Alofsin Archive: Central European Architecture

This is Kathleen Carter again with another update on the Anthony Alofsin archive processing. The Design Education materials have all been safely rehoused, so I’ve moved on to the Central European Architecture materials in the collection.

Research notes by A Tense Alliance scholar Monika Platzer
Research notes by A Tense Alliance scholar Monika Platzer

In the early 1990s, Dr. Alofsin led a team of scholars from all over the world in a research consortium called “A Tense Alliance: Architecture in the Habsburg Lands, 1893-1928.” The Tense Alliance research project was supported by the Internationales Forschungzenstrum Kulturewissenschafe (IFK) research institute in Vienna, the Getty Research Institute, and the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA).  Scholars explored the role of architecture in Central Europe and the project resulted in an international traveling exhibition “Shaping the Great City: Modern Architecture in Central Europe, 1890-1937.” Alofsin independently continued his research from the Tense Alliance project and also wrote the book When Buildings Speak: Architecture as Language in the Habsburg Empire and Its Aftermath, 1867-1933 on emerging architectural styles of the late Austro-Hungarian Empire.

 

Both the field notes and research from the Tense Alliance project

Color layout of When Buildings Speak pages
Color layout of When Buildings Speak pages

and Alofsin’s work on When Buildings Speak make up the Central European Architecture materials of the Anthony Alofsin archive.  Alofsin also made a point to have beautiful color photography taken of the architecture explored in his book. As a result, not only do the Central European Architecture materials contain accumulated research and multiple drafts of When Buildings Speak, but also thousands of stunning visual materials including photos, transparencies, 35 mm slides, and negatives.

Transparency of a photo taken by Hans Engel for When Buildings Speak
Transparency of a photo taken by Hans Engels for When Buildings Speak

As with the Design Education materials, I have been rehousing these materials into new archival quality folders and boxes. I’ve also been at work adding the Central European Architecture materials to a draft of a finding aid of the collection. The finding aid will eventually provide researchers with a guide to all of the Alofsin materials. While carefully placing all of these photographs into protective sleeves and papers into new folders is time consuming work, it’s necessary for their long-term preservation, and the materials themselves are incredibly interesting and beautiful to see. I’ve really enjoyed both working with them and the knowledge that in the future others will be able to access them as well.

Alofsin Archive: Design Education

Alofsin Archive Design Education materials rehoused in their new manuscript boxes
Alofsin Archive Design Education materials rehoused in their new manuscript boxes

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.

 

Alofsin's book on the Harvard Graduate School of Design published in 2002
Alofsin’s book on the GSD

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.

 

GSD student Raymond F. Leonard's 1931 thesis, an example of student work accumulated in the archive
GSD student Raymond F. Leonard’s 1931 thesis, an example of student work Alofsin collected

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!

A photograph from the archive of early GSD students working in the historic Robinson Hall
A photograph from the collection showing early GSD students at work in the historic Robinson Hall