New Book: World of Malls

Lepik, Andres, and Vera Simone Bader, eds. World of Malls: Architectures of Consumption. Berlin: Hatje Cantz, 2016. Print.

World of MallsAndres Lepik and Vera Simone Bader’s World of Malls: Architectures of Consumption explores the relatively recent development of shopping malls.  With other contributing authors, Lepik and Bader examine examples of malls around the United States, with a focus on their architecture, the connection to consumerism, and the future development of malls.

Bader notes that “as an independent building typology, the shopping mall has not yet gained entry into the history of architecture…[despite] shap[ing] cities worldwide” (pg. 12).  The shopping mall appeared a mere 60 years ago, making it a recent archetype, but one which has spread quickly.  The authors note that malls typically are within an urban area, or just outside the limits, bringing people in to participate in a particular consumer experience.  But do all malls feel and look the same on the inside?  What about the outside?  These are the kinds of issues which World of Malls explores, becoming the first study on malls from an architectural perspective.  One author even makes the argument that “in our increasingly fragmented culture, shopping, which consists of strolling through zones of consumption dotted by occasional purchases, is one of the last conventions we experience as a community” (pg. 237).  Scattered throughout are profiles of malls, featuring photos and descriptions. The book concludes with a piece on the future of malls, advocating for the repurposing of malls which are abandoned, as the buildings are often large and adaptable.

Most people have been to a mall at some point.  They have become central aspects of every day life, serving as a means of consumerism and a form of exercise or entertainment.  Featuring stores for shopping and restaurants for eating, the mall is a social place as much as it is consumerist.  Yet little attention is paid to the buildings and design of these places, as well as how common they have become.  With the advent of online shopping, are malls becoming irrelevant?  What will happen to the buildings if, or when, malls become obsolete?  World of Malls begins exploring such important questions.  But, for now, throngs of people will continue their weekly pilgrimage to their local mall to participate in what has become an American pastime.

 

Friday Finds: A Plan for Bath

A Plan for Bath - CoverIn A Plan for Bath: The Report Prepared for the Bath and District Joint Planning Committee, Sir Patrick Abercrombie, John Owens, and H. Anthony Mealand provide a plan for the city of Bath, England, to rebuild and repair the city immediately following World War II.  The plan discusses the growth of Bath over time, a general description of the area, the population, and the history, including images and drawings throughout to provide the reader with imagery to better understand Bath as it was and the authors’ vision for the city.

A Plan for Bath goes into great detail on everything from the water supply and sewage to traffic to schools and how the authors propose to improve them.  They note that “war damage in Bath…has not laid waste such continuous tracts as it has in some other towns…[but] A Plan for Bath - Page 2the upheaval of population directly caused by the war and the cessation of normal growth for five years, have drawn attention to all phases of civic life and have created the desire for a comprehensive plan to meet a new set of conditions” (pg. 19).  On the “Architectural Treatment of Bath,” the plan highlights that the “planner, by perspective and model, must show great new buildings in juxtaposition with famous old ones,” and continue to use Bath stone, “which makes for continuity and stability in Bath” (pg. 22-23). Overall, the plan proposes preparing Bath for population growth and adaptation to modern needs (such as railways and cars).  Such changes, the planners argue, will restore Bath as a resort town while still providing space for local industry.

Today Bath is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Great Britain.  The Circus and the Royal Crescent are easily recognizable and well-known architectural landmarks in the city.  As much as the creators of A Plan for Bath hoped to blend the old with the modern, it is the historic buildings which are most visited and noticed.  So while the authors did not succeed in returning Bath to its days as a getaway for British elites, their protection of its architectural heritage did pay off.  Bath has become known as much for the natural spring waters in the Roman baths as for its unique architecture and beautiful setting.  A A Plan for Bath - PagePlan for Bath is a perfect example of the immense impact of city planning and architectural preservation on cities’ reputations and personalities, even if not in the way intended.

Students working

The Visual Resources Collection Archive–An Archive of Human Capital

Part I: Charles Moore, Harwell Harris, and the Texas Rangers

Since last fall I’ve been processing the primarily photographic archive from the Visual Resources Collection. To date, the archived collection consists of 20 manuscript boxes, 8 binders, 3 oversized flat file boxes, 1 negative box, and other large posters scattered among select flat file drawers. With materials spanning the 1930s to the present, the archive offers a unique glimpse into the history of the School of Architecture. A key component of the Visual Resources Collection’s mission has been research and documentation support for the School of Architecture’s faculty and students, and it is this particular orientation that has generated so many of the on-site photographs that are now part of the Architectural Archives’ growing collections. In Frederick Steiner’s foreword to Traces and Trajectories, a compilation of scholarly output about the history of UT’s School of Architecture, he writes that “[t]he success and advancement of universities depend on people.”1 This aspect of the collection (investment in human capital, that is) has been part of what has made it particularly captivating and rewarding to process.

