A recent acquisition to the Architecture & Planning Library Special Collection, Versailles is a compendium documenting the rich architectural, art and cultural histories of the 17th century palace. This two-volume work juxtaposes plans, sections, and other drawing that express the palace’s design with high-resolution photographs of its resplendent interior and exterior spaces, and a number of essays that explore its art, sculpture, and landscape and architectural design. Versailles includes additional essays that examine the cultural and political activities that took place within the palace.
Many remember Hal Box as an architect, dean, and visionary for architectural education, but Hal was also a great champion of libraries. He had a keen understanding that strong architecture programs are built on solid foundations. For Hal, this foundation included an architecture library, close at hand, where students and faculty could browse and check out books.
In January 2010, we were busily preparing for the School of Architecture centennial. As the school’s library, we were in effect preparing for our own grand anniversary, so I asked Hal if he wouldn’t mind providing an oral history. He graciously agreed and this is how I learned about Hal’s love and respect for libraries.
Hal’s experience with libraries started in early childhood when he attended East Texas State Teacher’s College training school for his elementary education. He lived two blocks from campus and on his walk home would stop at the college library. Hal described this building as similar to the University of Texas’ first library, Battle Hall, with a grand stairway leading to the second floor reading room. Hal spent many hours doing his homework in this space, and received great encouragement from its librarian.
In the late 1950s, as a young professional working with James Pratt, Hal became interested in developing a firm library, explaining “There were no architecture schools in Dallas and the public library didn’t have much on architecture.” Hal gained an early understanding of both the value and cost of an architecture library, as the firm spent a lot of money on journals. They built this library in their conference room and he even had his son catalog it! “That was really the first library I built.”
In 1971 Hal started the architecture school at UT Arlington in a small house off campus. It was about a quarter mile walk from the main library to the studio and the architecture books were shelved throughout three floors, so it was very difficult for them to use. A gift from the father of faculty member Peter Woods- a collection of grand Beaux Arts folios- inspired Hal to transform a small classroom into a library for his school. He obtained a $1,000 grant from the Texas Society of Architects and started to build the collection. His unorthodox collection plan also consisted of each faculty member checking out the maximum number of books from the main University Library and reshelving them all in his new library. The Head Librarian found out about it and called Hal. Hal recalled his response:
“Why don’t you come over and we’ll talk about it. He [the librarian] was just as angry as could be. I told him this is what we’re going to do. Architecture was not like history or English where you check out a book and in two weeks you read it. You want to browse through a whole lot of books, it’s mainly visual, and you had to be close to them because you want to use them while you are in studio. You’re not going to check them out for a week and take them home. You’re going to go over to the library and look up Aalto or Corbu and see how they did something and then proceed from there. Well then, he understood and we continued there.”
Hal secured a new building for the program and made sure that its design included both a library and slide collection. It was his good fortune that the director of the Fort Worth Museum of Art was married to a librarian, so he quickly hired her to oversee the library. “I think it was about that time we convinced the general library to establish a branch library.” (Hal then decided to “hire a young PhD from Berkeley” to help develop the library and slide collection. These collections were so important that despite not having money to bring him in for an interview, Hal hired Jay Henry sight unseen to conduct this work.)
In 1976, during his interview for Dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Texas, Hal and a friend visited the Battle Hall library, which then housed a variety of subjects including architecture and planning. Earlier in 1973, architecture’s collections were transferred to Battle Hall. Hal and his friend compared their experiences as students using the architecture library. Hal’s library had a dedicated librarian and was just doors away from his studio, while his frustrated friend couldn’t find (browse) any architecture books because they were mixed in with other non-architecture subjects. Hal soon learned that there was great discussion of consolidating branch libraries into the Perry Casteñeda Library when it would open in 1977, further dispersing the services and collections from its School.
In preparation of his meeting with UT President Lorene Rogers, Hal made a list of what the School needed, specifying the necessity its own branch library. Hal believe that “the library is more than just a bunch of books, it’s a place with services.” As part of his signing agreement, Battle Hall and Sutton became part of the School of Architecture’s campus when he became Dean. Hal continued to make it a priority to keep the library close by. In 1980, Battle Hall became home to the Architecture & Planning Library branch and the architectural drawings collection, now known as the Alexander Architectural Archive.
During this time, Hal initiated the renovation of the buildings on his architecture campus. Hal decided not to continue with the Battle Hall renovation because among other things, it would have displaced too much valuable stacks space. Even in my last meeting with Hal, he still struggled with the renovation of the University’s first library building.
“Libraries are sources of power… that knowledge they hold is power.” As Dean, Hal understood the constraints of a library budget and that the library did not have its own alumni from which to draw support. Also in his experience, the school could not recruit against Harvard because it didn’t have the research collections to support scholarship.
