As an alumni of the College of William & Mary, I was happy to find not one, but two biographies on Sir Christopher Wren in the Architecture & Planning Library Special Collections. For those who don’t know, the (current) Religious Studies building at William & Mary, and the oldest academic building in America, was named after and designed by Sir Christopher Wren. The Wren Building adorns much of the College’s iconography and is the section of the campus most closely connected to Colonial Williamsburg, thus being the first thing most tourists see when they encounter campus. Having spent more of my life associating the name Christopher Wren with a building and not a person, I was excited to learn more about the man.
Published in 1923 to coincide with the 200th anniversary of his death, Lawrence Weaver’s Sir Christopher Wren: Scientist, Scholar & Architect opens with “on the 20th October, 1632, Christopher Wren was born in the…”, confirming it’s the standard, by-the-numbers biography that the title promises you. (1) Each chapter heading cleanly points you to the section’s subject matter, whether it’s “family life,” “St. Paul’s Cathedral” or “Oxford career and early inventions.” It’s a solid example of the type of biography/non-fiction that no longer exists, the one where the author will put the greatest possible effort into making it seem like they have no opinion whatsoever on the subject. In Scientist, Scholar & Architect Weaver assumes you, the reader, know that Wren is a Great Man, so that’s not what he’s going to argue. Instead, he crafts a narrative around how a Great Man expressed his innate Greatness.
Lena Milman’s Sir Christopher Wren is on the same laudatory bent as Weaver’s book. Like Weaver, she structures each section around an individual project or a distinct phase (college, final years, etc.). She does call to consider how “strange” it is that Wren “had no architectural practice in his early life” despite his immediate success when he adopted architecture as a career. (55) Yet she does not really interrogate that emotion further, keeping the biography on the rails of telling Wren’s life story. Published 15 years apart, Milman and Weaver’s biographies work as good examples of a pre-modernist form of biographical writing.
Funnily enough, I could not find a single mention of William & Mary’s Wren Building within the pages of either Sir Christopher Wren biography. The British origins of both texts likely account for that, considering that both writers would probably want to highlight works on the home turf as opposed to the one in the former colony. Despite the dated content of the writing, both texts also have very well-done illustrations. In the Milman text, it’s some lovely black-and-white photographs; in Weaver, it’s some beautiful ink drawings, which I’m unsure if they were crafted by Weaver or an uncredited artist.
Happy Wednesday everybody! New Graduate Research Assistant Colin Morgan here, bringing back the New Books segment of Battle Hall Highlights! Today, I want to highlight one of my favorite books to arrive at the Architecture Library since I started working. Dutch photographer Nico Bick‘s Parliaments of the European Union comprises of thirty photographs of European parliamentary houses, twenty-eight for each of the member states, two for the European Union’s parliament. Outside of two brief introductions, there’s no text in the book aside from captions noting the name of the country and the name of the building. The interiors Bick captures have to speak for themselves.
And united in one bound volume, they do speak. Countries whose histories have featured the accumulation of wealth and notable royal bloodlines, like Spain’s Congreso de los Diputados, hold massive portraits, statues, the country’s crest. The book’s size (it’s a folio) and fold-out style (each photograph folds out onto three or four page, with clear demarcations paneling that section of the photo within the page) fit well with Bick’s human’s-eye-view style of photography. In looking at the photograph, your eye has to crane up the way your head would have to if you were in the actual room, allowing a stimulation of experiencing the overwhelming decor in person. Without a single human face in any of the photographs, the power of these states are shown, not told.
States without that extensive history of wealth have more office-like, anonymous parliaments. The state exists as a functionary device, not as something integral to the identity or culture of the nation. Lithuania’s Seimas, for instance, contains no mark of the nation’s history beyond a crest and the flag. The photograph’s size provides plenty of negative space for the upper two-thirds, as the parliament’s white wall dominates the upper levels of the photograph. Your eye is kept to the bottom, gliding along the chairs and desk on the ground. For parliaments where your eye is mainly focused at one level, you would notice that the most common motif in the book is the presence of computer screens.
