Category Archives: Alexander Architectural Archive

Collection Highlight: Karl Kamrath Collection

Karl Kamrath (architect). Farnsworth & Chambers Office Building, Houston, Texas. Undated. Pencil, colored pencil and crayon on trace paper. 11 7/8 x 25 1/8 in. Karl Kamrath Collection, Alexander Architectural Archives.

Houston architect Karl Kamrath had an opportunity to meet Frank Lloyd Wright when he visited Taliesin in June of 1946. The encounter had a profound effect on Kamrath’s architectural designs as he began creating Organic architecture, integrating human habitation with the natural environment.

Kamrath’s collection — which resides in the Alexander Architectural Archives — includes business papers, project records, correspondence, original architectural design drawings, photographs, prints and ephemera.

Karl Kamrath.
Karl Kamrath.

The archive provides insight into the prolific Texan’s work, much of whose modernist design aesthetic paid homage to Wright, and includes some of Kamrath’s award-winning projects such as the Kamrath residence of 1939, Temple Emanu-El in Houston, the Houston Fire Alarm Building, M.D. Anderson Hospital and Tumor Institute, and the Contemporary Arts Association in Houston. The archive also includes a number of volumes from Kamrath’s personal library that shed further light on his influences.

Karl Kamrath grew up in Austin and earned his bachelor’s degree from The University of Texas. In 1934, he moved to Chicago, where he worked for the architectural firm Pereira and Pereira, the Interior Studios of Marshall Field and Co. and the Architectural Decorating Company.

In 1937, he and another former graduate of the university, Frederick James MacKie Jr. opened their own architectural firm, MacKie and Kamrath in Houston, Texas. MacKie and Kamrath were among the first Houston architects to follow a modernist approach to design for which they received national recognition.

Kamrath left the firm from 1942 to 1945 to serve as a captain in the Army Corps of Engineers. Shortly after his return in 1946, 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.

Collections Highlight: Stewart King’s Mission Landscapes

Stewart King (architect). Patio garden and circulation plan for Mission San Francisco de la Espada, Scheme 1, San Antonio, Texas. ca. 1957. Marker, pencil, and crayon on paper. 21.5 x 32.25 in. Stewart King collection. Alexander Architectural Archive.
Stewart King (architect). Patio garden and circulation plan for Mission San Francisco de la Espada, Scheme 1, San Antonio, Texas. ca. 1957. Marker, pencil, and crayon on paper. 21.5 x 32.25 in. Stewart King collection. Alexander Architectural Archive.

A contemporary of O’Neil Ford, San Antonio landscape architect Stewart King was an avid historic preservationist and advocate of indigenous plants whose involvement with the San Antonio Conservation Society as advisor and consultant led to his involvement in the preservation and restoration of the Old Spanish Missions. The example above is from the Mission San Francisco de la Espada, located in southeast San Antonio on the banks of the San Antonio River.

King is considered a pioneer in designing sustainable landscapes. His collection at the Alexander Architectural Archive contains documentation from 19 years of his professional career, featuring plant files, photographs and landscape plans, including 2,500 landscape architecture drawings.

To Better Know Ford’s “Little Chapel”

Little Chapel in the Woods” at Texas Woman’s University (TWU) in Denton is the next featured work in the archive’s “To Better Know a Building” exhibit series that draws on the rich collections of The University of Texas at Austin’s premiere architecture special collection.

The small nonsectarian chapel — ninety feet long and forty-two feet wide, constructed of grey fieldstone and brick from nearby Bridgeport — was intended to reflect the indigenous style of the region while harkening to more modern sensibilities. The chapel is an early reflection of the role of craft in Ford’s career as well.

A design competition in 1938 resulted in the selection of the newly partnered O’Neil Ford and Arch Swank as architects, with Gerald Rogers chosen to devise a method to formulate the arches for the working drawings for the project. They were to be assisted by college architect Preston M. Geren, Sr., of Fort Worth.