“One of my objectives, after I realized that this needed to be more than a professional school… [was that] it needed to involve the whole discipline of architecture- so we’re not just training professionals, we’re developing scholars… we’re developing people who will be active within the community. So it really started when we signed our first PhD… [and began] building a collection that would be vital to scholars. It was a very distinct objective to make this happen in the school, and that, just like a scientist… he’s got to have a laboratory. [If we could achieve this] we would be a major source for scholarship, and I think that has happened.”
As a member of the library council, Hal motioned for and pushed through a library fee for each student. He knew that it wasn’t much, but it helped a bit. Hal was also very hands-on with the library and archive. He chuckled when he told me about how he and Molly Malone single handedly moved the drawings from Blake Alexander’s closet in Goldsmith to Battle Hall, in preparation for the Goldsmith renovation. Through his many contacts, Hal was also instrumental in helping to obtain archival collections such as that of Howard Meyer, or Harwell Hamilton Harris, or finding funding for the purchase of the James Riely Gordon collection among others. As Dean, he even funded the early curators and until his death he was serving on the University of Texas Libraries Advisory Council.
More recently, Hal was enthusiastic about new technologies for teaching and research. He enjoyed learning about the great online resources the library offers, while at the same time found that there is still relatively very little published digitally in architecture. As Hal was preparing to close down his office at the School of Architecture, he offered the papers and books he had amassed over the years to the Architecture & Planning Library. We are grateful that we had the chance to thank him and to let him know how valuable many of these books will be to our collections.
From childhood, Hal was inspired by the architecture of libraries and their librarians, as a professional, he valued a firm library, and as a scholar he built his own personal library. For the University of Texas, he started and developed a branch library from the ground up in Arlington and in Austin secured a strong branch research library and archive close to his School. Hal understood and valued libraries from all perspectives. One of his fondest memories was in the library as a University of Texas architecture student in 1946. “Most students concentrated near the recent periodicals. They went there right away when they got a design problem. It was a good place. It was a happy place.”
Farm Houses, Manor Houses, Minor Chateaux and Small Churches: From the Eleventh to the Sixteenth Centuries, in Normandy, Brittany and other parts of France. New York: The Architectural Book Publishing Company, P. Wenzel and M. Krakow, 1917.
Another selection from the Paul Philippe Cret collection, Farm Houses, Manor Houses, Minor Chateaux and Small Churches is a collection of nearly 100 pages of images documenting vernacular architecture throughout Normandy, Brittany and other parts of France. While there is no index or table of contents, the book’s preface provides some unique insight into the function of this assembly. Written by AIA Fellow Ralph Adams Cram, we once again hear from a scholar seeking to return to a simpler moment, a time when architecture possessed “human scale.” Whether this response reflects the broader attitude toward the social and cultural activities that precipitated the First World War, or a more individual perspective, Cram suggests that the images compiled in the pages of this book are rooted in nostalgia, a time gone by and yet a moment his contemporaries should return to.
Library of Congress call number: NA 1041 F3
Emerson, William and Georges Gromort. The Use of Brick in French Architecture: Part One The Midi. New York: Architectural Book Publishing Company, 1935.
Written by architects William Emerson and Georges Gromort, The Use of Brick in French Architecture represents an historiographical shift in the writing of architectural history, where the architect-authors’ primary agenda reflects the desire to establish the parameters of appropriate usage. This professional concern is indicative of what we like to call modernism and suggests that the materials themselves possess specific meaning outside of their function in an architectural system. The Use of Brick in French Architecture represents one such endeavor, where examinations of the great brickwork architecture in the French Midi (this region includes Albi and Toulouse) results in the assembly of a body of work that establishes a relationship between building function and materiality while celebrating the majesty of works executed in brick.
Last week, Joe Sosa, gift processor at the Architecture & Planning Library, came to my office to share a wonderful find. Joe has been processing books from the library of O’Neil Ford, which came to us as part of his collection donated to the Alexander Architectural Archive. He starts by searching our catalog for existing copies in our collections so in many cases he is the first one to look closely at donations. He regularly sees interesting material and once in a while he comes across a jewel like this:
Chinese and Gothic architecture properly ornamented : being twenty new plans and elevations on twelve copper plates containing a great variety of magnificent buildings accurately described ; as also, several of a smaller kind elegantly design’d, with all necessary offices, of great strenght, early construction, and graceful appearance. The whole carefully calculated by the great squares; with instructions to workmen, etc. in several pages of letter-press. intended as an improvement of what has been published of that sort.
This delightful book came in what can be described as a regular preservation nightmare: a homemade cardboard binder (very likely acidic) with a faded photocopy taped on.
Inside, we found a pocket for the circulation card.
These are page 6 and 7: “Plate II – The Ground and Chamber Plan, with the Elevation (drawn to double their Scale) for a Design to a House 67 Feet in Front.” As all designs in this book, it includes dimensions for each room ans well as some instructions and estimate of the cost, in this case, 2475£.
This book is a great example of an early pattern book as well as 18th Century Chinoiserie. Gothic? Well, in my opinion, this looks more Palladian influenced but it has made me curious as to why Halfpenny would refer to these designs as Gothic. That is one of the details that makes this book peculiar and fascinating.
