Category Archives: archive

To Better Know a Building: The University of Texas Tower, 80th Anniversary

TBKB-Tower2

The Architecture & Planning Library and the Alexander Architectural Archives are pleased to recognize the 80th anniversary of the University of Texas Tower’s dedication by featuring the iconic structure in its fifth installment of the To Better Know a Building exhibition series.

The Alexander Architectural Archive is fortunate to have an abundance of documentation for the building including construction drawings, shop drawings, construction photographs and project files from the University of Texas Buildings collection. Correspondence between the architects and the University can be found in the Faculty Building Committee records kept by Robert Leon White, supervising architect.

The exhibit series seeks to explore buildings through drawings and other visual items found in the Alexander Architectural Archive and Architecture & Planning Library with a focus on working drawings.

Plans, elevations, sections and details communicate the realization of design intent and can be used as a vehicle in teaching through example.

The exhibit opens on February 27, 2017, with a reception, and the exhibit extends through August 7, 2017. Free and open to the public.

Students working

The Visual Resources Collection Records–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), 139-156.

3. Smilja Milovanovic-Bertram, “In the Spirit of the Texas Rangers” in Traces and Trajectories (Austin: The University of Texas, 1991), 63-65.

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

5. Milovanovic-Bertram, 64.

School of Architecture Event Recordings

For the past seven years, UT’s School of Architecture has been posting videos of lectures, forums, and other presentations hosted by the school to their dedicated Vimeo page. The turnaround is superb; many events held just this fall, like a talk given in October by alumnus Craig Dykers of Snøhetta, are already available online for anyone who missed them, whether for reasons geographical (hard to find a cheap flight from Oslo) or spatial (they simply couldn’t find an open seat in the packed lecture hall).

For the past three years, we at the Alexander Architectural Archives also have been working (until now behind the scenes) to provide online access to past School of Architecture events, albeit from a different, earlier era, when programs were recorded on audio cassettes instead of HD video. Cassette tapes, unfortunately, are a notoriously unstable storage medium. Their magnetic tape is particularly susceptible to degradation through processes like acid hydrolysis. So, since 2013, we’ve been collaborating with Digitization Services at UT’s Perry-Castañeda Library to digitize a collection of approximately two hundred cassette recordings of interviews and public lectures given at the School of Architecture during the 1980s and 1990s by prominent architects and architectural historians from both the United States and abroad, including AIA Gold Medalists Ricardo Legorreta, Charles W. Moore, Glenn Murcutt, and César Pelli, among others.

Audio cassette tapes of UT School of Architecture event recordings from the 1980s and 1990s stored at the Alexander Architectural Archives in Battle Hall

Once reformatted, we review all the audio to capture index terms like persons, places, subjects, and architectural buildings and sites mentioned by speakers so that when the digital files are uploaded to Texas ScholarWorks, UT-Austin’s institutional digital repository, keywords and other descriptive metadata can be added with the files to facilitate search and discovery of the recordings. The audio review process can be arduous, as the original recordings, many of which were of slide lectures, have neither transcripts nor listings of images. Often we must ascertain, through minimal verbal description, which building an architect might have been talking about at a given moment during a lecture, even though someone in the audience at the time would have known immediately simply by looking at the slide being shown.

So far around one hundred of these cassettes have been digitized. Of these, we’ve currently ingested digital versions of over twenty-five of these historic programs (each program might have several .mp3 files associated with it) into Texas ScholarWorks. Anyone with a University of Texas EID can sign in and download and listen to them. (The collection can be browsed and bookmarked here: https://repositories.lib.utexas.edu/handle/2152/43672) We also encourage outside researchers who don’t have immediate access to contact us (apl-aaa@lib.utexas.edu) should they want to listen to any particular recording, which we anticipate they will. To read secondary literature about Fay Jones, for instance, is one thing. To listen to his understated, gentlemanly Arkansan drawl reveal the inspiration behind some of his most cherished and sublime of works—how, say, Thorncrown Chapel winks at Sainte-Chapelle—is incomparably more beguiling.

