Tag Archives: architectural history

Alofsin Archive: Course Materials

The original carousels that housed all of the lecture slides, now empty
The original carousels that housed all of the lecture slides, now empty

Hello, I’m Kathleen Carter and this is another post documenting my work processing the Anthony Alfosin archive.

As discussed in previous blog posts, Dr. Anthony Alofsin is a prolific writer. He is also an accomplished professor. So with all of his research and manuscripts carefully inventoried and rehoused, I’ve now moved onto another area of the Alofin archive: the course materials.

Dr. Alofsin has taught at The University of Texas at Austin since 1987 where he was instrumental in founding the School of Architecture’s Ph.D. program and has offered many courses over his career. Materials from these courses, especially from the architectural survey courses that provided overviews and comparisons of architecture from around the world and throughout history, are included in the papers that he donated to the Alexander Architectural Archive. Though some of these courses are no longer taught, the Alofsin archive contains their lecture notes, reading materials, syllabi, and many, many 35 mm slides used for lectures – 2,415 to be exact!

Slides from the Survey III course that Alofsin taught in their new housing
Slides from the Survey III course that Alofsin taught in their new housing

The slides include stunning images of architecture from around the world and provided the visual accompaniment for Alofsin’s survey courses on the history of architecture. A big part of processing this portion of the collection was rehousing all of them – each of the 43 carousels took an average of about twenty minutes to completely rehouse, which added up!

All of the slides were kept in slide carousels organized by each individual lecture, still arranged in the order that they were used in the class. While this was great for seeing exactly how the slides fit into Alofsin’s lectures, each carousel took up a great deal of space and wasn’t the best environment for the long-term storage and preservation of these slides. For their well-being, I carefully removed each from its carousel and (while maintaining their order) rehoused them into archival boxes. Here they will be more easily accessible and safe while still remaining in the context that Alofsin used them in the courses that he taught for the School of Architecture.

One of the five boxes now containing all 2,414 lecture slides
One of the five boxes now containing all 2,414 lecture slides

These slides, along with a great deal of notes and materials from courses that Alofsin taught, make up one of the most fascinating parts of the collection, but a small part of Alofsin’s overall career. Next I will be working on organizing and rehousing the administrative documents from Alofsin’s career as a professor at The University of Texas at Austin as well as some of his professional work as an architect.

So Many New Books at APL!

Just as the semester is coming to close, APL received a bunch of new books. To follow is a selection of the ones that appealed most to me- monographs on Piranesi and The Dakota, respectively, and two works on architectural types, the English Cottage and the Russian wooden church. But you should stop in and see the the lot of them yourself!

Minor, Heather Hyde. Piranesi’s Lost Words. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2015.

According to Heather Hyde Minor:

The books he [Piranesi] produced were his most powerfully creative art. The complex and compelling story found in the pages of his folios reveals that Piranesi was not just fiercely talented artist but an extraordinary author. (pg. 209)

MinorMinor examines the career of Piranesi as an author. Her first two chapters consider reader reception of his work, Antichità romane, in the twenty-first and eighteenth centuries, respectively. The next three chapters are each dedicated to one of Piranesi’s texts and its larger context: Campus Martius antiquae urbis, Della magnificenza ed architettura de’ Romani, and Diverse maniere d’adornare i cammini ed ogni altra parte degli edifizi desunte dall’architettura Egizia, Etrusca e Greca. Finally, Minor traces the history of Piranesi’s works after his death. Ultimately, Minor seeks to create an understanding about the relationship between the images of the texts and the texts themselves (pg. 1-12).

Alpern, Andrew. The Dakota: A History of the World’s Best-Known Apartment Building. With contributions by Christopher S. Gray. Photographs by Kenneth G. Grant. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2015.

