Hi, I’m Kathleen Carter. As I detailed in my last blog post, I’ve been processing the Anthony Alofsin Archive, the papers of the University of Texas at Austin professor and author of several works on architecture. Currently, I’m in the rehousing stage of the project. I’ve been removing materials from their original boxes and folders and putting them into brand new archival folders and manuscript boxes. As with anything, these materials will age and may become unusable if not stored properly. By placing the papers into acid-free folders, putting all photographs into protective sleeves, and removing any damaging materials (for example, rusting paperclips), we can ensure that the Alofsin Archive will remain in good condition for as long as possible. To start with, I’ve been working on the materials that Dr. Alofsin collected on the history of design education.
The bulk of these materials are about the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD). Dr. Alofsin was commissioned by the GSD’s Dean Gerald McCue in 1985 to write a thorough history of design education at Harvard for its 50th anniversary in 1986 (also Harvard’s 350th anniversary). With editor Julia Bloomfield and research assistant Andrea Greenwood, Alofsin accumulated over six hundred pages of documentation on the history of school. These were used to plan the exhibition “The Founding Decades of the Schools of Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and City Planning at Harvard, 1895-1935″ held at the GSD in 1986. Alofsin also laid down the framework for a multi-volume series about the school. While those books were never published, Harvard later passed the rights of the materials to Alofsin. He used the research to write The Struggle for Modernism: Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and City Planning at Harvard, published in 2002.
Drafts of both the original volumes and The Struggle for Modernism are in the Alofsin Archive. The research for the 1986 project and other materials on the history of design education accumulated by Alofsin have also found their home in the Alexander Architectural Archives. These records include interviews with GSD alumni and faculty, work by students dating back to the 1930s, charts of the evolution of the GSD’s courses, hundreds of photographic materials, and even papers from the personal archive of the first GSD Dean Joseph Hudnut.
These materials will all be described in a complete finding aid of the Alofsin Archive and available to researchers to see for themselves!
My name is Kathleen Carter and I’m a recent graduate with a Master’s of Science in Library and Information Science from Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts. I moved to Austin to begin work as the Processing Archivist for the Anthony Alofsin Collection for the Alexander Architectural Archives. The position was generously funded by Dr. Alofsin along with the donation of his papers. Since the end of July, I’ve been processing the collection of the University of Texas at Austin professor, award-winning architect, author, exhibit curator, and expert on modern architecture.
If Dr. Alofsin seems like a man who wears many hats, the Archive of his materials certainly verifies that. A major part of the Alofsin Archive is his personal library, now housed in Special Collections of the Architecture and Planning Library. The collection of books, academic journals, and other publications varies from several volumes on architect Frank Lloyd Wright (Dr. Alofsin is a leading authority on Wright) to art books to collections of Irish ghost stories.
This wide array of interests and professional work comes through in every part of the collection, and has made it interesting to work with. The approximately 57 linear feet of archival material follows Alofsin’s personal and professional life from his days as a master’s candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Design to the intensive research accumulated for several of his publications. Over his thirty-year career, Alofsin has published a dozen books, founded The University of Texas at Austin’s Ph.D. in Architecture, and kept up a professional practice as an architect (including designing his own home). Alofsin has also, as the creator of the collection and therefore the preeminent expert on its contents, proven to be an invaluable resource himself. His office in the School of Architecture is a few minutes’ walk from where I’m working on his materials. Meeting with him has provided me otherwise impossible insight into the collection.
While completing the detailed inventory of the collection, I found Alofsin’s drawings, both his student work for Harvard and for his professional practice, some of the most visually stunning parts of the collection. For his final project at Harvard, Alofsin created a design for a new Boston City Hall. For another student project, Alofsin visited Jerusalem in 1980. The collection includes drawings and several 35mm slides of the Jerusalem Gates that he took on the trip. Later work includes drawings and plans for an addition to a historic home in Santa Fe, New Mexico and the plans for his own Austin, Texas home.
Other highlights of the collection include his work as a professor. The complete lectures and slides for Alofsin’s Survey courses on the history of modern architecture make up a substantial part of the collection. These allow for the study of courses which no longer exist and include an abundance of stunning visual material. Many photographic materials also exist for the body of research that Alofsin completed on Central European Architecture. Photos of beautiful architecture in Vienna, Prague, and Budapest used in Alofsin’s book When Buildings Speak: Architecture as Language in the Habsburg Empire and Its Aftermath, 1867-1933 fill several folders of the collection. Carefully rehousing all of these photos to preserve them for future research will make up the next large part of the project.
Along with rehousing and description, I will also create a complete archival finding aid of the materials. The finding aid will be available online and the collection open to researchers, allowing for the discovery of the wealth of information available within the Anthony Alofsin 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.
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.
Last week, Katie Pierce Meyer received an advanced copy of Architecture and Urbanism’s (A+U) special feature issue on the Kimbell Art Museum in Dallas Texas, which was designed by Louis I. Kahn (1972). Much like the theme of this issue- highlighting the collaborative design process between Louis I. Kahn, Dr. Richard Fargo Brown, and the office of Preston M. Geren & Associates- this special feature was a collaborative effort between the School of Architecture, the Architecture & Planning Library, and the Alexander Architectural Archive.