Hersey and Kyrk Volkswagen Bus

Tracking the Hersey and Kyrk VW Bus

Last year Nathan Sheppard wrote about the collection of drawings by Bill Hersey and John Kyrk and noted the value of analog drawings in a digital age. As an architecture student myself, I share his perspective. But since the drawings are back on the table, perhaps we can dig a little deeper and find out more about the life and work of these unique illustrators.

The drawings arrived in 10 large rolls, with dozens of projects rolled together in each one. Nathan went through these and described the contents by roll, listing about a dozen projects. Over the past few months it has been my task to separate the drawings into discrete projects to make access easier. At the same time, I have tried to identify as many projects as possible, a task made difficult by the lack of notation on the drawings, the unbuilt nature of most of the projects, and the scarcity of published works to reference. I had to rely primarily on visual connections to link drawings to built works and even to other drawings, at times thinking like a designer to recognize when two ostensibly different projects were actually different iterations of the same building.

Hersey and Kyrk Rendering

The drawings the duo produced are undeniably beautiful, although so many of the drawings in the archive’s collections are. What sets the Hersey and Kyrk collection apart from the others is that so far it is the archive’s only collection of a rendering office rather than an architecture firm. Hersey and Kyrk produced renderings for a great variety of architects and brought to life the visions of Charles W. Moore, William Turnbull, and Robert A. M. Stern, to name a few of their repeat clients.

“To convey advance realisations of proposed structures, to aid in crystalizing ideas in the architect’s mind and to interpret the architectural significance of existing structures,” as described by Hugh Ferriss, perhaps the most famous and influential architectural renderer of contemporary American history, are three objectives of architectural rendering.¹ Bill Hersey and John Kyrk excelled at each one. The first objective is why architects hire renderers, since they possess the advanced drawing skills to transform sketches into convincing perspectives or axonometrics. Going above and beyond that task is the hallmark of a good renderer or designer, and Hersey was known to “simply draw something else, possibly something better and perhaps closer to what [the client] really had in mind.”² As for delineating existing structures, Hersey and Kyrk drew famous buildings by the full spectrum of architects, including Thomas Jefferson, Carrère & Hastings, Greene & Greene, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Louis I. Kahn.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Hersey and Kyrk was how they worked. They owned a Volkswagen bus that they drove across the country to meet clients to work on drawings.² Not only did it take them from coast to coast where their projects were most concentrated, but it also served as a space where they sometimes drew, sometimes cooked (they had equipped it with a stove), and sometimes slept (at odd hours). This freedom prevented them from being tied down to one area and is reflected in the geographic locations of their drawings:

Map of Hersey and Kyrk's projects
Map created with Palladio showing geographic distribution of 93 unique projects with identified locations (dots are sized by frequency). Not represented are 3 projects in West Germany (for Urban Innovations Group) and Charles Moore’s Kwee House in Singapore.

Although architectural renderers often travel to work on remote projects, each office’s body of work is typically highly concentrated in the region where their studio is located. Hersey and Kyrk’s mobile studio allowed them to work with Bob Stern on the east coast while simultaneously working with Turnbull on the west coast and it accounts for how they managed to keep up with Charles Moore’s numerous relocations.

New Orleans is represented especially well: the earliest of 15 identified projects in New Orleans is the CWM Piazza d'Italia competition entryPiazza d’Italia competition entry from Charles Moore (as part of Moore, Grover, Harper) produced in 1975. The entry evolved into a design developed by Moore as part of Urban Innovations Group at UCLA in collaboration with New Orleans architect August Perez III. Hersey and Kyrk’s connection with Moore took them through the Piazza d’Italia’s completion and led on to several commissions for New Orleans projects by both Moore and Perez, most of which were designed for the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition.

Hersey and Kyrk New Orleans drawing
Greater New Orleans Bridge (now Crescent City Connection) and New Orleans skyline.
Hersey and Kyrk New Orleans drawing
Perez Associates’ renovation and expansion of New Orleans’ historic Le Pavillon hotel.
Hersey and Kyrk New Orleans drawing
Early design for the renovation of the Federal Fibre Mills warehouse (now condominiums) into a pavilion for the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition.