AlpernIn his monograph on The Dakota, Andrew Alpern includes a wide variety of evidence in his documentation of the apartment building. The topics addressed include historical context, location, architect, patron, its iconic stature, the residents, and preservation. Mia Ho contributed new plans of the apartment building. Historical and current photographs in addition to other archival material are reproduced for the book. Finally, Alpern has included 10 documents, published between 1878 and 1889 about The Dakota in the appendices.

Maudlin, Daniel. The Idea of the Cottage in English Architecture, 1760-1860. New York: Routledge, 2015.

Daniel Maudlin writes:

MaudlinThe Idea of the Cottage in English Architecture is the history of the architect-designed cottage between 1760 and 1860. The architect-designed cottage, predominantly expressed in new designs for small buildings on country estates and large villas by the sea, was the product of specific discourses in English architectural writings on landscape, rural retreat and the simple life. (pg. 1)

I selected this work, because I often find books related to cottages and landscape in Special Collections. If you are interested in this topic, we have great primary source material- some of which has be represented on Battle Hall Highlights.

Khodakovsky, Evgeny. Wooden Church Architecture of the Russian North: Regional Schools and Traditions (14th-19th Centuries). New York: Routledge, 2016.

Evgeny Khodakovsky writes:

KhodakovskyMy deep immersion in this rich and varied material also engendered a conviction that it should be made accessible to more than only a Russian-speaking audience. With this publication of an academic survey of the wooden architecture of the Russian North in English, my aim is to see it included in the history of world art as the most Russian phenomenon within Russian architecture, free of any sort of external influences or involvements.  A further factor of no small importance is that the book represents a response to the long-standing interest in wooden architecture as one of the components of Russian national artistic culture that has been manifested by English-language writers as far back as the mid-sixteenth century… (pg. xiii)

His chapters address issues related to source material, geography, historical interest, and typology. Flipping through the book, I would say that I wish it was more extensively illustrated. There are some great black and white photos of the churches and construction details; however, the drawings and interior photographs are limited.

APL Spotlight Interview: Katie Pierce Meyer

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.

Welcome, Katie! We’re so glad you’re here!

To Better Know a Building Exhibit Opening: This Monday!

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!

To Better Know a Building

Alexander Architectural Archive Open House: Modernism(s)

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!


Feature Friday: OnArchitecture Database

We are so excited to announce – and subsequently feature – our recent subscription to OnArchitecture, an online audiovisual database that functions as an artistic archive exclusively for professional and educational institutions around the world. OnArchitecture contains original material focusing on key individuals, buildings, and installations in contemporary architecture, and highlights them through interviews, documents, audiovisuals, and more. In their own words, this database provides “a synthetic, deep and detailed panorama of the world’s main authors, works, experiences and problematics related to the field of architecture.

OnArchitecture boasts an extensive catalog of buildings and installations, including influential works like the Sendai Mediatheque by Toyo Ito; Capitol Complex in Chandigarh, India by Le Corbusier; and Ai Weiwei’s Fake Design. The catalog is presented clearly and cleanly, meaning that it’s exceptionally easy to maneuver through and explore. The main page for each work features a brief video, a summary of the work, additional documents, and – my personal favorite – a suggested bibliography of additional information on the building or piece. I love this setup, as the page serves as a key introduction to the main aspects of a work of art, and then both encourages and facilitates additional research. As a student, I cannot even begin to express how handy this is!

Perhaps the most unique aspect of this database is its extensive collection of video interviews with various influential artists, architects, and curators from all over the world. These interviews candidly cull out the critical reivew of works from the artists themselves. So often in research we are presented with an interpretation of a building or piece through a secondary observer or scholarly source; while vital, these interviews reveal the fundamental process behind a piece that can only be expressed through the mind of its creator. Think of this portion of the database as a collection of TED talks for artists and designers. And, as you can see in the screen grab below, you can travel the world in just one sitting!

I cannot express enough how thrilled I am that the Architecture & Planning Library has invested in this inimitable database. I am already certain that this will serve as a key source for research when my studies resume in fall, and I’ve already watched several interviews out of pure interest and fascination. Follow the link below to start exploring yourself!