Charles W. Moore, 1984
Charles W. Moore, 1984
Charles Moore's likeness, medium: pumpkin
Charles Moore’s likeness, media: pumpkin, wire

Renowned architect Charles W. Moore began teaching at the UT-Austin SOA in 1985 as the O’Neil Ford Chair of Architecture–this would be his final teaching post.

Above are several long-serving faculty members, including Peter Oakley Coltman (left), one of the chief faculty members for Community and Regional Planning, Blake Alexander (center), preservationist and namesake of the Alexander Architectural Archives, and Hugh McMath (right), former acting dean before Harwell Hamilton Harris accepted the position of director in 1951.

In 1951, Harris became the first to direct the newly independent School of Architecture (up to this time, it had been administered through the Department of Engineering). Though his tenure at the University of Texas would be short-lived due to in-fighting and his strong desire to return to his own design projects, he left an indelible mark upon the School.2 During his stay, he hired some remarkable teachers that later became part of an informal cohort known as the “Texas Rangers”–known for their emphasis on form, embrace of interdisciplinary modes of art production, and their recognition of the generative capacity of idiomatic and regional architecture.34 Among the “Rangers” were Colin Rowe, Bernhard Hoesli, Lee Hirsche, John Hejduk, and Robert Slutsky (all of whom were hired by Harris and are pictured above); and later, shortly after Harris’s re-location to Fort Worth where he devoted himself to the Ruth Carter Stevenson commission, Werner Seligman, Lee Hodgden, and John Shaw also joined the SOA faculty, and came to form part of the group as well. Though few of the Rangers would stay for long, the curriculum they collectively created shaped the development of the School and their legacy can still be espied in the School’s “foundational” pedagogy.5

 

1. Frederick Steiner, “Human Capital” in Traces and Trajectories (Austin: The University of Texas, 2010), viii-ix.

2. Lisa Germany, “‘We’re Not Canning Tomatoes': The University of Texas at Austin, 1951-1955″ in Harwell Hamilton Harris (Austin: The University of Texas, 2010), 63-65.

3. Smilja Milovanovic-Bertram, “In the Spirit of the Texas Rangers” in Traces and Trajectories (Austin: The University of Texas, 1991), 139-156.

4. Alexander Caragonne, The Texas Rangers: Notes from an Architectural Underground (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1995).

5. Milovanovic-Bertram, 64.

New Book: On Stage!

Zibell, Barbara, et al., editors. On Stage!: Women in Landscape, Architecture, and Planning. Berlin, Jovis, 2016.

Barbara Zibell, Doris On Stage!Damyanovic, and Eva Alvares present a series of portraits of architects from around the world based on exhibitions on the subject in Hanover, Valencia, and  Vienna.  According to the editors, “On Stage! is an international women’s and gender studies project which aims at making female architects and planning experts visible” (pg. 9).  Architecture as a profession has long been dominated by men, so the project aims to give these women a platform from which to promote themselves, their work, and bring more women into the field.

The authors interviewed numerous women who participated in the three exhibitions, asking them about their personal lives, their perspectives on architecture before and after studying it, and about the experience of being a woman in the field.  For example, Agata Dzianach from Poland explained that “‘the most stressful for me was when I had to control the construction works, as the workers treated me like “the young girl who doesn’t know anything”‘” (pg. 79).  In comparison, her superior also had children and so allowed her to work from home and split her time between home and the office following the birth of Dzianach’s daughter.  Dzianach argues that “architecture is not just a building…architects should spend more time with the people, integrated to the society…with a goal to serve the people,” while also bettering the quality of their buildings by considering both women’s and men’s needs (pg. 81).

On Stage! discusses many of the main issues facing modern women in architecture.  The interviews often broach the topic of balancing work with family, a dilemma with which many women around the world are familiar and which is an ongoing political debate, as well. The jobs of architects can be demanding – even more so when construction workers, landscape architects, or designers question the capability or authority of female architects.  So how does one combat these attitudes?  On Stage! and its interviewees suggest one thing: produce work of such high quality that you cannot be ignored by your peers or history.

On Stage! is just one of the fascinating books we received this week – Come by to check out this one or anything else – we are at your service!