Hersey and Kyrk’s prolific renderings do not comprise the entire collection. A wine label design for William Turnbull’s winery and their many calendar designs reflect their strong interest in type and calligraphy. Owners of a printing press and multiple cameras, they also produced hand prints and practiced photography. Still, their business was rendering and the rendering business was changing. They were early adopters of new visualization technology and some of their later works contain early digital 3D model printouts; a letter that Bill Hersey wrote to Charles Moore in 1988 reveals the new work flow. Accompanied with it is a selection of images advertising their (better “than ever before”) work:

It was quite a privilege to see how their practice had evolved since 1975, the year they first produced a book advertising their services:

Sadly, the partnership ended when Bill Hersey passed away in 1989. I have found that the drawings here at the archive reflect at least 200 unique projects produced in under two decades. Everything from single family residences to high rises and campus master plans are represented. Although the drawings have been processed, many still remain unidentified and there must be more drawings stored away elsewhere since the majority of this collection is made up of sketches; we only have a handful of fully rendered presentation drawings. Additional drawings bearing Hersey’s signature can be found in the Charles Moore and Urban Innovations Group³ collections and a selection of their drawings can be found on John Kyrk’s website, as well as some of his most recent illustrations.

  1. Ferriss, Hugh. “Rendering, Architectural.” The Encyclopædia Britannica (1929), quoted in Placzek, Adolf,
    Architectural Visions: The Drawings of Hugh Ferriss (New York, N.Y.: Whitney Library of Design, 1980), 12.
  2. Phelps, Barton. “Bill Hersey (1940-1989) [obituary].” L. A. Architect, 1989: 4. ProQuest (292401)
  3. Finding aids for Urban Innovations Group and the William Hersey and John Kyrk archive are not yet available.

AASL Seattle 2016

This past March several members of the staff from the Library and Archives attended the Association of Architecture School Librarians Annual Conference held this year in Seattle with ARLIS/NA and VRA. Beth Dodd, Katie Pierce Meyer, and myself were all part of the programming committee. We were charged with organizing the conference sessions, which included both traditional sessions and lightning rounds. The topics included: Building New Models: Library as Learning Lab; Engaging the School: Making Scholarship Visible; Co-constructing and Documenting Place; and Evolving Architectural Collections and Connections.  Stephanie Tiedeken had the chance to present her capstone project on Islandora, a data asset management system, while I spoke about a DH project, Still Looking for You, which I worked on at Lehigh University.

In addition to the conference sessions, we also had the chance to explore Seattle, both on our own and with guided tours. I attended the tours: University of Washington Campus Architecture Tour: “Building a Polyvalent Campus, 1895-2015″ and “Pike/Pine: Change on a Urban Scale.” The latter was led by the Seattle Architecture Foundation Tour Guide.  I greatly enjoyed the Pike/Pine tour which examined the challenge of preserving the neighborhood identity and fabric in the face of urban renewal and the changing demographic of residents.

Katie and I also made the pilgrimage to see Hat ‘n’ Boots. We spent months talking about visiting this restored example of roadside architecture, now part of a neighborhood park!

HatBoots

 

The Architectural Archives Make the Leap to Schema

The Alexander Architectural Archives are undergoing some renovations—and not just in the East Wing: the Archives’ EAD-encoded finding aids are being converted to schema-compliant documents. As one of the University of Texas’s smaller campus repositories, we at the Architectural Archives are serving as a test case for a larger university-wide (and broader TARO) effort to adopt the XML Schema standard. During this transitional period, my job has been to fix any errors that result from the batch-conversion process; however, as part of the larger scope of this project, my job also entails modifying certain elements in our finding aids to better reflect current descriptive practices with respect to use policy, sponsorship, and materials stored within Texas ScholarWorks (formerly the University of Texas Digital Repository).

If you’re still wondering what “Schema-compliance” means, XML schemas (note the little “s”) define the grammar of XML documents, since XML by definition has no set tag vocabulary or structure; these schemas fall into different families. The two families that we’re primarily concerned with are the DTD and XML Schema (big “S”). Encoded Archival Description (EAD) is the standard data vocabulary (with a tag library maintained by the Library of Congress) for describing archival records and the schema (whether it conforms to a DTD or a Schema document) controls the ordering and structure of your XML instance. Although XSD (XML Schema Definition) has been around for a while and has been a W3C recommendation since 2001, many of our local UT archives have used DTDs to define the structure and semantics of their XML-encoded finding aids. The reticence to use Schema is owing to the fact that the technology hasn’t necessarily been fully supported by XML parsers and that the EAD schema for use in finding aids was not released until 2012.