The project was funded by an initial donation of $15,000 from the W. R. Nicholson family of Longview, Texas, with an additional $10,000 raised by students, faculty and alumni of the college.

Despite its relatively low budget, the project benefitted from the participation of a public works’ project — the National Youth Administration — which provided construction trainees as laborers; the workforce was augmented by more than 300 TWU students and faculty members, allowing construction of the chapel to be completed in late 1939.

The building has been designated one of the state’s 20 most outstanding architectural achievements by the Texas Society of Architects.

The Alexander Architectural Archive — a special collection of the Architecture & Planning Library — has among its materials the original construction drawings from the offices of Ford and Swank in the O’Neil Ford collection. The exhibit will present correspondence, notes, sketches, drawings and printed materials related to the design and construction of the building.

“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, February 16, in the reading room of the Architecture & Planning Library, located in historic Battle Hall. The event is free and open to the public.

UT alumnus Brantley Hightower — an educator, author and founding partner in the San Antonio firm HiWorks — will lead the exhibit opening by offering remarks about the “Little Chapel in the Woods.”

Attendees to the reception will have an opportunity to vote — along with students, faculty and staff in the School of Architecture — to help determine the next building featured in the series, chosen from a list of holdings of the Alexander Architectural Archive.

To Better Know a Building: Little Chapel in the Woods” will be on view in the reading room of the Architecture and Planning Library through August 31, 2015.

 

Bexar County Courthouse by James Riely Gordon

Bexar County Courthouse rendering, undated Bexar County, Texas. James Riely Gordon Drawings and Papers. Alexander Architectural Archive. University of Texas Libraries. The University of Texas at Austin.
Bexar County Courthouse rendering, undated Bexar County, Texas. James Riely Gordon Drawings and Papers. Alexander Architectural Archive. University of Texas Libraries. The University of Texas at Austin.

James Riely Gordon (1863-1937) was an architect who practiced in both San Antonio and New York City, best-known for his Richardsonian Romanesque designs of public buildings which accommodated a natural ventilation system so essential in the hot, Texas climate.

Gordon excelled at the design of public buildings and constructed 16 county courthouses in Texas alone. Among his designs for courthouses in Texas include the example above in Bexar County (1891-1896), as well as structures in Victoria County (1892), Ellis County (1895) and McLennan County (1901). 

His collection at the Alexander Architectural Archive contains 6,500 drawings, 13 linear feet of architectural records, and 1,600 photographs representing more than 300 buildings and documenting both the Texas and New York phases of Gordon’s career (1890-1937). 

Gordon’s public works across the state are cataloged in the book James Riely Gordon: His Courthouses and Other Public Architecture by Chris Meister (Texas Tech University Press, 2011).

Texas Oilmen and Coastal Architecture

Sid Richardson residence photograph of exterior corner, undated. San Jose Island, Texas. O'Neil Ford collection, Alexander Architectural Archive, University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.
Sid Richardson residence photograph of exterior corner, undated. San Jose Island, Texas. O’Neil Ford collection, Alexander Architectural Archive, University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.

Along with providing invaluable resources for myriad scholarly and research inquiries, the Libraries collections can also occasionally become a sole source for needs of journalistic enterprise, as well, especially in the form of those unique items that are part of the Libraries’ special collections.

That was the case in a current three-part series by reporter Alan Peppard of the Dallas Morning News that looks at two small islands off the Texas coast that served as recreational and power centers for a pair of the richest oilmen in the state’s history.

“Islands of the Oil Kings” examines the islets of Matagorda and San Jose near Port Aransas. A significant portion of the former was purchased by Clint Murchison Sr., and the entirety of the latter was acquired by his lifetime best friend, Sid Richardson, both of the properties becoming retreats where the oilmen could both relax and play host to the most influential of guests, magnates of business and current and future leaders, including Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and a then-aspiring senatorial candidate named Lyndon Johnson.