Friday Finds: The Octagon Library

The 1927 Volume I of The Octagon Library of Early American Architecture focuses on Charleston, South Carolina.  The volume is Octagon Library Coveredited by two notable Charleston architects, Albert Simons and Samuel Lapham, Jr., and goes into thorough detail on the architecture and history of Charleston.

In the preface, Samuel Gaillard Stoney introduces Charleston as a place that “preserved the tradition of the classic, with its intellectual freedom, its moral tolerance, its discipline in matters of etiquette, its individualism, and the spirit of logic which elsewhere largely perished in the romantic movement” (pg. 11).  Typical of the 1920s South, Stoney refers to “systematized negro labor” and explains that “malaria made the negro the agricultural laborer exclusively,” thereby blatantly ignoring the realities of slavery (pg. 11-12).  He concludes his brief history of Charleston with an explanation that “if these people did nothing else worthy of memorial, they set up in their city records of a society and a civilization, drawn from an older time” (pg. 13).

Simons and Lapham’s study moves chronologically from the founding of Charleston in 1670 to the ante-bellum Octagon Library City Planperiod and includes many photographs of local buildings, sectional drawing plans, and city plans for Charleston.  Despite the French Hugeunot presence in early Charleston, “it is difficult to point out anything that is indisputably Gallic, for what is not English has rather more of a Dutch character” (pg. 17).  The staple crops of the area were rice and indigo, and many in the area amassed fortunes as planters.  Following the American revolution, during which Charleston was heavily damaged as a focal point of the fighting, there occurred “the erection of a considerable number of religious, philanthropic, and social institutions, as well as commercial and domestic buildings” (pg. 103).  There also was more French influence in the architecture, as well as English, and greater ingenuity in the designs (for example, in the oval drawing-rooms, and a focus on size rather than detail).

Of equal interest is a note on the title page of the book from one of the authors: “To the successors of Paul P. Cret from Albert Simons in grateful appreciation of our Cher Maitre.”  Simons also signed the book right above his name.   Cret was the architect of the Tower and campus at UT Austin, drawing an interesting connection between two figures who greatly influenced the cities of Charleston and Austin.

The Octagon Library: Charleston, South Carolina is more pictures and drawings than writing, but the images demonstrate the elements the authors mention and give a better sense of Charleston’s architecture.  Charleston has grown in popularity over recent years, and become renowned for its Octagon Library Doorway Detailwell-preserved buildings, history, and Southern charm.  While other Southern cities have failed to protect their historic homes and buildings, Charleston has capitalized on them. The city also beautifully shows how historic events shape the identity of a place.  The destruction of Charleston during the American Revolution followed by a fire and heavy artillery damages during the Civil War have resulted in Charleston placing an emphasis on protecting its buildings.  Many cities could learn from Charleston’s example.  The inclination toward tearing down old homes to make room for businesses may seem  practical, but integrating those old buildings into the fabric of local society and industry has been financially rewarding for Charleston.  So, why invest in protecting historic buildings?  Just ask Charleston – it’s on fire again, just not that kind of fire.

New Books: Colonial Delhi

Jain, A.K. Colonial Delhi: Imperial and Indigenous. New Delhi: Kaveri Books, 2015. Print.

Colonial Delhi: Imperial and Indigenous by A.K. Jain delves into the history of Delhi, paying particular attention to the work of the Delhi Improvement Trust (DIT) to improve the city.  Jain writes that “whereas Imperial Delhi was for the ruling class and the Britishers, the schemes of DIT were mainly concerned with the improvement of Jain - Coverthe indigenous city…[and] acted as the bridge between New and Old Delhi” (pg. 6).  Within Delhi, Jain argues, there are two cities: one British and one Indian.  They “had an altogether different perspective, politics, purpose, paradigm, and planning approach” (pg. 8).  It is these two cities Jain focuses on, shedding light on the physical and cultural divides between colonizer and colonized.

Jain goes into great detail on Delhi’s past, covering the city’s founding as Shahjahanabad before splitting the remainder of the book into two parts, one on imperial Delhi and one on indigenous Delhi.  He makes use of primary sources, including numerous images and transcripts of reports and other documents.  He analyzes some of the most significant and notable British buildings and explores how they reinforce British superiority and imperialism.  The section on DIT is much longer, and discusses the major population growth of Delhi and the extensive efforts of the DIT to improve Delhi.  Citizens applied for improvements to an area or building, so long as “it was ‘too badly arranged’ or [had] ‘any other sanitary defects'” (pg. 219). Different commissions would then work on the projects. Occasionally the DIT would seek out improvement projects in the city, depending on the approval of occupants.

