Tag Archives: modern architecture

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.

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.

New Books at the Architecture & Planning Library: System Structures, Engineering, and Construction

To paraphrase Larry Speck’s address at the opening of the exhibit “To Know a Building” at the Architecture and Planning Library reading room last week: A great building doesn’t just spring complete from the mind of the architect; it’s creation depends on the collaboration and work of a great team  that includes engineers, construction teams, building managers and clients. Some interesting new books at the Architecture & Planning Library this week focus on this collaborative process of the realization of architectural design.

Architectural System Structures: Integrating design complexity in industrialised construction by Kasper Sánchez Vibaek proposes a system structure in architectural design based on the use of flexible constituent elements (determined by what the current and future building industry is capable of producing) to make decisions about the assemblage of a building.

Collaborations in Architecture and Engineering by Clare Olsen and Sinéad Mac Namara focuses on team-building and problem solving between architects and engineers. The authors, an architect and an engineer with extensive teaching experience, use case studies to discuss architect and engineer collaborations that show how to solve real-world problems and engage creatively with technological challenges.

1 Angel Square by Len Grant documents the construction process of an iconic new building in Manchester, England. The author includes interviews with the project team (clients, architects, engineers, and builders) along side photographs documenting the process from the archeological dig of the site before construction began, to the completed stucture in use.

*Clicking the title of any book in this post will link you directly to the library catalog.

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: 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!

Semester Recap: “Inside Modern Texas: the Case for Preserving Interiors”

The Spring 2014 semester was an incredibly exciting one at the Architecture & Planning Library – especially for events! My personal favorite brought together multiple facets of the library and beyond: Emily Ardoin’s curation of the exhibition “Inside Modern Texas: the Case for Preserving Interiors.”

Beginning as a Graduate Research Assistant appointment in the Fall 2013 semester, Emily, a recent May 2014 Master of Science in Historic Preservation graduate, was tasked with the goal of pulling together an exhibition for the Architecture & Planning Library’s Reading Room that would be on display from early April through September 2014. This was no easy task, as she started completely from scratch! For inspiration on finding a topic, she sifted through myriad issues of Interiors magazine, Texas Architect, and more journals from the Architecture and Planning Library. Ultimately, Emily utilized her Interior Design background and Historic Preservation studies to create an exhibition topic that was specific enough to pin down a clear focus, yet broad enough to include a wide array of archival materials from the library and Alexander Architectural Archive.

The end result was “Inside Modern Texas: the Case for Preserving Interiors,” which aligned perfectly with the Society of Architectural Historian’s Annual Conference, held in Austin in April. We were lucky enough to go behind the scenes with Emily in the final weeks of her curation process. The exhibit’s opening reception on April 10th brought together conference visitors, library and archive employees, UT professors, students of myraid majors, and more.

Emily’s exhibition is a visual testiment to the incredible depth of resources available for researchers at the Architecture & Planning Library and the Alexander Architectural Archive, as well as the vital research endeavors that are created from endowments and scholarships. Says head librarian Beth Dodd:

“We are always looking for ways to enhance the student experience, and curating an exhibit is an incredibly rigorous process that demands thorough research, careful selection and interpretation of materials, and exhibit design,” says Dodd.  “The endowment created by the late Professor Blake Alexander now enables us to offer our students this funded internship.”

Now, as we approach the official first day of summer, we want to remind you that “Inside Modern Texas” is on display in the Reading Room until September! We can’t think of a better way to beat the heat than to go on the beautiful visual journey that Emily has curated for us.

Royal Festival Hall

London County Council. Royal Festival Hall. London: Max Parrish, 1951.

For this week’s entry, it was the retention of the book jacket that piqued my curiosity rather than the subject matter. The spine of the jacket was delightfully simple and bold. And perhaps one should not judge a book by its cover, but the Royal Festival Hall did not disappoint. The actual building was commissioned for the Festival of Britain in 1951, designed by Robert Matthew (1906-1975) and J. L. Martin (1908-2000). The official guide was written by Clough Williams-Ellis (1883-1975).

Williams-Ellis begins his account of the building with a discussion of the style and design:

Yet undoubtedly the building is a challenging one, which means that it is bound to make sincere enemies as well as friends. But enmity can be paraphrased as ‘a misunderstanding’ and there will surely be many who will not at first take kindly to a monumental building so devoid of all the familiar and traditional trapping of a ‘monument’, so frankly nothing but glass where it is convenient to be, so brisk in its changes of scale; in short, so little like anything to which we are  accustomed, and, above all, so utterly different from the concert halls and opera houses that we ever saw and with which we have come to associate ‘music’. (pg. 13-14)

He praises the subtlety, the spatial harmonies, view points and vistas, the lighting effects, and the ability of the architects to overcome the numerous challenges construction imposed. As the building was commissioned for the Festival of Britain, they had a strict deadline; moreover, they had to address the challenges of postwar Britain- a scarcity of labor and materials. The site was small, and the building intended to house a variety of purposes- from concerts to rehearsal space to exhibitions and galas. In a state of continuous design, the architects met these challenges and created a concert hall that placed a premium on the experience of listening to music. Ellis-Williams discusses how Matthew and Martin designed the spaces and systems to address issues of noise, acoustics, lighting, ventilation and heating, the movement of the crowds, and finally the desire to create spaces for an enjoyable experience.