OnArchitecture – access this database

Feature Friday: Music in Architecture — Architecture in Music

Today’s Feature Friday doesn’t stray far from home. In fact, we travel all the way to Battle Hall’s first floor to the Center of American Architecture and Design (CAAD) to remind all of you that their incredible Center books exist. More specifically, their most recent publication: Center 18: Music in Architecture — Architecture in Music.

I personally am drawn to the focus of this palindromic-titled publication because I am always interested in reading pieces that explore the influences that are woven into architectural practice. This is something that continually fascinates me about architecture and environmental design in general: so many multidisciplinary topics and professions, some that may seem totally unrelated at the surface level, are used as inspiration for or deeply influence design decisions. Also, music is an integral part of my life; I fall deeply in love with songs to a point where they become the literal soundtrack to my life, and listening to specific songs has the power to vividly place me into a specific place or point in my life (as I’m sure is true for most of you reading this). I also find myself utilizing songs as direct design inspiration for my own projects, envisioning what genre of music would play in a restaurant, retail store, public plaza, and the like. Each essay in Center 18 reminds me of the power that music has on our lives — in ways I haven’t previously thought possible.

For example, yesterday on the bus to one of my summer classes I read the essay titled “Louis Sullivan, J.S. Dwight, and Wagnerian Aesthetics in the Chicago Auditorium Building” by Stephen Thursby. I have been reading through Center 18 haphazardly, selecting essays based on what topics I’m initially drawn to. This piece immediately caught my interest, as I have a deep love for Chicago and am spending a lot of my summer with the writings of Louis Sullivan (he’s on my summer reading list, after all!). This piece left me in awe after bringing to light the influences of nature, poetry, and the work of composer Richard Wagner in Sullivan and Adler’s design for the Auditorium’s theatre. With Andrew Bird’s new album I Want to See Pulaski at Night filling my ears with beautifully arranged strings and melodies whilst I read, I felt an overwhelming understanding of the sheer power of music on not only life itself, but how it can challenge people to live their lives better.

Now, some of you may be thinking, “Steph, what the heck? You go to school here; you should have known of the greatness of these publications. They’re always one of the top headlines on the UTSOA website and their exhibitions are held IN THE BUILDINGS YOU STUDY IN.” I know, I know — but as a graduate student about to celebrate my first anniversary of moving to Austin, I’m still uncovering the myriad opportunities and elements that make our School of Architecture such an engaging and inspiring place to learn. This takes time; I see it as an exploratory journey that affords me the ability to be pleasantly reminded, time and time again, by how lucky I am to be earning my degree from a School that prides itself on academic research and educational pursuits that bring multiple disciplines together.

Center 18 is now available for check out in the Architecture & Planning Library. I’ve already checked one out for myself, but I promise there’s more! All of CAAD’s publications are also available for purchase through the UT website or Amazon if you prefer to have a copy of your own (I’m saving up for mine!).

Call Number: 2542.35 C467 V.18 2014

This week’s #FeatureFriday was suggested by Martha Gonzalez Palacios but enthusiastically selected by Stephanie Phillips. I emphasize enthusiastically because I probably concerned Martha a bit over my excitement to dive into this book when she brought it to my attention. Sorry, Martha. 

Feature Friday: Summer Reading List – The Manifestos

This week’s Feature Friday recognizes one of my favorite opportunities of a three-month break (for those of us students, at least): summer reading! Though many of us do a LOT of reading during the school year as well, summer reading allows us to pick out books that interest us specifically, even from the fiction section. *gasp!*

Though none of the following are fiction, I thought I would share my summer reading list with you all, as each book is available here at the Architecture & Planning Library. I’ve made it a goal to read at least four of the most influential manifestos written by four equally influential architects – manifestos that are still incredibly vital to architectural theory and education today. And thus, I give to you: The Manifestos – a reading list!