Jain provides fascinating primary sources which demonstrate the different ways of thinking between the British and the DIT, as well as the differences and changes in Delhi’s planning.  Adding his own interpretation and analysis, Colonial Delhi: Imperial and Indigenous presents a case study which reveals the complicated dichotomy between an empire and the people and places it colonizes.

New Book: Unfinished Places

Selim - Cover 1Selim, Gehan. Unfinished Places: The Politics of (Re)Making Cairo’s Old Quarters. New York: Routledge, 2017. Print.

Gehan Selim’s Unfinished Places: The Politics of (Re)Making Cairo’s Old Quarters explores efforts throughout the 20th century to rebuild Baluq Abul Ela, a 16th-century Ottoman quarter in Cairo.  Selim examines these efforts through a political and historical lens, studying state policies towards the reshaping of Baluq Abul Ela and the impact of the changes on everyday citizens of Cairo.

Selim writes that “the urban landscape of historic Cairo significantly shaped its inhabited core and characterized the city’s principal identity and popular traditional urban patters” (pg. 2).  Baluq Abul Ela “was not an extension of Cairo’s urban growth or even a suburb; it was an independent spatial entity with its own configuration and patters, which may or may not have matched those of Cairo” (pg. 6). Bulaq underwent major transformation in the 20th century as the district became more modern, with high-rise buildings and hotels, and more heavily populated, leading to deterioration.  Selim examines the changes across Cairo as a whole, and the effects of globalization on the city.  She questions how well urban spaces are being preserved, as well as the effectiveness of the Egyptian government’s efforts in Cairo.  Selim argues that architects and preservationists must be attuned to Cairo’s history and culture, as well as the history of particular districts, to successfully remake the historic districts.

True to the Egyptian joke of “Cairo Time” (where time moves quickly and slowly at the same time – buses do not stop to pick up people, but instead simply slow down, because they must keep moving in order to sit for hours in the Cairo traffic) city and national officials have attempted to move quickly to revitalize historic areas yet these projects have floundered or even hastened deterioration.  Cairo is itself a megacity, but within it are diverse and divided cultures.  This diversity and history is exactly what gives Cairo its identity.

Over one thousand years old, Cairo is one of the largest and most historically and culturally rich cities in the world.  I have been privileged enough to visit Cairo.  A haze forever hangs over the city, hiding the hustle and bustle from those outside. At the Pyramids of Giza, a mere 14 miles from Cairo, the haze provides the illusion of complete isolation.  The sounds of traffic and life never cease, no matter the hour of day or night, except for when the call to prayer (Adhan) rings out five times a day – it is the only time when Cairo actually stops.  The buildings are mostly unfinished (as property is not taxed until construction is complete) and many are in poor condition. People fill the streets: shouting, talking, smoking.  Many would call Cairo dilapidated compared to the grandiosity of European cities.  But it is in this that Cairo’s iconic status lies – its history and culture is written on its buildings, and there is no illusion of perfection.  The new high rises, as Selim says herself, look modern and impressive, but do not blend with the rest of Cairo.  No one who visits Cairo remembers the high rises, instead they feel out of place, like the city is trying to hide its gritty reality.  But it is that grit that demonstrates Cairo’s true greatness.  The rebar sticking up from roofs, crumbling ancient buildings, the constant haze hanging above, and the crowds of people are what I remember most about Cairo; it was those features that convinced me that Cairo remains one of the greatest and most beautiful cities in the world.

Friday Finds: Church Bells

ToThe Art of the Church Coverday’s Friday Find is H. B. Walters’ Church Bells, from The Arts of the Church, a book series focusing on “the various arts which have clustered round the public worship of God in the Church of Christ” (pg. vii).  This volume in particular focuses on church bells, how they are made, their decoration, care, and their melodies.

Walters begins with a brief history of bells and their use in churches. He writes that “ancient bells were invariably dedicated with elaborate ceremonies, and were baptized with the name of the saint or other person after whom they were named…so as to be set apart from all secular uses” (pg. 6).  Walters then explains the process of casting a bell, the different kinds of big bells, uses and customs of bells, and specifically the history of bells in England.  The description of the decoration and inscription of bells is especially fascinating – he points out that “we [the English] do not as a rule find them as highly ornamented as foreign bells…but to some the greater soberness of the English method may seem preferable” (pg. 105).  This kind of national pride is present throughout the book.  Walters’ assertions of British superiority are hardly surprising when considering that Art of the Church - Page 1 when the book was originally published in 1908, the influence of the British Empire was beginning to wane and be challenged.

