. W. Troup (1859-1941), Charles Spooner (1862-1938) & M. H. Baillie Scott (1865-1945), the furniture maker Arthur Romney Green (1872-1945), sculptor Laurence A. Turner (1864-1957), and the ironworker J. Starkie Gardner (1840-1930) at Carpenters Hall on London Wall in 1909. Carpenters Company, which traces its history back to 1271 as medieval trade guild, published the series. According to Thomas Raffles Davison (1853-1937) the intention of the lectures was to inspire and encourage good craftsmanship within design. He writes:

The world is full of beautiful examples of well-applied art, only a small part of which many of us, can ever hope to see, but the principles and aims which have guided their production are open to us all. It is a good ambition to mould materials into forms of enduring beauty, and the development of artistic individuality is one of the most beneficent forces in the world.

In the following pages are examples, not only of fine old work, but of excellent modern work as well. The Arts and Crafts movement has done something definite to stir in people a belief as to the value of beautiful craftsmanship, but it probably also to some extent obscured the first essential of general design, good distribution of parts and proportions, and proper reticence of detail….What we want to see nowadays revived is that sort of simple but expressive work which may get into the hands of comparatively poor people. And there is no reason whatever why people with small incomes should not be able to indulge in beautiful craftsmanship. Good wrought ironwork, woodwork, plasterwork, and beadwork ought all to be available from workshops where craftsmen might enjoy their work by putting some of their own individuality into it. (Introduction)

From M. H. Baillie Scott’s lecture, “Ideals in Building, False and True”:

Now let us consider the old barn. A thing of beauty within ad without, not only from the tone and colour which time has given, but in all essentials of its structure. As a new building it would be no less full of charm, and yet it does not pretend to any architectural style. It is merely a piece of building, and not an expensive building either. Great posts and beams, roughly wrought, support its roof, and the whole structure is full of suggestions of infinite things. If we must worship under roofs, why cannot we have such roofs as these to worship under? How strange is the whole conception of modern ecclesiastical art! Why should there be a special  brand of art for ecclesiastical purposes? Why should we be only Gothic when we go to church? The real Goths were Gothic all the time: home and church were alike. How different has now become the modern villa and the modern church, and how alike in their lack of all that constitutes beauty in a building! (145-146)

This image was associated with the text of the quote above.



March 27th, 2014 jessica

Upcoming Event: Nature in Balance

Join us on Wednesday, April 2nd for this great Research + Pizza event! Research + Pizza is a lunchtime lecture series featuring research presentations by faculty from across the university.

Here’s the overview:

What: Research + Pizza: Dr. Damon Waitt talks about native Texas plants and invasive species. This event is free and open to the public!

When: Noon, Wednesday, April 2.

Where: Perry-Castañeda Library, UFCU Student Learning Commons (PCL 2.500), The University of Texas at Austin.

Just in time for the spring riot of color that is wildflower season, Dr. Damon Waitt, Senior Director and Botanist at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, discusses his efforts helping to maintain an ecological balance between native plants and invasive species in the Texas wild.

Waitt is responsible for developing the 279 acres of gardens and natural areas at the Wildflower Center, and is the author of the Center’s Native Plant Information Network — the largest online database about native plants in North America. He also serves as the principal investigator on several projects related to the Wildflower Center’s Pulling Together Invasive Species Initiative and is a member of the Invasive Species Advisory Committee for the National Invasive Species Council.

The program will also include a plant ID session, so interested participants can send pictures of mystery vegetation to for identification by Waitt during the program.

BONUS: Free Pizza (while it lasts) from Austin Pizza — we hope to see you there!

March 27th, 2014 Stephanie Phillips

Saracenic and Norman Remains in Sicily

Henry Gally Knight. Saracenic and Norman Remains, to illustrate the Normans in Sicily, by Henry Gally Knight, esq. London: J. Murray, 1840.

For reasons unknown to me, I wanted to share a work of Norman Sicily today from the collections. Perhaps I am missing Italy and the Normans. I remembered a folio of antiquarian photographs on the architecture of Norman Sicily in my graduate library; however, the author and title are now unknown to me.  I hoped to stumble across the work in Special Collections here. I could have searched the catalog for Normans and Sicily, of course; however, I do love the serendipity of the find that library shelves afford. While looking for my intended folio, I happened across a couple of works that will be future entries and I found the work of Henry Gally Knight, which was unknown to me prior.

Henry Gally Knight (1786-1846) traveled to Normandy and Italy in the 1830s to document the architectural remains of the Normans. His travels resulted in several publications: An Architectural Tour in Normandy (1836); Saracenic and Norman Remains (1840); and The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Italy (1842-1844). On his trip to Sicily, he was accompanied by the architect, George Moore, who was responsible for the plates in this work (W.W. Wroth, “Knight, Henry Gally (1786-1846)”).

