Tag Archives: Karl Kamrath Collection

Feature Friday: A Guide to Dallas Architecture

Happy Feature Friday! Only a few more posts until the fall semester – time sure flies when you’re sweating uncontrollably in the Austin summer heat. (Or is that just me?)

This Friday, we’re once again shedding light on a unique subset of books at the Architecture & Planning Library: city guides. These range from self-guided architecture tours to city overviews that delve into historic facts and figures. Though many of these titles may come up in research, they’re also great to turn to when planning a visit to a new city.

Sure, Google and travel-assisting websites like Yelp and Foursquare may have overtaken print as the modern technological “guidebooks,” but there’s something both comforting and convenient about having a complete tour guide in written word. Personally, nothing will top being able to easily flip through a few pages, scour various custom maps, and decide on my next destination – all without worrying about draining my phone’s battery!

The Architecture & Planning Library holds an extensive amount of titles for both present-day tours and ones that reveal the past. I absolutely love finding guidebooks from a decade ago or older for cities that I’ve been to many times and comparing my internal map to what was there before. For example, when I added provenance notes to the Karl Kamrath Collection in late 2013, I came across an architectural walking tour of Chicago from 1969, complete with illustrations and maps. I was enthralled with photographs that depicted ornate skyscrapers that had been sacrificed over the years for towering glass symbols of prestige, the very symbols that define Chicago’s skyline today. By studying the tour book intently, I feel like I now have a greater depth and understanding of the city’s timeline and urban development, and now picture the ghosts of former buildings when passing their replacements. There’s something both beautiful and haunting about reading a first-hand account of a tour through a city so many years ago – only to realize how vastly different our present-day experience of the same city is.

Historical treasures stud our stacks, but so do more modern titles of guidebooks, which may surprise some readers. For example, The American Institute of Architects Guide to Dallas Architecture from 1999 is a great example of more recent efforts to present an American city clearly, cohesively, and comprehensively in one book.

This differs from the tour books you may find on a bookstore’s shelf in that its primary focus is architectural – in its descriptions, tour arrangements, photography, and significant features. Where most off-the-shelf guidebooks might direct you towards the latest restaurants or nightlife, this book details parks, key structures, historic neighborhoods and districts, as well as sculptures and gardens. The maps are tailored to custom walking tours and guide you through one of Texas’ and America’s great cities to places even Dallas natives may have overlooked. And although this publication is much more modern than the 1969 Chicago tour, 1999 is still well over a decade ago – and the comparisons to the present city are likely staggering!

The next time you plan a visit to a new city, I highly recommend searching for a tour or guidebook in our catalog beforehand to see if you have the opportunity to check out one of the myriad architecturally-centric ones in our stacks. If coupled with a bookstore guidebook, your trip will likely be full of surprises – ranging from off-the-beaten-path monuments or neighborhoods to ghosts of city’s past.

Happy exploring!

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.

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

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!

Wright originally envisioned a “dream civic center” for the city of Madison as early as 1938. Situated along the shores of Lake Monona – one of Madison’s largest lakes – and within walking distance from the state’s Capitol building, his initial plan called for a rail depot, marina, courthouse, city hall, and auditorium. However, the County Board turned down his proposal with a single vote.

In 1941, approval for a municipal auditorium was passed, and Wright presented a modified version of his Monona Terrace plan to the board yet again. However, instead of another rejection, a different conflict intervened – World War II. That very same inhibitor proved to be a catalyst for Wright’s project after the end of the war, as the economy boomed; Wright was ultimately selected as the architect for the project in 1954. He was quoted as saying his appointment of project architect for the Monona Terrace by the voters of Madison meant more to him than any other award at the time.

In 1959, Wright completed his last rendering for the project. Later that year, he passed away in August – followed by the opening of the iconic Guggenheim Museum in New York City in October. Scholars have noted the striking curvilinear similarities in form and intent between the Guggenheim and Wright’s plans for the Monona Terrace – similarities tat would not be realized until decades later.

In 1966, the site of the Monona Terrace project was revisited, and Taliesin Architects were recruited to develop a master plan for the site and the city. This schematic proposal, which became known as The Monona Basin Project, is outlined in Kamrath’s copy of the same name.

The renderings and drawings within the pages of this proposal are absolutely stunning. Full of both organic and geometric shapes and careful, sinuous line work, the pages seem tinged with the memory of Frank Lloyd Wright.

For those of you that have never visited Madison or studied the Monona Terrace, you may think this is the end of the story, right?

False. This elaborately documented proposal – which included three miles of shoreline; the redevelopment of Olin Park, located across the lake from the Monona Terrace; and the beginning phases of a 2,500-seat performing arts center – was excessively over budget and subsequently halted by the mayor! I know, I know – the rate at which I’m curating this story makes it seem like it was a imaginative project and never completed. But I promise, it’s real.

Throughout the 1980s, several proposals for a new civic center in Madison were submitted by developers – but all of them failed. In the early 1990s, the then-mayor heavily lobbied for the support of reviving Wright’s original 1959 proposal and turning his vision into a reality.

Finally, between 1992-1994, funds were allocated from a number of sources, and the construction on Wright’s civic center began. Its interiors were redesigned by the Taliesen architect Tony Puttnam, and in 1997, the Monona Terrace was opened to the public – 59 years after the original inception of the project and 38 years after Wright’s death.

Today, the Monona Terrace is a hub for cultural events, weddings, professional conferences, and more. As a frequent visitor during my Madison days, I can confirm that Frank Lloyd Wright’s contributions to the project are highly celebrated and integrated into nearly every facet of the user experience; for example, the grand hallway from the main entrance functions almost as a gallery of Wright’s work, lined with photographs of projects spanning his entire lifespan. This posthumously-built icon of a city, full of a tumultuous and contested history, is one of my favorite Wright-influenced works, and gives a glimpse into the incredible complexity behind the ideation and completion of an architectural project.

Searching for all of the books in Karl Kamrath’s collection has proven to be one of my most educational experiences. I have learned more about the cities I love – Madison, Chicago, Austin, and more – and delved into the sources of inspiration of a successful architect. Stay tuned for another blog post on a similar proposal involving Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., also from Kamrath’s collection. These behind-the-scenes stories are so fun to tell!

Interested in exploring the Monona Basin Project in detail? The title discussed above is housed in our Special Collections under the call number -F- NA 9127 M33 T35 1967.

Architects Being Real

“This book business is like a building… I wish I could do it over again!”
-Alden B. Dow, in a letter addressed to Karl Kamrath, found in Kamrath’s copy of Dow’s book Reflections

Stumbling across these correspondences in type feels like uncovering hidden treasure. I’m giving a number of books as Christmas gifts this year (you know you’re a graduate student when…), and I’m now making it a point to put a personal note in each one. Will my subtly sarcastic quips be viewed as hidden treasure in a library collection one day? A girl can dream.

Also, can we get #ArchitectsBeingReal trending? That’s my new goal.

Kamrath’s copy of Reflections is housed in our special collections. Two more copies can be found in our general collection under the call number NA 737 D67 A55.

Karl Kamrath’s Stamp Left on Books Throughout the Library (Literally)

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.