While the Royal Festival Hall may retain a bit of the “to see and be seen”, Ellis-Williams makes clear that many of the design decisions of the Hall were connected to the quality of sound. Gone from the designs are the gilt and shine of the Paris Opera House. It is all clean lines and simplicity. And Ellis-Williams’s final thoughts are a lament for the luxury. He writes:

I will confess a nostalgic weakness myself for the shadowed privacy of the traditional box as the very symbol of gilded and softly upholstered luxury- an appropriate bower for the necessary digestive interlude between dinner at the old Romano’s and supper at the Grand Babylon, with transport of course by private hansom. And even from the pit I liked simply to behold these cosily glowing little booths with their fully jeweled and often decorative tenants, high-life tableaux vivants about whose members one might speculate agreeably as did Henry James’s Hyacinth Robinson in The Princess Casamassima. In short, I am of the fleshly Walter Sickert school in this mater of theatre decor, for scarlet and gold as against beige austerity, for sparkling chandeliers against florescent tubes, for an exuberant fancy even, rather than a too reasonable or reproachful restraint.

For me, at least, any concert or indeed any public performance of any kind is definitely something in the way of a treat, a gala occasion, a ‘night out’, and to be perfectly happy I do need the architecture to conform to and reflect, and so enhance my festival mood. (81-82)

“Inside Modern Texas” Opens This Thursday!

A new exhibit, “Inside Modern Texas: The Case for Preserving Interiors,” opens April 10th at 6 pm at The University of Texas at Austin’s Architecture & Planning Library.

“Inside Modern Texas” offers insight on interior design during the period 1945 to 1975, touching upon the development of the profession and the issues faced today in historic preservation. Texas interiors from this period serve as case studies to illustrate emerging ideas in design and practice.

The exhibit includes photographs, original drawings and printed materials from the Alexander Architectural Archive and the Architecture and Planning Library. Featured architects and interior designers include George L. Dahl, Harwell Hamilton Harris, Karl Kamrath, Howard R. Meyer and John Astin Perkins.

Emily Ardoin, a graduate student in the School of Architecture’s Historic Preservation program, curated the exhibit through a new program developed with the School of Architecture.  Head Librarian Beth Dodd hopes that collaborations such as this will provide graduate students with more opportunities to use the archives to produce new scholarship.

“We are always looking for ways to enhance the student experience, and curating an exhibit is an incredibly rigorous process that demands thorough research, careful selection and interpretation of materials, and exhibit design,” says Dodd.  “The endowment created by the late Professor Blake Alexander now enables us to offer our students this funded internship.”

Mid-twentieth-century buildings are gaining widespread acceptance as candidates for historic preservation, but few retain their original modern interiors. Because they are so closely connected to human activity, interiors can be especially important conveyors of historic significance, but they are highly vulnerable to changing tastes and functional requirements. The perceived impermanent nature of interior design components, and historic preservation legislation which often focuses on building exteriors, further complicates preservation efforts.

Repositories such as the Alexander Architectural Archive provide opportunities to study the history of design. “Because interiors are so vulnerable to change, teaching and research rely on libraries and archives for historic documentation,” notes Dodd.  “In this first exhibit, Emily had to dig deep to discover material in the collections of architects who were only starting to recognize interior design as a distinct profession.”

The exhibition will be on display in the Architecture and Planning Library reading room in Battle Hall through September, and is free and open to the public. The opening reception will be held April 10 at 6:00 p.m. in conjunction with the Society of Architectural Historians 2014 Annual Conference.

Inside Modern Texas: Behind the Scenes with Emily Ardoin

Last semester, Graduate Research Assistant Emily Ardoin, a Masters candidate in Historic Preservation within the School of Architecture, introduced us to her process behind developing a curated exhibit – from scratch! Very few have this incredibly unique and rewarding opportunity, and, needless to say, those of us in the library were beyond thrilled for her. As the Society of Architectural Historians Conference swiftly approaches, which coincides with the official opening reception of the exhibition, we decided to check in with Emily and get more details from the curator herself.

To recap, Emily was tasked with developing a display for the Reading Room in Battle Hall for the Spring 2014 semester. During her brainstorming phase, she sifted through myriad issues of Interiors magazine, Texas Architect, and more journals from the Architecture and Planning Library as not only a source for inspiration, but as a gauge for what materials were available to her within the walls of Battle Hall. As most of our library users can attest to, the Architecture and Planning Library is full of information (we’re lucky to say that!), so Emily utilized her Interior Design background, current Historic Preservation studies, and a time range from World War II to approximately 1975 to help narrow her foci and eventually land on a exhibition topic that was specific enough to pin down a clear focus, yet broad enough to encapsulate a spectrum of available archival materials.