Without a human presence, the high number of screens, for the majority of parliaments in the text one per chair, become the photograph’s subjects. Even more so than international histories, computers are the “main character” of Parliaments. The screens, just as much as the European Union’s parliamentary building, are what allow these states to connect with one another. Without explicitly dating the parliaments’ construction in the captions, Bick’s book presents them all as modern structures, with the reader contextualizing the spaces. The modern structure, just like the modern state or the modern economy, can no longer exist in isolation. The interior photographs of buildings dozens or hundreds of miles away from each other highlight how connected they all are.
You can put Nico Bick’s Parliaments of the European Union on hold at the Architecture & Planning Library here.
Written to accompany Art in Progress, the Museum of Modern Art’s fifteenth anniversary celebration exhibit, Elizabeth Mock’s 1944 book Built in U.S.A. is a portrait of an institution granting itself a victory lap for it’s role in establishing then-modern tastes. Taking their taste-maker status for granted, Built is the Museum’s attempt to assert itself as a great enough authority to not only say what is worth the audience’s time, but to lay out the foundations of the modern architecture canon. Mock, curator of Art in Progress‘ architecture section, uses her introduction to set-up a vision of the “modernist architect” as an individual whose work can walk in perfect balance between “present conditions and future needs.” (9) The utopian-minded ‘modernist architect’ works at odds with the skeptical public, who can only think of the “heat bills” and “glare” that result from the glass-heavy modernist home design. To Mock, these shallow critiques of modern architecture are born out of ignorance, critics who think all of modern architecture can be reduced to “large areas of glass.” (21) Her introduction posits a conflict between the modern style and the cult of practicality. Written in wartime, Mock condemns the point-of-view that states that architects are only there to provide “trimmings,” using the fifty examples in the text to show how architects straddle the line between the practical and the aesthetic. (9)
The subsequent two-thirds of the text showcase the fifty American buildings highlighted in the exhibit. Including several photographs of each structures’ interiors and exteriors, Mock also includes a basic floor-plan. Alongside the visual aspects, Mock features critical notes for each work highlighted. The book functions as a useful source if you are looking for contemporaneous reactions to buildings like “Falling Water” or “The Red Rock Amphitheater.” Perhaps the most striking choice in the text, considering the publisher, is Philip L. Goodwin and Edward D. Stone’s design for the Museum of Modern Art. Praising the architects, the notes also make a point to distinguish the museum as a “flexible” museum, distinguishable and new from the “static collections” that defined art museums in the past. (88) Built writes of the Museum’s architecture as essential to its functionality as a new type of museum.
For additional context around Art in Progress and Built in U.S.A., the Museum of Modern Art has recently provided scans of the three 1944 press releases promoting both to the general public. The best of the three articulates the goals of Built so well it is just as good of an introduction as anything within the text itself. Starting off with a quote from Park Commissioner Robert Moses debasing the Municipal Asphalt Plant (highlighted in Art in Progress and Built) as “horrible modernistic stuff,” the Museum holds it in regard as “one of the buildings… which best represent progress in design and construction during the past twelve years.” In the press release, Moses functions as a real-world version of the abstract ‘public’ Elizabeth Mocks talks about in her introduction. In openly clowning this establishment figure, the Museum not only heaps praise upon the artist, but on itself as a taste-maker. Built in U.S.A., and the marketing surrounding the exhibit and text, establishes an ‘us vs. them’ narrative with the stakes being the aesthetic, and the soul, of a nation. All of the materials the Museum of Modern Art has shared related to the Built in U.S.A. section of Art in Progress are essential to understanding what the discourse surrounding architecture was like in the mid-20th century.
You can read Built in U.S.A. in our Special Collections (or even in the PCL stacks!). Or you can read a PDF (as provided by the Museum of Modern Art) here, further exploration of the Built in U.S.A. section of the Art in Progress exhibit can be found here.