Yet the question remains: why convert now?

One motivation for switching to XSD-compliant XML is that it’s namespace aware, meaning it imposes more restrictions and offers more detailed enforcement on values (date, language, and repository encodings, for example). Being namespace aware also means that an XML file can refer to specific structured vocabularies when linking elements—this is what enables large-scale interoperability and data synchronization. The XLink capacities of XSD-compliant documents also allow for more complex links between digital objects. Additionally, the newest EAD tag library (EAD3), which we haven’t adopted yet, gravitates toward deprecating ambiguous elements. These EAD emendations form part of a larger trend toward standardizing archival description: by reducing EAD’s flexibility, we reduce inconsistencies among repositories by discouraging idiosyncratic institutional practices. Finally, looking forward, the EAD tag library revisions and the widespread adoption of XSD as our standard document grammar is part of the movement toward linked data and the semantic web.

 

Exhibit Opening – To Better Know a Building: NexusHaus

TexasGermany4 copyThis exhibit series seeks to explore buildings through drawings and other visual items found in the Alexander Architectural Archive and Architecture & Planning Library with a focus on working drawings.

The fourth installment in the series features the NexusHaus. The University of Texas at Austin and the Technische Universität München U.S. Solar Decathlon 2015 house combines the efforts of an international group of students in an affordable, modular residential green building design. The house demonstrates transformative technologies that make it Zero Net Energy, Zero Net Water capable and carbon neutral in its use of sustainable building materials.

Among the UT students on the Nexushaus team, 41 were from the Cockrell School of Engineering, 36 were from the School of Architecture, four were from the McCombs School of Business, three were from the College of Liberal Arts and there is one each from the Jackson School of Geosciences, the College of Natural Sciences and the Moody College of Communication.

UT Austin students placed fourth overall in the prestigious 2015 Solar Decathlon competition.The Nexushaus team also finished third in the Solar Decathlon’s Engineering Contest and second in the Affordability Contest.

After the competition, NexusHaus was shipped to McDonald Observatory in West Texas and reassembled to house scientists and other University staff members.

We would like to thank UT School of Architecture faculty members Michael Garrison, Petra Liedl and Adam Pyrek for their willingness to donate to the Alexander Architectural Archive the documentation for the NexusHaus for future researchers to access.

These drawings of the NexusHaus are a fine example of the current art of construction drawings.

The opening reception is Monday, March 28 at 6pm in the Reading Room of the Architecture & Planning Library in Battle Hall.

Tales from the Texas Architecture Archive

Now one of the largest repositories of its kind in the United States and housed at UT-Austin’s venerable Battle Hall, the Alexander Architectural Archives began as an associate professor’s private passion, an ad hoc gathering of student reports written for the “Survey of Texas Architecture” course taught by archives namesake Blake Alexander (1924-2011). For the class, which Alexander, a Texas native and Longhorn alum, began teaching in the 1960s, students were sent into the field and also into reading rooms of city and county libraries and archives across the Lone Star State to research land titles, conduct oral interviews, and photograph and make measured drawings of Texas buildings. Students wrote about and drew a wide swathe of edifices, some of which no longer stand, lost to indifference or to the vested interests of urban developers; some of which are currently under threat, like Austin’s Palm School, named for 19th-century Swedish immigrant Swante Palm, a diplomat and bibliophile whose donated book collection essentially started the University of Texas’ library system and whose house stood just off Congress Avenue, right where the thermal-glass tower Texas Monthly calls home now looms; and some of which, through the rugged persistence of high-minded preservationists like Alexander and his indefatigable colleague Wayne Bell, have been saved from the wrecking ball and repurposed, like the old Lone Star Brewery complex in San Antonio that today is the San Antonio Museum of Art. Buildings grand and mundane, commissioned and vernacular, everything from aristocratic 19th-century hotels to lowly log jails, were documented by students in these class reports, which were kept personally over the years by Alexander until the collection outgrew both his office and a storage room known as “Alexander’s closet” and were transferred to the care of what is now The University of Texas Libraries.