The seed for the issue began with the archive’s exhibition series, To Better Know a Building. The first exhibit featured the construction drawings of the Kimbell Art Museum from the Preston M. Geren Drawings. Through the coordination of Professor Wilfried Wang, O’Neil Ford Centennial Chair in Architecture at the University of Texas School of Architecture, and Nancy Sparrow, the archive’s Curatorial Assistant for Public Services, this special feature issue came to fruition. Professor Larry Speck, The W. L. Moody, Jr. Centennial Professor in Architecture at the University of Texas School of Architecture, contributed an essay. Katie Pierce Meyer, the interim APL Librarian, interviewed Frank H. Sherwood and Dewayne Manning, who both worked on the Kimbell project through the office of Preston M. Geren & Associates. The Alexander Architectural Archive contributed numerous drawings from the collection. In addition to the drawings included in the issue, the archive also holds structural, mechanical, and electrical drawings as well as photographs. Finally the Kimbell Art Museum and Carlos Jimenez from Rice University made contributions to the publication, photographs and an essay, respectively.
The library has not yet received a copy of this issue; however, it should hopefully be available on the new book table by late summer or early fall!
The Architecture & Planning Library and the Alexander Architectural Archive are pleased to announce the second installment in the To Better Know a Building series. Buildings featured in this series are selected by popular vote and exhibited the Battle Hall reading room. The Little Chapel in the Woods, designed by architects O’Neil Ford and Arch Swank, is this semester’s winning entry. It will be represented by the original construction drawings and photographs from the Ford collection. These pencil on paper drawings are a fine example of the art of construction drawings.
The To Better Know a Building series seeks to explore buildings through the drawings and other visual items found in the archive and library. Working drawings, including plans, elevations, and sections, often communicate the realization of design intent and are ideal vehicles in teaching through example. Exhibit openings include remarks by architects, and observations are encouraged from attendees to help promote discussion in understanding both the building and the profession.
Brantley Hightower will help celebrate the exhibit opening by offering remarks about the Little Chapel in the Woods. Hightower is an educator, author and founding partner in the San Antonio firm HiWorks. He received a BA and a BArch degree from UT Austin as well as a MArch degree from Princeton.
Attendees will also have an opportunity to vote for the next building featured in this series from a list provided by the Alexander Architectural Archive.
Please join us for the exhibit opening reception Monday, February 16 at 6pm in the Architecture and Planning Library reading room. Austin’s Pizza will be provided while it lasts.
Though Katie has been with us for a few months now, we would like to officially extend a warm welcome to her! Katie is the interim Architecture & Planning Librarian, replacing Martha Gonzales-Palacios, who has transitioned to a new role at the University of Oregon.
Those of you that are familiar with the library may know Katie – she’s been ‘with’ us in a number of capacities throughout the last few years! Graduate Assistant Stephanie Phillips sat down with Katie to introduce her to all audiences through a Spotlight Interview.
Stephanie: Tell us about yourself! What is your educational background?
Katie: I received my undergraduate degree in Philosophy from Southwestern University; I have a Masters degrees from University of Texas at Austin in Information Studies (MSIS) and a masters in Architectural History from the UTSOA; I am currently back in the iSchool, working on PhD in Information Studies. My research focuses on complexity of contemporary workplace practices and the preservation of architectural artifacts.
S: What is your history with the Architecture and Planning Library? How did you find yourself in this position?
K: My first semester in graduate school, I did a group project at the Alexander Architectural Archive. I loved working with architectural records and convinced them to hire me; I worked at the archives since May 2006, processing architectural collections. Most recently, I was the project manager for the Charles Moore archives. When the interim Architecture and Planning Librarian position opened up, I thought is was a great chance to do more work in the library and connect with the UTSOA students, faculty, and staff.
S: How would you describe this position? What will you be doing?
K: I will provide reference, research support, and library instruction. It has been a busy semester. I’ve really enjoyed teaching library instruction sessions for undergrads and grad students.
S: What are you most excited for in your new position?
K: I am most excited about fostering collaboration between the UT Libraries and UTSOA as well as with the School of Information. I see the potential for exciting projects that bring together the expertise in the libraries, Architecture, and the iSchool.
S: What is your favorite book?
K: Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman. My creative writing teacher gave it to me in high school and I try to re-read it every couple of years. It is a collection of short chapters, each on a different conception of time.
S: What are some of the best resources that the Architecture & Planning Library offers students?
K: We are fortunate to have a dedicated Architecture and Planning Library in close proximity to the School of Architecture. The library has a great collection of books and periodicals, fantastic materials in our special collections, and the Alexander Architectural Archive; a great staff, which I consider a resource; and many more!
S: To put you on the spot – what is the most interesting thing about yourself?