Hello. It’s Abbie again, back with another installment on processing and publishing the Volz & Associates, Inc. collection. I recently had the opportunity to present on this collection at The University of Texas’ 2019 Digital Preservation Symposium, where I discussed some of my solutions to born-digital access and preservation issues.
In the course of processing this collection, some of the most significant roadblocks were related to problematic disk images and metadata generation. These revolved around two distinct media types: zip disks and CDs. The collection contains 85 inventoried zip disks. When these were imaged and analyzed in BitCurator, the report came back riddled with error messages. Even though the disk images had been generated successfully, something was keeping fiwalk from generating the correct metadata. This made it impossible to determine necessary information like disk extent, content, and the presence of possible PII or malware.
When processing CDs, I noticed a group of about a dozen disks each had the exact same metadata. While some similarities are expected, I thought it was strange that that many disks from different projects could each have identical specs. I analyzed the disk images and physical disks and found that they were all CDs of photos processed by the same company. The original content of the disks had been overwritten by the company’s built-in structural and technical metadata, making the disk images virtually useless for research purposes. However, when these disks were mounted in FTK Imager, a write-blocked environment, it became clear that the original images were still extant – they just weren’t being picked up in the disk images.
In both of these cases, I knew that the original content could be reached but didn’t know how to access it while adhering to the best practices set up by both the digital archiving community and the resources at my disposal. The disks with these issues amounted to nearly 1/5 of the imaged collection, and many hours of research and testing were put into how I could reprocess this information. Ultimately, I found myself faced with a choice – I could either preserve inaccurate representations of the disk by retaining the existing disk images or preserve inaccurate representations of the metadata by extracting extant files instead of preserving a disk image. The issue with preserving the metadata as it stood was that it was wrong to begin with, and the resources at hand didn’t provide a solution.
When thinking about how best to reprocess this information, I was drawn to this quote from a study undertaken by Julia Kim, the Digital Assets Manager at the Library of Congress:
“Most of the researchers emphasized that if it came to partially processed files or emulations and a significant time delay in processing, they would take unprocessed and relatively inauthentic files. Access by any means, and ease of access were stressed by the majority.”
“Researcher Interactions with Born-Digital: Out of the Frying Pan and into the Reading Room,” saaers.wordpress.com
While we certainly don’t want to prioritize patron opinion over archival standards, this quote made me question whether sacrificing access and preservation to retain imperfect metadata could truly be considered “best practice.”
Working closely with the UT Libraries Digital Stewardship department, I created a workflow whereby I extracted files using FTK Imager and generated SIPS and a bulk_extractor report using the Canadian Center for Architecture’s Folder Processing Tool in the BitCurator environment. The only impact on the metadata was a change in the “Date Modified” field, which now showed the date the files were extracted and could be amended to reflect the most recent date in the file tree. While this is an unconventional approach to digital preservation, the resulting AIPs and DIPs are better representations of the original disks and will allow us to provide more comprehensive data for future researchers.
After my presentation, I had the opportunity to talk to a digital archivist about this workflow. We discussed how best practice is ultimately not about perfection, but about preserving and providing access to our materials and documenting the process. While somewhat contrasted from the theoretical approaches I’d both learned in class and adapted from online resources, this approach seemed more natural to me. It affirmed both my processing decisions and the opinions I’ve developed about what best practice in the archival community is and should be. This process has shown me how vital the user is to the archive, especially when developing workflows for digital materials.
As I mentioned in my previous post, I love having opportunities to exercise creativity and problem solving in this position. It’s even better when those opportunities lead to breakthroughs that help me grow professionally and enhance the data we provide patrons. I’m excited to see new developments in our born-digital workflow as we get closer to making this collection available to patrons. Check back soon for a (final?) update from me – I hope you’ve enjoyed learning more about the behind-the-scenes work of born-digital archiving.
Hello! This is Abbie Norris, back with an update on the born-digital Volz & Associates, Inc. collection. For those who haven’t read my previous blog post, I am the digital archives Graduate Research Assistant at the Alexander Architectural Archives. I’m currently working on the Volz & Associates, Inc. collection, which documents the work of a historic preservation firm based in Austin, Texas.