Since then, the Alexander Architectural Archives has grown into a major collection of over 280,000 drawings, 1,150 linear feet of papers, and some 300,000 photographic items related to architectural projects not just in Texas but throughout the United States and abroad as well. Though now just a fraction of the archives’ total holdings, Alexander’s seed assemblage of student reports—formally the Texas Architecture Archive (TAA)—still retains a special position with both archives staff and researchers. Its materials get heavy and loving use, so to provide even better access to this signature collection, archives staff spent much of last summer and fall reviewing and updating descriptive metadata for each and every one of the nearly 1,400 student reports. When needed, these reports, filling more than 25 record storage boxes, were also individually rehoused into acid-free folders, though it should be noted that most of these reports, many of which were written over half a century ago, well before personal computers and inkjet printers became fixtures in campus dorm rooms, are in fine fettle given the high-quality, durable cotton paper (sometimes watermarked with a vintage University of Texas bookstore logo) on which students typed their final drafts. With enhanced metadata (project dates, architect names, location information) researchers will have new access points and avenues into the collection, whether they’re looking for scholarship about a well-known Texas architect (Abner Cook, Nicholas J. Clayton, James Riely Gordon, to name a few) or have more general queries about historic structures within a specific city or county.

Richer metadata has also allowed us at the archives to begin exploring different ways to visualize the collection’s wide-ranging materials, the vast majority of which are related to the built environment of Texas. For instance, we’ve been able to use Palladio, a free browser-based digital humanities toolset developed at Stanford, to map the subject locations of each student report.

Map created with Palladio showing locations of Texas-related reports in the TAA collection.
Map created with Palladio showing locations of Texas-related reports, grouped by county, within the TAA collection. Dots represent county seats and are sized by number of reports.

Not surprisingly, most students wrote about buildings and structures in Travis County or in cities and towns a (relatively) short drive away along the I-35 corridor north to Dallas-Fort Worth or south to San Antonio, a route that roughly follows the scalloped curve of the Balcones Fault. Conversely, the map reveals how strikingly few structures west of the Hill Country were researched. The Llano Estacado of the Lubbock area or, further south of that, the Trans-Pecos region near Fort Stockton, are more onerous distances from Austin, and impecunious pupils no doubt preferred to examine historic structures closer to the Forty Acres. One of the buildings written most frequently about, the Greek Revival Neill-Cochran House, built in 1855, is just a few short blocks from Guadalupe Street, the university’s main commercial drag. The mapped reports also simply mirror well-established historical trends of 19th– and 20th-century settlement in Texas, the limits of which were always around the 98th meridian, east of which there was enough (if not plenty of) rainfall and west of which there was land so dry that it was difficult to cultivate, making both town-building and its byproduct architecture risky propositions.

Over the next few months we’ll be writing posts meant to illuminate how the Texas Architecture Archive student reports make visible this intersection between the architecture and history (natural, social, political, industrial) of the Lone Star State. Above all, the hope is that this occasional series, which we’ll call Tales from the Texas Architecture Archive (or Tales from the TAA), will convey the elemental pleasure of time spent in our archives. Whether the subject is food, transportation, entertainment, military affairs, or demographic shifts, architecture is everywhere a foil to life. It’s always there, shaping or reflecting the world at large, a locus or backdrop to the lives we lead.

One of the more delectable documents in the TAA collection is a 59-page report on the history of Austin’s Enfield Grocery. Designed by Hugo Kuehne, founding dean of UT’s School of Architecture, it was built in 1916 with barge-board trimmings by locally-renowned Swiss woodcarver Peter Mansbendel. It offered “staple and fancy groceries” until after Prohibition, when it became The Tavern, a neighborhood beer joint. (A sports bar operates there today under the same name, serving sinfully good queso burgers on kolache buns to sudsy Longhorns fans who gather to watch televised games.) For her report, written in 1987, the student interviewed one C. J. Schmid, an old-timer who recalled the motley regulars who’d drink there in the 1930s, including Mansbendel, Paul Cret, the architect who developed the UT campus master plan, and Italian-born sculptor Pompeo Coppini, who worked with Cret on UT’s Littlefield Memorial Fountain and whose bronze figures of Jefferson Davis and Woodrow Wilson were removed last August from their prominent limestone perches on UT’s South Mall. (They eventually will be on display at their new home, the Briscoe Center for American History.) In the interview, Schmid lamented that The Tavern’s current “kindergarten” clientele was objectionably green and boorish and that fellows of his advanced age therefore avoided it, as they did Scholz Garten, where the snot-nosed college kids “kind of looked ill-kept, you know, all whiskered up” and had “stringy hair, you know, kind of greasy.” As for the waitresses, Schmid opined, “soap was not their main possession.” We can see from the TAA collection’s student reports, then, that while buildings come and buildings go, some things, like griping about younger generations and the newest out-of-towners (a seemingly inexhaustible parlor game in Austin) never change.

