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.
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).
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.
Blake Alexander, namesake of the Alexander Architectural Archive, was born on February 4, 1924 in Paris, Texas. He was a longtime architectural educator at the University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture as well as a dedicated force in the education, documentation and preservation of Texas heritage.
Professor Alexander first started the collection that today is known as the Alexander Architectural Archive in 1958 when he adapted an assignment for his architectural history course at UT to follow the Historic American Building Survey (HABS) format. This required students to measure and document historic Texas structures. The documentation collection quickly outgrew his office and began to collect in a small storage room, dubbed “Alexander’s Closet”.
During the 1960’s, a student brought Professor Alexander large paper sacks full of water-damaged drawings that had survived the 1900 Galveston hurricane. The drawings were from prominent local architect Nicholas Clayton, and sparked the idea to welcome the donation of original drawings by Texas architects that deserved to be preserved. In 1979, The University of Texas Libraries began to collect these drawings in “The Architectural Drawings Collection”.
The “Architectural Drawings Collection” was renamed the “Alexander Architectural Archive” in 1998 after the Texas Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians launched a campaign to honor the archives founder and recognize Professor Alexander’s pioneering contribution to the preservation of our architectural history. Today, the archive contains over 200,000 drawings and over 61 linear feet of papers, photographic materials, models and ephemera representing projects from Texas and beyond. The archive and Professor Alexander’s efforts have been an invaluable resource for restoring some of Texas’ most important and beloved buildings.
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.
It’s official: The Society of Architectural Historians Annual Conference is underway in our beloved Austin! Please visit here for a full listing of the conference’s events.
Because of the conference’s focus on architectural history, along with the opening of Emily Ardoin’s exhibit “Inside Modern Texas: A Case for Preserving Interiors,” we decided to delve into our archive’s bountiful resources to see if we could uncover material that was especially pertinent to the conference’s visit. The Alexander Architectural Archive holds the namesake of Drury Blakeley Alexander, architectural historian and Professor Emeritus at the University of Texas, who was an active member of the Society of Architectural Historians and believed wholly in the value of archival materials and research.
This fact was proven when Donna Coates, our Curatorial Assistant for Technical Services, informed me that Alexander’s collection included folders upon folders of saved Society of Architectural Historians conference materials. These folders contain invitations, programs, general correspondence, and more! I couldn’t believe that such a treasure is held within our very own Archive walls, provided by the namesake of the Archive itself. I also gained respect for low-grade hoarders; if I could high five Alexander for ensuring he retained nearly ALL of the materials of the conferences he attended, I totally would.
As I began sifting through the boxes that contained these folders, I became overwhelmed with the material. I also found myself simultaneously wishing that I could round up every interested individual in the Austin area and show them all of these wonderful treasures that Alexander had left for Archive users to potentially uncover and explore. As I grappled with the best way to present this material – ranging from the conference held 50 years ago, to showing snippets of material from every recent decade – I finally stumbled upon the folder I was looking for: the SAH Conference of 1978, which was held in nearby San Antonio.
This folder was so much fun to sift through, as it was full of correspondence between Alexander and professors from neighboring Texas universities. Alexander, for the 31st annual conference, wanted to bring together architectural history professors from across Texas and set up a collaborative session on Texas architecture – very similar to this year’s Austin Seminar. His dedicated effort to weaving a special Texas flair into the 31st Annual Conference was apparent, and, as evidenced by the official conference material from that year, certainly was not a fruitless effort. The conference featured several speakers presenting on topics relating to architecture in Texas, and he helped plan a day tour to Austin to unfurl the treasures that serve as some of the cornerstones of our great city.
Looking through these folders not only made me excited for this year’s Society of Architectural Historians Conference, but also reaffirmed how lucky we are to have such an incredible Architectural Archive as a resource for research and beyond. It is truly fitting that the namesake of the Archive contributed so greatly to the field of architectural history. Cheers to you, Blake Alexander!
In addition to being a man of wide and varying interests, Blake Alexander was also extremely well traveled and amassed a great many guide books and travelogues over the course of his life. Although many of these have since become outdated and should, therefore, probably not be used to for any type of serious vacation planning, these titles can still be chock-full of useful information for historians and preservationists alike.