When I published my previous post, the collection was in the midst of being processed. I’m happy to report that processing for this collection is complete – all 813 floppy disks, CDs, zip disks, and flash drives of it. Processing is one of the first major stages of getting a collection from the donor to the public. It’s when the bulk of archival preservation happens. In this case, as in many born-digital collections, “processing” involved imaging (essentially, copying) the disks, capturing metadata like disk size and file types, and recording everything for documentation in the finding aid. We’re now able to determine the size of the collection, the types of files, and what we need to provide access to them.
One of the things I love about born-digital archiving is the problems that arise that require creative solutions. This is especially true for an archive’s pilot born-digital collection, as is the case for Volz. Items like CDs and floppy disks degrade at a faster rate than paper materials, meaning that sometimes you try to open a disk that physically appears fine, and it won’t show any of your files. One major question people have is, “If all of the information is stored on a CD, why do you have to copy the contents in a disk image? Why can’t you just continue opening the CD to access the contents?” Luckily, the answer is simple.
Imagine you have a 13th century codex and a 1990s floppy disk. Which one is easier for you to read? With the codex, all you have to do is open it. It will be fragile and you might not know the language in which it’s written, but much of the information held in the book will be visible to you. Now, consider the floppy disk. When was the last time you used one? Does your computer still have a floppy disk drive? More than likely, the answer is, “No.” Even if it does, think about the files on that disk. Can you still open a WordPerfect document from 1992?
Given that the Volz collection dates between 1980 and 2009, the types of files present on the disk vary widely. Some, like .txt and .tif files, are still widely accessible and are projected to remain active filetypes in the future. Others, like .jpeg, are still accessible but are not recommended for preservation because of their lower quality and the potential for their use to cease. Finally, there are the files that you try to open with modern software…and nothing works. These files can be either old versions of proprietary software and discontinued software.
This is where creative solutions come in. There are a variety of tools, many borrowed from the criminal forensics world, that allows us to look at files from twenty years ago. Because the digital archive field is still developing and many of the projects use open access tools, the software an archive uses to read and provide access to old files can resemble a patchwork quilt. Now that I know exactly what types of files are in the collection, I love exploring access solutions and finding answers to questions that have persisted since I began working here.
In many ways, finishing processing feels like finishing the first segment of a relay race. I feel accomplished for finishing a major task, but there is still a long way to go. Now that processing is complete, we have to finish writing the finding aid and establish methods for researchers to access the collection. It’s going to be an exciting few months, so check back here to learn about what providing access to a born-digital collection looks like at the Alexander Architectural Archives.
Hello, people of the Battle Hall Highlights Blogosphere! I reached the conclusion of my final semester at the UT School of Information in December, and my capstone project was to create a metadata schema and standard of description for the materials portion of the Volz & Associates, Inc., Collection here at the Architecture & Planning Library and Alexander Architectural Archives.
Donated by the Austin-based historic preservation and interior design firm Volz & Associates, Inc., to the Library in 2017, the collection marks the beginning of the Library’s materials collection. What makes the Volz Collection unique among materials collections is that it includes both historic artifacts, and sample contemporary materials to replace the historic ones. This, along with the rest of the collection being in the Alexander Architectural Archives (be sure to read my colleagues’ blog posts about the exciting happenings in the AAA regarding this collection!), presents unique challenges and opportunities for describing materials that are not present in other materials collections.