Opening Reception: “To Better Know a Building: The Charles Moore House, Orinda, California”

Exhibt_OrindaOn behalf of the Alexander Architectural Archive, I would like to invite you all to the opening of their new exhibit, To Better Know a Building: The Charles Moore House, Orinda, California. The exhibit opens on Monday, October 19 and will be on view in the Architecture and Planning Library until March 20, 2016.

The Architecture and Planning Library and the Alexander Architectural Archive will host an opening reception on Monday, October 19 at 6pm in the Reading Room of Battle Hall. The opening address, sponsored by the School of Architecture in the lecture series, Goldsmith Talks, will be delivered by Kevin Keim, Director of the Charles Moore Foundation.

The Alexander Architectural Archive’s  Press Release:

The personal residence of renowned architect, author and award-winning architectural educator Charles W. Moore is the focus of the third installment of the Alexander Architectural Archive’s “To Better Know a Building” series.

The Charles Moore House at Orinda, California, was designed by Moore for himself and built in 1961. With its small footprint, the building was viewed as a quintessential expression of third bay region residential architecture.

“The site was bought one day on impulse simply because it seems full of magic,” wrote Moore in The Place of Houses (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1974). “Years before, a bulldozer had cut a flat circular building site, which had since grown grassy and now seemed part of the natural setting, like those perfectly circular meadows that inspired medieval Chinese poets to mediate upon perfection.”

The significance of Moore’s Orinda house is expressed by Kevin Keim in his book An Architectural Life: Memoirs and Memories of Charles W. Moore.

“In a decisive move of great clarity and wit, Moore broke from the shackles of modernist ideology,” wrote Keim. “It was astoundingly fresh. Modernism’s sacred flat roof was swept away and replaced with a pyramidal roof. Even more to the point, the house was a simple pavilion of banal materials, defying the convention that a building had to be monumental in order to be architecture.”

In a tragic circumstance, the home was, at some point in recent years, renovated so dramatically that the original structure has been all but consumed by new construction.

Throughout his career, Moore established firms across the country, developing collaborative relationships within and between practices, often involving students from his academic positions in his architectural work. He professional life was a blend of architectural practice, educational engagement, and authorship.

He also taught at six universities while simultaneously maintaining his architectural practice and writing. From 1965 to 1970, Moore served as Chairman, and then Dean, of the Architecture Department at Yale University. In 1967, he created the Yale Building Project, an ethically minded construction project for first-year graduate students. He stayed on as a professor once his term as Dean ended, until 1975, when he accepted a faculty position at the University of California, Los Angeles that included joining Urban Innovations Group (UIG), a teaching practice at the UCLA Department of Architecture and Urban Planning. In 1985, Moore took on his final teaching position as the O’Neil Ford Chair of Architecture, at the University of Texas at Austin.

An avid traveler, Moore documented his extensive travels through painting, photography and collecting folk art and toys. He was awarded the Topaz Medallion for Excellence in Architectural Education and the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal for the scope and importance of his contributions to architecture.

Charles Moore died in Austin, Texas, on December 16th, 1993.

The Alexander Architectural Archive — a special collection of the Architecture & Planning Library — has among its collections the Charles W. Moore Archives. The exhibit will present correspondence, notes, sketches, drawings and printed materials related to the design and construction of Moore’s private residence in Orinda, California.