Richardson’s San Jose sanctuary featured a house designed by esteemed Texas architect O’Neil Ford that married the sophistication of European modernism with the simplicity of the Texas ranch style. Being located in a place that was consistently the red zone for hurricanes, the building had to also be constructed with the strength to withstand the worst that nature could offer. When completed, Ford claimed that the structure was “tight enough to strum,” and, indeed, when Category 5 Hurricane Carla hit the Texas coast in mid-September 1961, the house survived with a mere broken window in the kitchen.

In pulling together resources for Part 2 of this excellent long-form article featuring engaging complementary multimedia components, Peppard leaned on the Alexander Architectural Archive (AAA) — part of the Architecture and Planning Library in historic Battle Hall — to provide photography of Ford’s design work on the Richardson compound.  AAA maintains the collections of numerous notable Texas architects and designers, including a comprehensive archive of O’Neil Ford’s career with papers, plans, photographic prints and negatives, slides, exhibit boards, drawings and sketches that are preserved for use by students, scholars, researchers and architecture aficionados.

See more images of the Richardson home from the O’Neil Ford collection below.

Semester Recap: The Unbridled Beauty of Watercolor Renderings

To kick off a series of blog posts recapping the Spring 2014 semester, we figured we’d start with one of the most visually captivating: watercolor renderings from our very own Alexander Architectural Archive.

Earlier in the semester, Judy Birdsong’s Visual Communications studio paid a visit to the Archive to check out some of our working drawings in order to see how they have changed over the years. This is a completely fascinating progression, and one of my personal favorite things to view when I visit the Archive for my own research needs. However, a few weeks later, students were assigned a project requiring watercolor — and the watercolor renderings the Archive has are an absolutely incredible resource!

I was lucky enough to be given a similar exposure to the Archive’s watercolors by Curatorial Assistant Nancy Sparrow, and I’m here to pass on the unbridled beauty. If any of you happen to have been looking to improve your architectural watercolor skills, the Archive is an unparalleled resource!

Throughout final reviews, a similar version of the same comment often comes to the surface: accurately conveying an architectural idea heavily depends on the way you draw or render your final presentation graphically. With so much focus on computer generated renderings in practice today, watercolors are almost slowly being vaulted into the ranks of a lost art. These stunning examples from the Archive showcase immaculate talent that displays a clear understanding of color, shadow, contrast, and fine detail by the artist.

We hope the following high-resolution images inspire you in some way, whether out of pure admiration, or to pursue a new (or revived!) technique in the renderings you produce yourself. Click on the below photographs to view in beautiful detail!

I was floored by this beautiful rendering of the Flawn Academic Center, located just across the mall from Battle Hall. Nancy and I could not stop admiring the glass…

You can continue reading the rest of this article by Architecture & Planning Library GRA Stephanie Phillips over at the Battle Hall Highlights blog.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Posthumous Contribution: An Icon of a City

Plans for the redevelopment of Olin Park in Madison, WI from Frank Lloyd Wright’s work on the Monona Basin Project.

While searching for all of the items in Karl Kamrath’s Collection last semester, I was directly exposed to the vast depth and diversity of a successful architect’s personal library. From Alden Dow to Katherine Morrow to Richard Neutra, Kamrath’s collection spanned decades and encompassed elements of major movements and achievements in the 20th century.

While his collection contains some quintessential readings that were quite prolific (such as Louis Sullivan’s Kindergarten Chats and Other WritingsHassan Fathy’s Architecture for the Poor: An Experiment in Rural Egyptand Frank Lloyd Wright’s The Future of Architecture), there are also some limited publications of several design projects that Kamrath and his firm were associated with. As I sifted through special collections to find these professional reports, one caught my eye before I even noticed the Kamrath Collection stamp on the cover: The Monona Basin Project.

My interest directly stems from the report’s subject: a schematic master plan for the city of Madison, Wisconsin. As a University of Wisconsin graduate who spent five years in Madison, I was immediately intrigued by the possibility of being able to compare my visual of Madison with a plan dating back to 1967.