Saracenic and Norman Remains is light on text; however Knight identifies an important trait about Norman architecture:

It may be said, that Architecture flourished wherever the Normans ruled. In the construction of these buildings the Normans adopted the style, and employed the workmen, of the conquered country, but not without imparting to the fabric a character of their own. (Preface)

His intention for the documentation and publication of the plates of the architecture of Norman Sicily was to provide evidence for the pointed arch. He argues that the pointed arch was a characteristic of the architecture produced by the Normans in Sicily prior to its use in later medieval architecture and a feature adopted from Islamic architecture.  He concludes, “The old hypothesis of the Crusades, as the origin of the introduction of the pointed style in Continental Europe appears, after all, to be entitled to more attention than any other suggestion.” (Preface)  The origin of and the use of the pointed arch in Medieval architecture is of course a rather complex issue and a debate that I do not wish to enter into here.  I hope rather that you take a moment to enjoy the complexity and beauty of the architecture of Norman Sicily, which is often neglected in survey courses.

W. W. Wroth, ‘Knight, Henry Gally (1786–1846)’, rev. Jane Harding, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2013 [, accessed 20 March 2014]

March 20th, 2014 jessica

The beauty of concrete: Le Béton en Représentation

Beauty is probably not the first word that comes to mind when people think of concrete,but one look through photographs in Le Béton en Representation:La Mémoire Photographique de l’Enterprise Hennebique 1890-1930 is enough to make you fall in love with the material. Francoise Hennebique’s “ferro-concrete”, a system of steel reinforced concrete patented in 1892 as Béton Armé, helped popularize the use of concrete in Europe and the near east.  In addition to establishing his own company, Hennebique cannily used a network of agents to license the use of his patented system to firms constructing their own designs with the amazing results that between 1892 and 1902 over 7,000 structures were built using the system Hennebique.

You might think, that is all very interesting, but this book is in French and I can’t read it.  Why would I check this out?  Check it out for the amazing, inspiring photographs! The commercial photographers who documented these buildings may have only been interested in creating realistic images to use in advertising and promotional materials, but these images are so beautiful! Photography captures the prismatic surfaces and stark lines of concrete silos, bunkers, and staircases and transforms bland industrial structures into stunning modernist compositions.  The fine tonal gradations of concrete are captured so exquisitely by the medium of black and white photography, the hard shell metamorphoses into a sensual surface, almost suggestive of human skin.

To be inspired by more images like these , Le Béton en Représentation can be found in the library catalog here.


March 18th, 2014 katherineisham

The Daily Mail

Daily Mail Ideal Labour-Saving Home. London: Associated Newspapers, 1920.  Bungalow Book: Reproductions of the Best Designs Entered for the Daily Mail Architects Competition for Labour-Saving Bungalows, 1922. London: Associated Newspapers, 1922.  Ideal Houses Book: Reproductions of the Best Designs Entered in the Daily Mail Architects’ Competition, 1927. London: Associated Newspapers, 1927.

Today I discovered three publications issued by the Daily Mail between 1920-1927 that reflect the ideal standards for modern homes, focusing on efficiency, convenience, and comfort. The introductions/prefaces suggest that the middle class and homeowners of post-World War I Britain needed guidance to establish cost efficient and well planned homes. The Daily Mail thus offered a competition for architects to submit their designs for the modern house and additionally held exhibitions in 1922 and 1927 in order to educate their reading public.

The 1920 catalog is markedly different from the later two. In addition to the house plans from the competition, the catalog also offers advice to the modern homemaker. The essays include the cost saving benefits of a well designed and  well equipped house with all the modern conveniences; the ideal equipment needed to set up a home; instructions to interpret the architectural drawings printed within the publication; and lastly postcards that offer tips and tricks from their readers. The Household Appliances Committee of the Design and Industries Association offers this advice in their essay, “The Equipment of the Ideal Labour-Saving Home”:

The decoration of a small room should be its cleanliness, the colouring of the walls and necessary textiles, the paint or stain of the woodwork, and the brightness of the everyday crockery on the dresser. Lessened and cheered by such surroundings, housework becomes more a pleasure than a drudgery. Every superfluous article should be looked upon as a dangerous nuisance, the cause of unnecessary irritation. (The Equipment of the Ideal Labour-Saving Home. A Report by the Household Appliances Committee of the Design and Industries Association. pg.43)

The essays largely disappear in the 1922 and 1927 publications to focus on the competition drawings and advertisements. One of the significant changes between 1920 and 1927 entries is that the spaces for the live-in maids and staff largely disappear, with a stronger focus instead on cost and necessity. The judges of the 1927 restricted the architects to design houses for either  1,500 (Class A) or 850 (Class B). According to the 1927 Introduction:

The object of the competition is two-fold. First to obtain the best possible plans combining beauty and utility. Secondly, to obtain plans which would give the best possible value for money commensurate, with good materials and workmanship. Experience with previous competitions showed that architects as a rule, were prone to attempt to provide more in the plans of house than was practically possible for the expenditure to which they limited. It was for this reason that the cost n both sections were definitely laid down. (Introduction, pg. 27).

While the plans and elevations provide insight into the ideal layout of middle class houses in Britain during the twenties and the essays provide guidance in establishing a modern household, the advertisements are equalling enlightening. Many of the ads address women, stressing modern conveniences and comforts.





March 14th, 2014 jessica

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