Emily also noted that The Society of Architectural Historians Annual Conference, held this year in Austin from April 9th-13th, could also serve as a source of inspiration for unearthing an exhibition focus. While perusing the paper topics for the upcoming conference, Emily noticed one in particular: Placing the Profession: Early Contexts for Interior Design Practice in the US. This, in conjunction with her educational studies, helped Emily land on her topic of “Inside Modern Texas: The Case For Preserving Interiors.” Says Emily of the topic:

“The idea behind it is that, as much as modern architecture is gaining momentum in historic preservation [nowadays], interiors aren’t always considered. This is also true of buildings of other periods, but with modern interiors, significant characteristics like spatial relationships or lack of ornament can be especially difficult to recognize.  And commercial interiors are a challenge. There can be more pressure to update constantly when a forward-thinking image is considered important for the success of a business.”

To articulate her thought process visually, Emily divided her exhibition into three main parts, the first being a brief overview of modern interior design and its principles. As interior designers or architectural history buffs may know, interior design was still in the process of growing into its own profession during the mid twentieth century. Emily, in the first third of her exhibition, lays out the several factors that contributed to the profession of interior design in Texas, focusing on major influences, including the contributions of the Dallas Market Center. Harwell Hamilton Harris created the drawings for the Trade Mart within the Center, which the Alexander Archive possesses – a key example of the types of resources available!

The second part of the exhibition transitions to a chronological overview of interiors, sourced from the Archive and images from the library’s journals. These sections serve as an excellent primer for the final third of Emily’s exhibition: the challenges behind preserving modern historic interiors. To articulate her thought process, emily utilizes three case study examples in Texas: The Wilson House in Temple, former home and showroom of the founder of Wilsonart Laminate Company and current house museum for the same company; the famous Inwood Theatre in Dallas, which features a 1980’s bar addition to its 1947 lobby interior; and the Austin National Bank Building, now McGarrah Jessee Advertising on East 6th Street, a key feature in Austin’s adaptive reuse scene.

By doing exhaustive research and spending her working days fawning over the Archive’s incredible depth of modern architectural drawings, photographs, prints, and more (it was one of her favorite parts!), Emily has created a beautiful and thoughtful exhibition that draws attention to a highly relevant topic in preservation: the retention of historic interiors. Says Emily:

The interior of a building is what its users interact with directly, so it can serve as an especially informative historic record. That same direct interaction can be a challenge for continued use of the building. Adaptive reuse can be a very useful and practical preservation strategy, but it can result in quite a bit of change particularly to the interior. At the same time, not every historic building can be a house museum. You have to balance those priorities. It’s an interesting problem that historic preservation principles do address already, but whether the focus should be stronger is worth considering.

Emily, in the process of her curation, has uncovered so many provocative topics that could benefit researchers in the future. She has made sure to note when specific interior designers are referenced in projects she comes across, providing them to the archive staff to help with future collection. Interior design as it is today is a relatively young profession, so archival material can be more difficult to find. Though it may not seem like it for her now, Emily’s exhibition will go far beyond its display dates of late March to September 2014 – at least in terms of its research!

We are so excited for her work to be displayed concurrently with the Society of Architectural Historians Annual Conference. Please join us on April 10th for the opening reception!

Piano’s Kimbell Museum Addition: Architectural Record’s Glimpse

As an architecture enthusiast, I have more than just a calendar to remind myself that it’s the beginning of a new month: my subscriptions to design magazines! Some of my favorites that I receive monthly are Architectural Digest, Architectural Record, and Interior Design. The beautiful photography that adorns the covers are a welcome sight amongst my cable and gas bills, that’s for sure.

This month’s Architectural Record cover caught my eye immediately upon reading “Piano’s Kimbell Museum Addition” as one of the main articles. Though I haven’t been to the famed Ft. Worth museum myself, I’ve heard a lot about the new addition, especially being exposed to both Renzo Piano and Louis Kahn’s work in my classes this semester.

The author of the article, Sarah Williams Goldhagen, is the architecture critic for The New Republic and authored Louis Kahn’s Situated Modernism, so her perspective on the contested addition is both informed and compelling. Her words bring the addition to life, almost personifying it, and gives the reader a palpable visual with regards to how it works with Kahn’s original building (like the two structures are having a conversation, as she so elegantly puts it). Her words are framed with site plans, floor plans, sections, and large, vivid images of both the Kahn original and the Piano addition. For those of you that are native Texans and are heading home for winter break, this article is a great precursor to a potential visit to the Kimbell! As someone who will be jetting up north to Wisconsin next week and will be unable to check out the museum until I find myself in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area sometime in the future, I highly suggest paying a visit if you can (and then finding me and telling me about it, because I want to live vicariously through you).

In addition to the Kimbell article, this month’s Building Types Study is museums, so the designs of a few more galleries from across the world are explored in depth (and even more are featured on their website). Because of the upcoming break, I think the focus on museums is especially appropriate, because it’s definitely given me inspiration to visit some of those in the cities I live near!

The December issue of Architectural Record will hit our Reading Room shelf soon, if you’re up for some reading that’s NOT assigned or required. We will be open until December 20th, but we’ll be spreading Christmas cheer with our ample holiday decorations until then.

Happy studying, Longhorns!