Townsend, Charles Harrison, T. S. Boys, William Callow, J. Coney, S. Prout, David Roberts, and C. Wild. Beautiful Buildings in France & Belgium: Including Many which have been Destroyed during the War. London: T. F. Unwin, 1916.
This unique document reconstitutes historical renderings and paintings of gothic architecture in France and Belgium. Elegiac in tone, Beautiful Buildings of France & Belgium is an exercise in preservation, rehabilitating the obscured architectural object whose historical state was, in many cases, disrupted by the Great War. This type of visual doubling provides an early example of how what we see constructs social memory and nostalgia, and demonstrates the importance of certain types of documents in maintaining or proliferating a specific memory. Here, highly romanticized prose organized by location (Amiens, Bruges, Ghent) accompany each rendering to both celebrate and mourn these sites of tremendous cultural activity and the abundance of meaning that they represent.
Mariette, Jean. L’Architecture de Mariette. (Paris: A. Guérinet, 192?).
Oeuvre de Juste-Aurèle Meissonnier: Peintre, Sculpteur, Architecte and Dessinateurd de la Chambre et Cabinet du Roy. (Paris: A. Guérinet, 192?).
Briseux, Charles-Etienne. Dessins de Menuiserie, de Serrurerie etc.: Propres à la Décoration Interieure et Extérieure des Appartements. (Paris: A. Guérinet, 192?).
Bound in a single volume, these three titles provide access to over 130 plates that document the history of interior design during the 18th century. Including the work of engraver Jean Mariette, architectural theorist Charles-Etienne Briseux, and architect and designer to contemporary European royalty, Juste Aurèle Meissonier, this collection assembles engravings of interior and exterior design details, mostly of doorways, paneling, apertures of varying types and columns. Though the engravings are not richly detailed, this type of documentation nevertheless provides a unique opportunity to explore the history of taste, style and even collecting during the 18th century.
Mortet, Victor. Recueil de Textes Relatifs à l’Histoire de l’Architecture et à la Condition des Architectes en France au Moyen Âge, XIe-XIIe siècles. Paris: A. Picard, 1911.
Sorbonne Archivist Victor Mortet assembled 153 primary sources concerning the history of Gothic architecture in France in Recueil de Textes Relatifs à l’Histoire de l’Architecture. Originally composed in Latin, the texts incorporated into this collection were generally composed by members of the clergy and describe the construction of churches and other religious architecture between the 10th and 12th centuries. Each text includes a brief introduction in French and copious footnotes that contextualize these sources historically while cross-referencing contemporary scholarship. Accompanied by an extensive index and glossary, this is an invaluable resource to the medieval French scholar.
Blomfield, Reginald. A History of French Architecture 1494 to 1661: From the Reign of Charles VIII till the Death of Mazarin. 2 vols. London: G. Bell, 1911.
In 1911, architect and scholar Sir Reginald Blomfield penned A History of French Architecture 1494 to 1661, an authoritative two-volume work on the history of French architecture. Part of the Architecture & Planning Library’s Paul Philippe Cret collection, A History of French Architecture constructs a linear history of French architecture encompassing the scope of what might be termed a long 16th century. In this English-language text, Blomfield endeavors to locate a continuous trajectory between the beginnings of Italian renaissance influence in French architecture and the inception of a neo-classical design expression during the era of Louis XIV. Blomfield’s is an essential reference for the renaissance historian, functioning at once as an erudite piece of scholarship and a foundational historiographical text.
Visit the Architecture & Planning Library special collection located in Battle Hall
As part of our ongoing effort to expose the rich and diverse materials held in the Architecture & Planning Library special collections, we will be highlighting a number of collection items that explore various historical and historigraphical topics related to the study of French architecture during the summer and fall 2011 sessions. The volumes featured in this series were reviewed by architectural history and theory graduate student Kristen Decker-Ali as part of a volunteer project completed during the summer 2010. Decker-Ali, whose own work focuses on Philibert de l’Orme’s Château d’Anet for Diane de Poitiers, reviewed dozens of volumes documenting 33 items of specific interest. These items belong to 26 separate titles, explore the history of urban and provincial architecture in France from the medieval period through the early 19th century and include volumes published as early as 1830. Check out Battle Hall Highlights each week, as we take a look at these titles.
Including over 20,000 volumes, the Architecture & Planning Library special collections comprise almost 1/5th of the library’s holdings and function as an invaluable resource for scholars in the disciplines of architecture, art and architectural history, landscape architecture, community and regional planning, building technology and construction science. Special strengths include central and eastern European architecture, especially the Vienna Secession Movement, late nineteenth and early twentieth century British and French architecture books, as well as titles from the libraries of architects whose work is represented in the Alexander Architectural Archive. Of special note are the libraries of architect Paul Philippe Cret, architectural historian Colin Rowe, and architect and educator Charles W. Moore.
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