The first part of this project involved studying other materials collections and the metadata included to describe them. The Field Supervisor of this project, Dr. Katie Pierce Meyer, Head of Architectural Collections, recommended contacting Jen Wong at the Materials Lab at the University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture (UTSOA), Johanna Kasubowski at the Materials Collection at Harvard Graduate School of Design, and Mark Pompelia at the Visual + Materials Resource Center at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). Ms. Wong at UTSOA and Ms. Kasubowski at Harvard were successfully reached. In the course of researching materials collections, I found University of Houston’s Materials Research Collaborative (MRC), and after hearing about the MRC from Donna Kacmar, a Professor of Architecture at University of Houston who oversees the MRC, I selected the MRC as the other primary example of a materials collection for the purposes of this project. Marybeth Tomka, Head of Collections at the Texas Archaeological Research Laboratory (TARL), was also consulted on the project. TARL could potentially serve as an example of thinking about project (e.g. the roof of a building being one project, and the interior of the same building being another project) versus site (e.g. the property or the built work).
The second part of the project was to study the Volz Collection itself, to determine where there was overlap with other materials collections and where the collection’s metadata needs differed. Due to the historic nature of many of the materials, the collection is not only of interest to materials scientists, but also to architectural historians and historians, so the metadata about the different projects is also crucial to their understanding of the collection. In the materials collections at other institutions studied for this project, the focus of the metadata is on the scientific and chemical metadata, which is also applicable to the Volz Collection. The more historic and project-focused metadata for the Volz Collection is unique among materials collections.
The final schema retains some metadata elements of more conventional materials collections (so as to be recognizable to patrons who are accustomed to using materials collections) while other elements are designed to correspond with how the Alexander Architectural Archives (AAA) is organizing the analog and digital materials, including project documentation and drawings from the Volz collection. The AAA finding aids are mostly organized by project, rather than built work.
After studying the collections at Harvard, University of Houston, UTSOA, and TARL, elements from each were pulled from the collections to build a schema that works for the Volz collection. The final schema includes terminology from the various collections, and combines the traditional metadata in materials collections (e.g. form, process, properties, etc…) with the project metadata that connects the materials collection with the Alexander Architectural Archive. Most of the metadata is also easily transferable to Material Order, should the Architecture & Planning Library decide in the future that the database is the appropriate online point of access for the collection. Below is the planned schema.
Material Type (Metal, Polymer, Ceramic, Natural Material, Glass, Hybrid)
Based on the University of Houston database’s broad categorization
Overall condition of the object
This is a field not present in the materials collections studied, but which is often present in archival collections
In UT’s database, this provides more detail on the material type
One of the major categories of description used by UT’s Materials Lab and Harvard
We do not have all this information for all the items at this point, but this can be added later as more students at UTSOA do work to determine the chemical composition of items in the collection
Applicable to Material Order
Includes such descriptions as “fixture,” “flooring,” “paver,” and “trim”
Still determining applicable categories – this will become more fleshed out as the collection is studied
One of the major categories of description used by both UT’s Materials lab and Harvard
Length, width, height, and weight of artifact
This information is standard across materials collections
The basic function of the item
Date of Production (for the artifact)
This information is not standard in materials collections, but it is specific to the Volz Collection since it crosses a wide time span of both historic materials and contemporary, and it relates the archival parts of the collection, where dates matter and are frequently included
See project list and project numbers
Date of Project
The date when the particular project to which the artifact belongs took place
The geographical location where the project took place
For now this will be as simple as “Austin, Texas,” but this could be a future GIS project
A basic classification of the kind of project it is
Future issues facing the Volz & Associates, Inc., Collection include accessibility, whether or not to make the collection available via Material Order, storage, and the identification of materials. The Architecture and Planning Library can turn to collections like the UTSOA Materials Lab, the University of Houston’s MRC, Harvard’s Materials Collection, and TARL for solutions to some of these issues. Harvard is one of the institutions working on Material Order, a materials database that will make materials collections at Harvard, the RISD, and Parsons accessible online, and develop a new metadata standard for materials collections. Material Order is one possible answer to the issue of accessibility. The Materials Lab and TARL could serve as examples of circulating teaching collections, where items are checked out by students and professors at the Materials Lab, and TARL serves as a teaching collection for UT Austin archaeology students, where they can perform tests on items. In a pilot test in the Spring of 2018, items from the Volz Collection were checked out to Senior Lecturer Fran Gale for testing in one of her architectural conservation courses. The results were shared with the Library, and prove that this collaborative work with students at UTSOA could prove mutually beneficial – they gain experience working with materials and identification of items, and the Library can incorporate those results into the metadata for the item. The metadata schema developed for this project is but one small part of the work to be done on the Volz Collection, but it provides the overarching framework for that work to continue.