One of the most enchanting items now in our library is a series of 35 Baedeker’s Travel Guides. Known for their straightforward advice and meticulous detail, these little red books were first published by Verlag Karl Baedeker in 1827. English language publication began in 1861 and soon the guide books were considered an essential part of the tourist’s arsenal. The books, which included maps, route recommendations, and a star system for rating sights and accommodations, were once culturally significant enough to be referenced in E. M. Forster’s A Room with a View and in Thomas Pynchon’s short story, “Under the Rose.” They also had a more nefarious use during the Second World War when Nazi propagandist Baron Gustav Braun von Sturm declared “We shall go out and bomb every building in Britain marked with three stars in the Baedeker Guide” right before the Luftwaffe embarked on a series of brutal attacks against the historic cities of Exeter, Bath, Norwich, York, and Canterbury.
Blake’s collection of Baedeker’s spans from 1884 to 1988, with the bulk of the collection falling before the 1940s. The countries represented in his library include Egypt, Italy, Greece, Switzerland, Canada, Belgium, and France, as well as the now defunct Austria-Hungary and Syria-Palestine. City guides include London, San Francisco, Paris, Vienna, Budapest, and Berlin. The United States with excursions to Mexico, Cuba, Porto Rico, and Alaska is one of my personal favorites from the series. Particularly relevant (and amusing!) is this description of Austin (including the University of Texas):
“Austin (Driskill, R. $1-2 1/2; Avenue $2-2 1/2; Hancock $2-2 1/2), the capital of Texas, a pleasant little city with 22,258 inhab., lies on the Colorado River, in full view of the Colorado Mts. Its handsome red granite Capitol, finely situated on high ground, was built by Chicago capitalists in 1881-88, at a cost of 3 1/2 million dollars, in exchange for a grant of 3 million acres of land. It is the largest capitol in America, after that at Washington, and is said to be the seventh-largest building in the world. Other prominent buildings are the State University (2290 students), the Land Office, the Court House, and various Asylums. The Monument to the Terry Rangers is by Pompeo Coppini. About 2 M. above the city is the Austin Dam, a huge mass of granite masonry, 1200 ft. long, 60-70 ft. high, and 18-66 ft. thick, constructed across the Colorado River for water-power and water-works. Lake McDonald, formed by the dam, is 25 M. long.”
Garnier, Charles. Le nouvel Opéra de Paris. Paris: Ducher, 1878-1881.
The recent transfer of Charles Garnier’s (1825-1898) Le nouvel Opéra de Paris from the Alexander Architectural Archive to the Architecture and Planning Library adds an additional copy of this beautiful title to the library’s special collections. Issued in parts between 1878 and 1881, this publication on the Palais Garnier originally encompassed two volumes of text, two folios of engraved plates, and four atlases of photographs. Blake Alexander’s library only includes one portion of the whole but, luckily, that portion is the folio of twenty sumptuous chromolithographs illustrating the luxurious interior decoration.
Garnier began work on his magnificent Neo-Baroque-inspired building in 1860 (at the young age of 35) when he entered a competition to design a new home for the Académie Nationale de Musique. After winning fifth prize out of 170 entrants in the first stage of the competition, Garnier’s submission for the second phase was ultimately selected for its “rare and superior qualities in the beautiful distribution of the plans” and “the monumental and characteristic aspect of the facades and sections.” Construction began shortly thereafter, although the building would not be completed for another fourteen years due to construction setbacks and the Franco-Prussian War. When the opera house was finally inaugurated in 1875, the lavish gala performance was attended by all of Europe’s most prestigious monarchs.
The first volume of Le nouvel Opéra de Paris was published in 1878 to both celebrate and defend Garnier’s architectural designs. The volume of chromolithographs followed in 1881 and depicts the delicate marbles, frescoes, mosaics, colored tiles, gold sculptures, ornate paintings, and curtains, as well as the ornamentation of the grand staircase.
Nolli, Giambattista Nolli, Leonardo Bufalini, and Joseph Rykwert. Nuova pianta di Roma data in luce da Giambattista Nolli, l’anno MDCCXLVII. London: Architecture Unit, Polytechnic of Central London, 1977.