For anyone that’s either been a resident of the greater Wisconsin-Illinois area or happens to be a Frank Lloyd Wright buff, you know that Wright’s career began in Madison as a student at the University of Wisconsin. Though he never completed his engineering degree, he went on to realize many significant projects in Madison and the surrounding area, including the Robert M. Lamp House, Unitarian Meeting House, and Taliesin in nearby Spring Green, one of his most famous projects. However, Monona Terrace likely possesses one of the most interesting timelines of all of Wright’s works – and I’m here to share that story with you all!

You can continue reading the rest of this article by Architecture & Planning Library GRA Stephanie Phillips over at the Battle Hall Highlights blog.

Blake Alexander (Feb. 4, 1924 – Dec. 11, 2011)

Blake Alexander

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Drury Blakeley Alexander, whose namesake Alexander Architectural Archive in the Architecture & Planning Library is the premier collection of architectural resources in Texas.

Blake was a champion for the education, documentation, and preservation of Texas’ architectural heritage. He was also a pioneer in recognizing the importance of archiving architectural records. The Alexander Architectural Archive grew out of his personal collection and stewardship. The resources he collected continue to play an important role in the restoration of many of Texas’ most important buildings and continue to support the education and scholarship of American architectural history.

To learn more about Blake’s life and legacy, please see:

Space as Music

Experimental musician and composer Ellen Fullman brings her Long String Instrument to the Architecture & Planning Library in historic Battle Hall on Thursday (10/20) at 8:30pm to premiere “Tracings,” her newest work and one that used the building as its inspiration.

Fullman began developing the Long String – which has a sound that conjures an ambient/orchestral hybrid  – in the 1980’s in her Brooklyn studio, and in the thirty years hence has taken it to locations across the country, including for a performance at the Seaholm Power Plant in March of last year.

The performance is part of the Music in Architecture / Architecture in Music Symposium hosted by the Center for American Architecture and Design, the College of Fine Arts and the Sarah and Ernest Butler School of Music, and features Fullman both solo and with the Austin New Music Coop.

Joining Fullman are NMC musicians Brent Fariss (contrabass), Nick Hennies (percussion), Andrew Stoltz (overtone guitar designed by Arnold Dreyblatt) and Travis Weller (playing his custom string instrument “The Owl“).

The performance is free and open to the public. More info here, or RSVP on Facebook.

Architecture and Planning Exhibit Celebrates Mexico 2010

In recognition of the dual celebration of the bicentennial of Mexico’s Independence and centenary of the Mexican Revolution – both occurring in 2010 – the Architecture and Planning Library at The University of Texas at Austin is hosting “Maya Architecture: Selections from the George F. and Geraldine Andrews Collection.”

The exhibition highlights materials from an exhaustive and fully documented visual record of architecture of the lowland Maya area that is part of the Library’s collection.

In the late 1950s, University of Oregon architecture professor George Andrews and his wife Geraldine visited the Yucatán for the first time, and for the next forty years they devoted their professional lives to the study and documentation of Maya architecture.

The couple’s extended research produced a remarkable collection that includes an architectural data bank representing 850 buildings at 240 archaeological sites in the lowland Maya area.

The Andrews Collection was donated to the university by the couple in 2000.

The exhibition captures a small portion of George and Geraldine Andrews’ effort to document and reconstruct the art and architecture of the ancient lowland Maya. Samples from the collection reveal aspects of Andrews’ scholarship, collecting and creative talents by featuring a selection of buildings, monuments, graffiti and the resulting work conducted in the archives.

Meghan Rubenstein, an art history Ph.D. student, assisted Donna Coates and Beth Dodd of the Alexander Architectural Archive in the curation of the Andrews exhibition.

The exhibit will be on display in the Architecture and Planning Library reading room in Battle Hall through September 2010.

For a first hand perspective on the production of the exhibit, head over to the Architecture & Planning Library’s blog, APLHighlights.