“To Better Know A Building” seeks to explore buildings through the drawings and other visual items found in the archive and library, promoting the records of a single building. Plans, elevations and sections visually communicate design intent and can also be used as a vehicle in teaching through example.

An opening reception will take place at 6 p.m., Monday, October 19, in the reading room of the Architecture & Planning Library, located in historic Battle Hall. The event is free and open to the public. As part of the School of Architecture’s Goldsmith Talks series, Kevin Keim — founding director of the Charles W. Moore Foundation in Austin and author of numerous books including a forthcoming book on the Orinda house — will offer the opening remarks. Austin’s Pizza will be served while it lasts.

“To Better Know a Building: The Charles Moore House, Orinda, California” will be on view in the library’s reading room through March 20, 2016.

 UPDATE:

The reception was photographed by the Visual Resource Collection in the School of Architecture. Please visit their Flickr Album to see the photos.

Friday Finds: Emily Brontë

Brontë, Emily. Two Poems: Love’s Rebuke and Remembrance. With the Gondals Background of her Poems and Novel by Fannie Elizabeth Ratchford. Austin, Texas: Charles E. Martin, Jr.- Von Boeckmann-Jones Co., 1934.

Wait, Emily Brontë at the APL?

Occasionally, I find books in Special Collections that take me by surprise. Two Poems: Love’s Rebuke and Remembrance by Emily Brontë begs the question- Why do we have it. Upon opening the work, I discovered a tipped in watercolor signed by Wolf Jessen. There was also a card paper-clipped to end paper with the following text:

This is the only copy of this book at TxU. It might be considered a rare book because of its associations with Austin and The University, and should not circulate, or should circulate only on a very limited basis. It is a limited edition (no. 20 of 60 copies) published in Austin, with background material by Fannie Elizabeth Ratchford (former rare books librarian), illustrations by Wolf Jessen (Austin architect), and is dedicated “To Mrs. Miriam Lutcher Stark.

I needed to know more.

I began naturally with Katie Pierce Meyer, APL’s librarian, and Nancy Sparrow from the Alexander Architectural Archives. Nancy sent me the biographies for Wolf and Harold Jessen. The brothers were both students of architecture at UT and opened a firm together here in Austin in 1938. Wolf Jessen was also a member of the faulty at the School. Nancy also sent along one of Wolf Jessen’s projects, Monumental Causeway, which he produced while still a student (dated October 4, 1935).

txu-aaa-soasw00005-2000
Wolf Jessen, Monumental Causeway, October 4, 1935. Jessen and Jessen papers, Alexander Architectural Archive, University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin, txu-aaa-soasw00005-2000.

The illustrations he made for Two Poems were also undertaken while he was a student!

While I had discovered who Wolf Jessen was, I was still curious about Fannie Elizabeth Ratchford, whose biography I located on the Texas State Historical Association website, which discussed her work with the Wrenn Library and scholarship on the Brontës (Leach, “Ratchford, Fannie Elizabeth”). She also had an interest in architecture. The Texas State Archives houses a collection of papers from Ratchford regarding an unrealized book project on Texas architecture, which she worked on between 1933-1947.

RatchfordAuthorSignature

I also located a book review for Two Poems written by Leicester Bradner. I had hoped that Bradner would discuss the book project; however, he focuses on the argument Ratchford presents. He does note, “In spite of the brevity of the present study, which was designed by the publishers only for a collector’s item, it adds immensely to our understanding of Emily’s poems” (Bradner, “Reviewed Work,” 210). While Bradner makes no reference to Jessen, he does highlight that the work was a special edition at the request of the publisher, which raises intriguing questions about the genius and development of the book project.

Finally, I would note that APL’s copy of Two Poems is not the only copy on campus anymore. The HRC has two as well. One is unnumbered according to the record, while the second belonged to Miriam Lutcher Stark and is copy 1 of 20.

Bradner, Leicester. “Reviewed Work.” Review of Reviewed Work: Two Poems by Emily Brontë: With the Gondal Background of Her Poems and Novel by Fannie Elizabeth Ratchford, Emily Brontë. Modern Philology 33.2 (1935): 209-210.

Leach, Sally Sparks. “RATCHFORD, FANNIE ELIZABETH.” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fra42). Accessed September 22, 2015. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.