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!

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)

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!

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“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.