The Alexander Architectural Archives at the Architecture and Planning Library has acquired source materials for a publication that provides a comprehensive survey of architecture in the Lone Star State.
“The Buildings of Texas” (University of Virginia Press) — part of the Society of Architectural Historians’ “Buildings of the United States” series — is a two-volume publication by Gerald Moorhead (with James W. Steely, W. Dwayne Jones, Anna Mod, John C. Ferguson, Cheryl Caldwell Ferguson, Mario L. Sánchez and Stephen Fox), that catalogs the state’s built environment with architectural profiles of its major cities and the landmark structures that pepper the landscape.
The collection features the archives of editor Moorhead (FAIA) and contributor Mario L. Sanchez (UT, 1982), including documentation with research material, administrative records and over 12,000 photos. Only a small portion of buildings are represented in the final publication, providing incredible opportunities for further research.
The first volume was published in 2013, and the donation of these materials marks the project’s completion, with the second volume slated for publication later this year.
Processing of the collection will begin this spring.
Moorhead is an architectural lecturer at the Rice School of Architecture and an award-winning Houston architect with over 40 years of experience. He is a former contributing editor to “Architectural Record” and “Texas Architect” and the architect laureate of Kazakhstan.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
“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.
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).
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.
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…
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.
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!
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:
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.