The use has grown beyond churches – bells can be heard on college campuses, in clock towers, and some even hold great historical significance (e.g. the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania). They do not hold the same solemnity and religious association that they held when Walters wrote Church Bells, but they are no less iconic and recognizable an architectural feature.  The inclusion of bells in architecture makes a statement about the building too – it is meant to be heard from a distance, to draw people in as they hear the bells. The bells add an audial component to architecture, a primarily visual art; in a fashion, it is the architect and the building inviting those nearby to enjoy the beauty of the sights and sounds.

New Books: Place

Harney, Marion. Place-Making for the Imagination: Horace Walpole and Strawberry Hill. Burlington: Ashgate Limited, 2013. Print.

Pasic, Amir, Borut Juvanec, and Jose Luis Moro, eds. The Importance of Place: Values and Building Practices in the Historic Urban Landscape. Newcastle Upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars, 2016. Print.

Among the new books this week, there were several focusing on the theme of “place.”  Notably, Marion Harney’s Place-Making for the Imagination and The Importance of Place, edited by Amir Pasic, Borut Juvanec, and Jose Luis Moro.

In Place-Making for the Imagination, Harney CoverHarney explores the history, landscape, architecture, and intellectual background of Horace Walpole’s villa, Strawberry Hill.  She evaluates “the villa and the landscape…as an entity” and argues that “Strawberry Hill embodies an entirely different set of ideas [from nineteenth-century Gothic Revival] to which the key lies in the cultural pursuits and theories of imaginative pleasure that Walpole engaged with” (pg. xiv).  Harney makes use of Walpole’s writing and the historical context to alter conceptions of Walpole’s inspiration for Strawberry Hill, as well as to consider the setting of the villa as a crucial component of its architecture and identity.

The Importance of Place features articles presented at the fifth International Conference on Hazards and Modern Heritage held in Sarajevo, called “The Importance of Place.”  The conference Importance of Place Coverdiscussed “the relationship of places to each other, their architecture, and their experience with memory” and “the position of contemporary architecture in the historic urban landscape” (pg. ix).  The articles themselves cover a wide array of subjects, including management strategies for urban areas, innovation in Italian architecture in the twentieth-century, conservation, and case studies.  Almost all directly discuss Sarajevo or Bosnia and Herzegovina, creating an ideal environment for the attendees to discuss and consider the challenges of Sarajevo in particular: a fifteenth-century city ravaged by war from 1992-1995, now adapting and seeking to blend its history with modern needs.

Both Place-Making for the Imagination and The Importance of Place contemplate the history and settings of architectural features. The interaction between setting and architecture is a crucial component of what makes a place.  Architecture is influenced by the setting, and the setting is forever changed by the architecture.  The landscape is a place in its own right, as is the building, but only when taken together can the totality of the place become clear.

New Book: Global Undergrounds

Dobraszczyk, Paul, Carlos Lopez Galviz, and Bradley L. Garrett, eds. Global Undergrounds: Exploring Cities Within. London: Reaktion, 2016. Print.

Global Undergrounds: Exploring Cities Within, edited by Paul Dobraszczyk, Carlos Lopez Galviz, and Bradley L. Garrett features short pieces from the authors and other experts discussing the world beneath cities.  True to the title, the book explores cities from Los Angeles to Pyongyang and everywhere between.

In the preface, Geoff Manaugh highlights that “we live amid interpenetrating systems of space, knotted topologies that do not immediately reveal Global Undergrounds Cover 4themselves but, instead, lurk in the shadows, under streets, below grade” (pg. 9).  He adds “sometimes the space itself is the heritage…it is history from below” (pg. 12).  From there, Global Undergrounds launches into discussion of how these underground spaces were used as homes and places of safety, as well as the representation in literature, and underground metro systems around the world.  For example, Alexandros Tsakos writes of the Cairo Metro: “[it] is now infused with fear of civil unrest, political violence, and revolution…the metro is notorious for its sexual discrimination…were these underground spaces truly a refuge from the turmoil above ground?” (pg. 217).  Tsakos highlights that while the underground world in Cairo is distinct from the city above, the problems and dangers above permeate the tunnels too.

Global Undergrounds provides a fascinating exploration of the spaces beneath cities around the world.  Everyday people walk past or even on covered manholes, sewage pipes, and storm drains, but many never think about the world beneath their feet.  They know it is there, but the attention remains on the high-rise buildings reaching for the sky above.  Little thought is given to the vast world below and the intrigues it holds.