Along with the maps of Paris, several other map facsimiles were transferred from the Alexander Architectural Archive to the Architecture and Planning Library. One of these was Nuova pianta di Roma data in luce da Giambattista Nolli, l’anno MDCCXLVII, a 1977 reproduction of Giambattista Nolli’s (1701-1756) famous ichnographic map of Rome. Nolli began survey work on his map in 1736 and the map was published in 1748. Composed of twelve copper plate engravings that could be assembled into a nearly six by seven foot display, the “Nolli map” was revolutionary for both its accuracy (down to the asymmetry of the Spanish Steps!) and the way it distinguished between open civic and closed private spaces rather than simply denoting interiors and exteriors. This meant that not just the streets, but the cathedrals, Pantheon, and colonnades of St. Peter’s, were left white, while private buildings, walls, and columns were shaded in poché. The map, which is beautifully rendered in crisp black and white, is framed by Stephano Pozzi’s (1699-1768) elaborate vedute depicting St. Peter’s Square.
In addition to the Nolli map, this publication by Polytechnic College of London (now the University of Westminster) includes an introduction by the University of Pennsylvania’s Paul Philippe Cret Professor of Architecture Emeritus, Joseph Rykwert (1926- ), as well as Nolli’s reproduction of Leonardo Bufalini’s 1551 Pianta di Roma. An interactive version of the map, created by professors at the University of Oregon, can be seen here.
I’m in the last few days of my project processing the Blake Alexander Collection, and while I’m happy that it’s nearly in a stage to open it up for researchers, I’m sad to leave. I graduated a few weeks ago and am now moving on from my Graduate Research Assistant position.
The collection will be ready for researchers soon, and I hope that you are as excited as I am about its usefulness. There are so many materials in the collection which could be used for so many different types of research. However, the ones that I find the most useful are:
Curriculum Development at the University
Historic Preservation in Texas
The Architectural History Profession in the US
University campus and buildings history
Images of Texas architecture
I had the opportunity to present my work at the Society of Southwest Archivists Annual Meeting in Austin last week, and I’ve included the poster which I presented below.
I chose the image above for this blog post because I feel like it does a good job of capturing the spirit of the School of Architecture at the time. Blake Alexander gave so much of his time, energy, and efforts to promoting the historic preservation and architectural history programs in the School of Architecture and beyond, and I think that this photo speaks to the camaraderie which he fostered. However, we don’t have all of the people in the photograph identified. Do you know who some of them are? If so, please comment on this post and let us know. And, check back soon for a completed finding aid for this collection.
Bretez, Louis. Paris au XVIIIe siècle; Plan de Paris en 20 planches dessiné et gravé sous les ordres de Michel-Étienne Turgot, prévôt des marchands. Commencé en 1734, achevé de graver en 1739. Levé et dessiné par Louis Bretez. Paris: A. Taride, [1908?].
Bretez, Louis, André Rossel, and Michel-Etiene Turgot. Le Plan de Louis Bretez dit Plan de Turgot. Paris: Éditions les Yeux ouverts, [1966?].
Recently, the Architecture and Planning Library took possession of several books, that were originally housed in the Alexander Architectural Archive. These books, formerly owned by the late Blake Alexander, were transferred to the library’s special collections in order to allow greater access to students and researchers alike.
Two of the books, officially titled Paris au XVIIIe siècle; Plan de Paris en 20 planches dessiné et gravé sous les ordres de Michel-Étienne Turgot, prévôt des marchands and Le Plan de Louis Bretez dit Plan de Turgot, represent different twentieth century facsimiles of a the same publication, Le Plan de Turgot. Le Plan de Turgot, a detailed bird’s-eye view of Paris, is one of the most famous urban maps ever created. Commissioned by the prévôt des marchands de Paris, Michel-Étienne Turgot (1690-1751), in 1734, the map was realized by Louis Bretez over the course of five years. Bretez, a member of the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture who specialized in architectural perspective, was given free reign to enter Paris’ mansions, houses and gardens in order to capture every building, window, tree, shadow and park in exhausting (and accurate!) detail. The completed map, consisting of twenty pages that could be assembled into a massive display of the first eleven modern-day arrondissements, was engraved by Claude Lucas and published in 1739. Lucas’ original plates are kept by the Chalcographie du Louvre where they could still (theoretically) be used today for printing.
Of the two reproductions, Paris au XVIIIe siècle, is the oldest. This book was published circa 1908 by Alphonse Taride, a Paris based publisher who specialized in maps, tourist guides, histories, and pocket plans of France. The other facsimile, Le Plan de Louis Bretez dit Plan de Turgot, is much newer having been published circa 1966 by Éditions les Yeux ouverts.
Library of Congress call numbers: -F- 912.4436 B755P and -F- 912.4436 B755P 1966.
Blog from the University of Texas Architecture and Planning Library