Through researching other materials collections, it became clear that the Volz & Associates, Inc., Collection is unique for its blend of historic artifacts and contemporary building samples. This meant that though there is overlap with the other major materials collections at Harvard, University of Houston, and UTSOA, there is also overlap with the TARL in terms of handling historic items; these differences and the need for the materials portion of the Volz Collection to correspond with the holdings in the Alexander Architectural Archive led to a blended metadata schema and standard of description that combines elements of other materials collections with the project-based organization that the Alexander Architectural Archive is following in the rest of the Volz Collection.
More than a century ago LA was known for its freeways than its architecture; with its urban expansion directed by the automotive infrastructure. Though still a place defined by its traffic woes, LA is fast assuming the status of an architectural hub with a new centrality in Grand Avenue. Lined with Walt Disney Concert hall and MOCA (Arata Isozaki represent), The Broad and Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, the Grand Avenue is now considered the cultural center of the city. This book as the name suggests, goes into the depth of The Broad right from the inception of the idea by Eli and Edythe Broad to the site selection, its cultural significance in the Grand Avenue to the engineering and design of its free-standing complex “Veil”.
The book is ‘broad’ly divided into four sections. It begins with an extremely detailed photo essay by Iwaan Baan, with bonus photos of the storage rooms and other spaces which are inaccessible to the public.It then moves on to cover the Roundtable discussion by Eli Broad (the founder), Elizabeth Diller (Chief architect of the DS+R) Paul Goldberger (Architecture critic of Skyline) and Joanne Heyler (Director of the Broad), where they give insider information about the building.The third segment of the book discusses in depth the very nature of the Broad as an institution and how it is reflected in the building program which is further steered into a more concrete vision by the architects. This is followed by detailed plans and photographs during the construction. The book finally ends with a zoomed-out view of the urban infrastructure surrounding the art gallery with emphasis on the Grand Avenue and The Broad’s significance and relation to its neighbors.
“In case of The Broad, that understatement is deftly strategic – its abstracted column-free acre has a conceptual pedigree, or an intellectual “site-specificity”, unique among southland museums.” This “white cube” hosts in itself an intricate mechanics of art collection which “help shape how Los Angeles and California are viewed by the rest of the world.”
Hello Battle Hall Enthusiasts! We may not have met yet, so I’d like to take a moment to introduce myself. My name is Mandy Ryan and I’m a Graduate Research Assistant at the Alexander Architecture Archives. I’m currently in my second year at the School of Information at The University of Texas and I’m about to finish my MSIS with a focus in archives. My position with the Alexander has been an incredible experience and I’ve gained a lot of knowledge about working in an academic archive and particularly with an architecture collection. In addition to being the processing archivist for analog materials, I’m also the resident facilities monitor and pest identifier. If you’re ever wondering what that creepy bug is in your office, I’m your go-to person.
The Volz & Associates, Inc. collection contains the construction documents, field sketches, and historic finishes for some of Texas’ most notable buildings and homes. This architecture firm specializes in historic preservation and the collection details the rehabilitation and remodeling of several Texas landmarks, such as the Gonzales County Courthouse and the Governor’s Mansion.
The analog materials are comprised of over 4,860 sheets of drawings, 192 linear feet or 187 boxes of papers, 20 boxes of historic building artifacts and samples, and 152 project binders filled with photographs and slides. Combined they document over 300 architectural projects undertaken by the Volz & Associates firm from 1987 to 2008.
I absolutely love working in the archives and processing is my favorite part because you never know what you’ll find in the collections. Working with the Volz & Associates, Inc. collection has been truly fascinating due to the sheer diversity in papers and documents contained in each box. In the course of my inventory, I’ve discovered everything from tile chips to field sketches.