Kindergarden Chats and Other Writings by Louis Sullivan, NA 2560 S82 1979

Towards a New Architecture by Le Corbusier, NA 2520 L3613 1986

Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture by Robert Venturi, NA 2760 V46 1977

Delirious New York by Rem Koolhaus, NA 735 N5 K66

I’ve chosen the above four for several reasons:

  • In both the architectural and art history courses I’ve taken throughout my undergraduate and graduate education, I’ve come across references to these manifestos, and have only really read excerpts or passages from each to facilitate discussion. I’ve always been interested in reading the full manifestos, down to each chapter and each paragraph, with aims to weave together the main points I’ve read into a cohesive whole.
  • After working with the Karl Kamrath Collection for special collections last fall, books by most of these architects surfaced, especially Louis Sullivan, whom Kamrath had admired. Seeing these books in the collection of another successful architect solidified their importance in acting as a foundation for an architectural education.
  • This fall, I am taking Theory of Architecture with Professor Larry Speck, and I know the above titles are on his reading list. I admit it – I’m taking an opportunity to get ahead! Let’s be honest – you can never really take a break from learning if you truly love what it is you’re studying.

In addition to the above, I’ve amassed a few more that make a great addition to any reading list:

Learning from Las Vegas by Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, NA 735 L3 V4 1977
In The Cause of Architecture, essays by Frank Lloyd Wright, NA 737 W7 D37
The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs, NA 9108 J3
The Architecture of the City by Aldo Rossi, NA 9031 R6713

Happy reading!

This #FeatureFriday was curated by Stephanie Phillips, a graduate student in the School of Architecture and a Graduate Student Assistant for the Architecture & Planning Library.  Much of her work involves coordinating with several interdisciplinary staff to promote events, exhibits, and new material of interest to all users of the library.

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…
…as well as the rectangular screen detailing that makes the FAC’s facade so distinguishable on campus. Truly, I could stare at every facet of this piece for hours!
This rendering of the Blanton Art Museum by Kallmann McKinnell & Wood Architects features a more soft and controlled style versus the more lively and articulated piece of the FAC. I love the gradient of color in the trees and the wax-like reflection of the roadway.
This detail view reveals the attention paid to the tiling under the eaves, the careful shading of the windows, and – my personal favorite – the almost exact reflection of the fenestration in the sheen of the roadway. This is such a unique technique that adds to the character of this piece, and I’m feeling a creative spark inside me just typing this!
We also love this rendering of the drama building, also on UT’s campus. This piece features some of the more lively, broad strokes of the FAC rendering. I, personally, love articulating trees and other plants with markers and watercolor, and this artist used flattering, vibrant green hues to offset the tan and sand hues of the featured building. I also purposely left this image uncropped – the paint strokes at the bottom reveal a glimpse into the creative process!

I cannot stress enough how valuable an experience it is to pay a visit to the Archive to see renderings, drawings, photographs, and even tools used by the greats we house in our collections. Not only are these collections inspiring, but they are reminders that there are endless ways to represent an architectural idea. I believe this last point is the most powerful, especially for students embarking on a career in architecture and design. The profession is inherently creative and open to interpretation – and you have the power to convey ideas in your own style!

Many, many thanks to Nancy Sparrow for bringing these pieces to my attention. We hope you take advantage of the Archive’s treasures for all of the semesters ahead!

Society of Architectural Historians Conference in Austin: Then and Now

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.

One of the many postcards addressed to Alexander inviting him to SAH Conferences. This one is dated 1953 from New York City.

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.

The official brochure of the 31st Annual Society of Architectural Historians Conference amidst additional documents and correspondence.

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.

A tour map of Austin for the conference. I want to go on this today!

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!

Here’s the text tour associated with the above map. In addition to this week’s conference events, this may be a fun addition to your lineup – comparing Austin’s urban fabric to what was in 1978!