K: Probably my travel experiences. I had an opportunity to travel to Sweden with Wilfred Wang and a group of architecture students a few years ago, while completing my Architectural History degree. I attended a Digital Humanities Observatory workshop in Dublin and did an internship with ICCROM in Rome. I have tried to take advantage of educational opportunities where I get to travel. Oh, and I love ziplining! We went to Costa Rica for our honeymoon, partially because of the ziplining.
The Architecture & Planning Library and the Alexander Architectural Archive are pleased to announce a new series of exhibits in the Battle Hall Reading room starting this October! Join us this upcoming Monday, October 13th at 6:00pm for our opening reception.
The “To Better Know a Building” series seeks to explore buildings through the drawings and other visual items found in the archive and library with focus on working drawings. Plans, elevations, and sections usually communicate the realization of design intent and can be used as a vehicle in teaching through example.
The first in the series will feature the Kimbell Art Museum by Louis Kahn. The Alexander Architectural Archive has the original construction drawings in the Preston Geren collection. Preston Geren was the associate architect for the Kimbell Museum. These pencil on paper drawings are a fine example of the art of construction drawings.
The next building featured will be chosen by a vote by students, faculty, and staff in the UT Austin School of Architecture from a list provided by the Alexander Architectural Archive.
Exhibit Opening & Remarks by Larry Speck – Monday, October 13, 6:00 p.m. October 13 – January 30
To Better Know a Building: Kimbell Art Museum
Architecture & Planning Library Battle Hall Reading Room
Austin’s Pizza will be provided while it lasts.
See below for the official exhibition flier. We can’t wait to see you there!
Join us for the annual Alexander Architectural Archive Open House which showcases drawings illustrating Modernism(s).
The open house is taking place August 27-29 from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. – 4 p.m. Access to the archive is typically by appointment only but for the first three days of class we throw open the doors of the archive to welcome and inspire new and returning students.
The Archive is featuring hand drawn drawings, from sketches to polished presentation pieces, to motivate the student to get out and draw! See below for the official flier with additional details. We hope to see you there!
It’s one of our favorite times of the year once again: the arrival of both new students and familiar faces for the beginning of the fall semester! We’ve had a great summer here at the Architecture & Planning Library, but we always feel a little empty without students mulling about our stacks or studying in our Reading Room throughout all hours of the day.
To welcome new UTSOA students, the Architecture & Planning Library will be hosting an Open House tomorrow between key orientation presentations. Details are as follows:
What: Architecture & Planning Library Open House Where: Battle Hall – both the Library and Archive will be open for visits! When: Tuesday, August 26th from 5:00-6:00pm, between scheduled orientation sessions Why: To introduce you to your ultimate best friend in research for the next few years!
For incoming students planning on attending UTSOA’s orientation activities, you’ll notice that 5:00-6:00pm is directly between the mandatory orientation welcome and Dean Steiner’s back-to-school address at 6:15pm in the Jessen Auditorium. During that time, Dean’s Ambassadors will be offering tours of the Libraries and Resource Centers pertinent to life at the UTSOA. We invite you to stroll in at any time during that hour to explore both our stacks, Archive, and Reading Room. Did we mention we’ll have cool refreshments and warm cookies as a reprieve from the busy schedule of activites?!
Both new and returning students are happily welcomed. We can’t wait to see you there!
The Spring 2014 semester was an incredibly exciting one at the Architecture & Planning Library – especially for events! My personal favorite brought together multiple facets of the library and beyond: Emily Ardoin’s curation of the exhibition “Inside Modern Texas: the Case for Preserving Interiors.”
Beginning as a Graduate Research Assistant appointment in the Fall 2013 semester, Emily, a recent May 2014 Master of Science in Historic Preservation graduate, was tasked with the goal of pulling together an exhibition for the Architecture & Planning Library’s Reading Room that would be on display from early April through September 2014. This was no easy task, as she started completely from scratch! For inspiration on finding a topic, she sifted through myriad issues of Interiors magazine, Texas Architect, and more journals from the Architecture and Planning Library. Ultimately, Emily utilized her Interior Design background and Historic Preservation studies to create an exhibition topic that was specific enough to pin down a clear focus, yet broad enough to include a wide array of archival materials from the library and Alexander Architectural Archive.
The end result was “Inside Modern Texas: the Case for Preserving Interiors,” which aligned perfectly with the Society of Architectural Historian’s Annual Conference, held in Austin in April. We were lucky enough to go behind the scenes with Emily in the final weeks of her curation process. The exhibit’s opening reception on April 10th brought together conference visitors, library and archive employees, UT professors, students of myraid majors, and more.
Emily’s exhibition is a visual testiment to the incredible depth of resources available for researchers at the Architecture & Planning Library and the Alexander Architectural Archive, as well as the vital research endeavors that are created from endowments and scholarships. Says head librarian Beth Dodd:
“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.”
Now, as we approach the official first day of summer, we want to remind you that “Inside Modern Texas” is on display in the Reading Room until September! We can’t think of a better way to beat the heat than to go on the beautiful visual journey that Emily has curated for us.
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