It is remarkable to see the work and planning that goes into every project and to be able to read through the details from start to finish. Each project begins with historical research which documents the original drawings and construction notes and even includes the original paint colors or light fixtures used.
As of right now, the biggest part of my job is ensuring that we know as much information as possible about the collection, so that we can make it easier for our patrons to access all of the project materials.
I’m currently halfway through completing a large-scale inventory of the collection materials and drafting an appraisal report and preservation plan. The inventory and the plan will ensure that all of the materials are properly housed and preserved, while still allowing our faculty, students, and general researchers the opportunity toview it. This collection is truly one of a kind and I’m so grateful to be a part of it!
New to our collection is this monograph on Mark Foster Gage and his ideologies especially “Object Oriented Ontology” and “Speculative Realism”. Gage can be called an anomaly as he started off at the University of Notre Dame learning classical architecture and turned into a leading avant-garde architect of the present day.
The book features an afterword by Peter Eisenman and divided into seven chapters that is loosely based on a particular theme. These are cut across by transcribed texts from interviews and conversations between the biggies in Architecture. I HIGHLY recommend reading the one in honor of Zaha Hadid along with Frank Gehry, Peter Eisenman, Deborah Berke and MFG.
For people who aren’t into extensive texts and reading (meh!) the book also offers a excellent collection of 3D visualized images that gives an insight into the architect’s mind. A cursory look at them is enough for us to understand what his design philosophy is all about. “The Tower for New York’s 57thstreet with mouth like balconies on giant wings or a retail space bedecked with a hundred faceted mirror, Gage’s work at once challenges expectations of what architecture might be and as well frequently fills one with a sense of excitement.”
P.S: Did I tell you he 3D printed Lady Gaga’s outfit in collaboration with Nicola Formichetti in 2011?
This book is excellent if you love visual fodder, new design philosophies or Lady Gaga.
This is one of those rare books that will be placed in a capsule for the future along with Monalisa and Klimts’ if the civilization is about to end. Its cultural importance and documentation that follows military precision are the key factors as to why this book is forever in our special collection.
It covers the design and details of the Alhambra fortress and palace complex in Spain. This is a two-volume publication, with complete translations of the Arabic inscriptions and historical notice of the kings of Granada, Spain. It also consists of a detailed history from the conquest of the city by Arabs to the expulsion of the Moors. The second volume consists of detailed lithographs by Owen Jones and Jules Goury.
More importantly this is a book about friendship. In 1834, after staying in Granada for 6 months, Jules fell victim to Cholera while documenting this book. Devastated by the loss, Ar. Jones took over to the publication of the project and further archived the palace. Impressions of every ornament is meticulously taken either in plaster or unsized paper. These casts have been tremendously important for preparing drawings for this publication.
The site plan of the Alhambra shows the most significant spaces in the palace like the Court of Lions, Court of the Fish pond and the Hall of the Two sisters.
The Court of Lions
This perfect portion of the palace is a parallelogram surrounded by portico with small pavilions at each end. This space consists of a hundred and twenty-eight columns. Due to the restoration works undergone by the court from time to time, the walls are defaced with several layers of whitewashing, beneath which it is still possible to see traces of the original coloring.
Court of the Fish Pond
This lithograph shows the view of the Fishpond from the Hall of the bark
Hall of the two sisters
This is a view taken from the Hall of the Two Sisters, looking towards the garden and a portion of the corridor which separates the Ventana from the Hall. “The lattice window gives light to the upper corridor, leading to the apartments appropriated to the women. It was through these lattices that the dark-eyed beauties of the Hareem viewed the splendid fetes in the hall below, in which they could only participate as distant spectators.”
The most common pattern that crops up in several halls are the interlacing lines done in plaster. It is remarkable both for their variety of designs and for the simple means by which they are produced. They are formed by two principles exhibited in the diagram.
To review this massive book, make an appointment with our special collections department of Architecture and Planning Library.
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