Throughout the past few weeks, I’ve been on a search for all 176 of Karl Kamrath’s books from the collection his children donated to the Architecture & Planning Library, with the goal to add a provenance note to each item’s record in the catalog (so all of you checking out books can know that it belonged to an influential architect!). At first, the project seemed just like just another task to complete – but it’s become so much more.
It’s amazing how much you can learn about an architect’s primary influences through the books he or she possessed. A hearty library is like a trophy for architects, and books are indispensable tools for practice. Karl Kamrath was immensely influenced by his friend Frank Lloyd Wright, and his dedication to creating organic modern architecture is what made him such a key player in Texas modern architectural history.
A little background: Karl Kamrath grew up in Austin and received his Bachelor of Architecture from The University of Texas in 1934. Upon graduating, he moved to Chicago, where he worked for Pereira and Pereira, the Interior Studios of Marshall Field and Co., and the Architectural Decorating Company. In 1937, he and another graduate of The University of Texas, Frederick James MacKie Jr., opened their own architectural firm, MacKie and Kamrath in Houston. MacKie and Kamrath were among the first Houston architects to follow a modernist approach to design for which they received national recognition.
Shortly after his 1946 return from a stint as a captain in the Army Corps of Engineers, Kamrath met Wright and immediately became an advocate of Wright’s Usonian architecture style. Kamrath became a member of the American Institute of Architects in 1939 and was elected to fellowship in the institute in 1955, and at various times served in an adjunct capacity at the University of Oklahoma, The University of Texas, Texas A&M University and the University of Oregon. He was also a founder and served on the board of the Contemporary Arts Museum from 1948 to 1952.
The fact that books owned by successful architects are circulating every day is a phenomenal asset of the Architecture & Planning Library. Other great collections include those of William Storrer, another Frank Lloyd Wright scholar, and Drury Blakeley Alexander, the namesake of the Alexander Architectural Archive, to name a few. I may be a little biased, but Karl Kamrath’s collection might be my favorite, mainly because of the diversity of publications and his signature ‘stamp’ that is found within the covers of most of his books.
Here are few that I’ve come across:
Perhaps my personal favorite, Kamrath drew his logo directly within Frank Lloyd Wright’s signature red box, found on most publications documenting his work. It’s clear just how influential Wright was on Kamrath.
Kamrath’s stamp can be found on a number of pages in some of his books. I thought this placement was especially unique.
Though faint, a raised stamp often accompanies many of Kamrath’s books with his logo, name, and FAIA association.
In addition to books with Kamrath’s personal stamp, many can be found with the joint MacKie and Kamrath firm logo.
Stamps aren’t the only thing you’ll find within the books of former owners. Notes or correspondence between friends and other practitioners is fairly common, and sometimes can leave you star struck.
Yep, that’s THE Mrs. Frank Lloyd Wright! This was taped on the back cover of The Grady Gammage Auditorium, call number NA 737 W7 A4 1964, within special collections.
Want to see some of these stamps and inscriptions for yourself? Here are a few that are circulating in the general collection:
Writings on Wright, Call Number NA 737 W7 W76, Copy 2
Frank Lloyd Wright: An Annotated Bibliography, Call Number NA 737 W7 S84, Copy 2
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Masters of World Architecture Series, Call Number NA 1088 M65 D7, Copy 4
The next time you check out a library book, keep an eye out for any markings on the front cover or amidst the pages; you might find a trace of its previous ownership. There’s hidden gems all over this library – it’s like a treasure hunt!
In addition to an extensive library with books in the general collection, special collections, and storage, The Alexander Architectural Archive possesses an incredible archival collection dedicated to the work of Karl Kamrath and the MacKie and Kamrath firm, including over 940 drawings, 530 black and white photographic prints, and even drafting tools. I’m a total sucker for hand drafted architectural renderings, and Kamrath produced some of the most beautiful that I’ve seen! If you have serious interest in viewing this collection, make an appointment with Nancy Sparrow to take a peak.
November 21st, 2013
As I work through the Frank L. Moreland collection, I am frequently surprised and impressed by his original architectural ideas and style that brought him recognition as one of the leaders in the field of earth-covered dwellings and communities. While arranging a collection, learning of an architect’s influences offers a new depth to understanding their methods. These glimpses of influence provide the context necessary to connect their work with their predecessors and contemporaries.
Today, as I began arranging Moreland’s travel photographs, I opened several envelopes with titles referring to another famous architect, Paolo Soleri. This discovery was somewhat timely, as 2013 saw the passing of Soleri at the age of 93. After receiving his Ph.D. in architecture, Soleri traveled from Italy to Arizona in 1947 to apprentice with Frank Lloyd Wright at FLLW’s Taliesin West. Soleri eventually purchased land in Arizona to work on his vision of the future, where architecture and ecology were inseparable. He termed this philosophy “arcology.”
Moreland Touring Soleri’s Home in 1991
Frank Moreland traveled to Soleri’s home and FLLW’s Taliesin West in 1991. By this time, Moreland was already an accomplished architect. He had started his own successful firm, Moreland Associates, built earth-covered residences around the Fort Worth area, and completed official reports for agencies such as the US Department of Energy, FEMA, and the National Science Foundation.
The amount of direct influence of Soleri’s work on Moreland’s designs remains to be discovered. So far, I have only come across a handful of photographs. However, certain methods used by Soleri in the 1960s and after were integral to Moreland’s designs. Most notably was the use of poured concrete structures. Moreland became very interested in the use of poured concrete structures while pursuing his undergraduate and graduate degrees. It is possible that he researched Soleri’s work during his time in school.
Regardless of the amount of direct influence, the fact that Moreland visited the home of the counterculture icon reveals that at some time, a connection was made. These connections are essential to tracing the history of ideas throughout any field. Soleri’s influence was certainly not the only one on Moreland, but it may have been an important one. He was also an avid researcher of earth-integrated dwellings throughout history and around the world. As an archives student, it is exciting to know that an effort is being made to preserve these connections. As Soleri and Frank Lloyd Wright influenced younger generations of architects with their work, Moreland has done the same. When Moreland’s materials are opened for research, they will be available once again to continue to influence a new generation of environmentally conscious architects.
August 20th, 2013
The Architecture & Planning Library recently acquired a limited edition facsimile of the Florence sketchbook of Frank Lloyd Wright, 1910, the manuscript sketchbook by Frank Lloyd Wright which served as the maquette or layout for the famous Wasmuth portfolio of 1910 entitled Ausgeführte Bauten Entwürfe von Frank Lloyd Wright [Studies and Executed Buildings by Frank Lloyd Wright].
This sketchbook has never been published before. Therefore, it will be a very important addition to our collections and will greatly complement our holdings of several editions of the Wasmuth portfolio. To learn more about these and other Frank Lloyd Wright materials in our collections read Kathryn Pierce’s entry in Shelflife@Texas.
Florence Sketchbook of Frank Lloyd Wright, 1910
November 23rd, 2010