William Eden Nesfield

W. Eden Nesfield. Specimens of Medieaval Architecture, chiefly selected from examples of the 12th and 13th centuries in France & Italy. London: Day and Son, 1862.

Today  I discovered Specimens of Mediæval Architecture, chiefly selected from examples of the 12th and 13th centuries in France & Italy by W. Eden Nesfield (1835-1888). Nesfield was an Arts & Crafts architect, working in the revival styles of Old English and Queen Anne. Between 1866-1869, he shared an office with Richard  Norman Shaw. (Nina James-Fowler, “Nesfield, William Eden (1835-1888)”).  Specimens is a collection of plates based on drawings made while on tour in France and Italy- though the focus is squarely on French cathedrals. Nesfield writes:

In submitting this Work to the Public, I must observe, that it simply pretends to be a Collection of Sketches, made during a professional tour- My motive for its publication arose from the hope, that in conjunction with similar works, it might tend to stimulate the growing appreciation for the noble buildings of the Middle Ages, and of those grand principles which actuated their authors. In selecting subjects, from an almost inexhaustible variety of examples, in France and Italy, a preference as been given to those which illustrate the art of the 12th and 13th centuries – The truth, skill, and beauty exhibited throughout these great periods, can scarcely fail to attract admiration. My endeavor has been to faithfully represent the subjects as I saw them, avoiding, with a few exceptions, such as had been touched by restoration, a process which, as at present conducted in France, frequently tends to destroy the character of the old work. I much regret, that, through other pressing duties, I have been prevented from lithographing more than a limited number of plates myself, and have much pleasure in acknowledging the fidelity with which the drawings have been transferred to stone by Mr. Newman and other gentlemen. 

I had not come across the works of W. Eden Nesfield prior; however, I was intrigued by both his preface and title page. While not an expert in the Arts & Crafts, he felt akin to Ruskin and Morris to me.  According to Nina James-Fowler, “The Royal Institute of British Architects holds several of Nesfield’s early sketchbooks which reveal the influence of A. W. N. Pugin and Viollet-le-Duc, whose work he traced and sketched.” (James-Fowler, “Nesfield, William Eden (1835-1888)”).  In his sketches, Nesfield mixes measured details and drawings of the cathedrals and abbeys with depictions of folklife and the imagined medieval.

Nina James-Fowler, ‘Nesfield, William Eden (1835–1888)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2008 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/19902, accessed 12 Dec 2013]

Inside Modern Texas: Developing an Exhibit

I’ve been working all semester on a new GRA assignment in the Architecture and Planning Library/Alexander Architectural Archive, and I’m finally ready to let the word out. My task is to develop an exhibit for display in the Battle Hall Reading Room during the spring 2014 semester. See previous examples of Reading Room exhibits here and here. I’ve never worked in a museum or archive before, so the curating process was completely new to me. Here is how it’s happened so far.

After weeks of thinking about it, I chose to combine my interior design background and current focus in historic preservation and look at interiors of the modern movement as a consideration for preservation. First I set a few limits (modern nonresidential interiors, located in Texas only, between 1945 and around 1980). The next step was browsing hundreds of the Alexander Architectural Archive‘s holdings to find images that fit the theme. I also looked for background information on specific projects in the project files for various architects. This was my favorite part of the process. What could be more enjoyable than looking through beautiful drawings all day?

Browsing the Archive with Nancy Sparrow, Curatorial Assistant for Public Services
Browsing the archive with Nancy Sparrow, Curatorial Assistant for Public Services

Meanwhile, I completed preliminary research to inform the structure of the exhibit.  For this I discovered the reference collection located in the Reading Room. This area houses building code books and general reference volumes like encyclopedias, but it also includes great specific subject reference books related to architecture and design. Books such as A Century of Interior Design, 1900-2000 and Dallas Architecture, 1936-1986 helped me to establish a framework of development of the interior design industry and overall architectural development of Texas during the chosen time period.

I also decided to do outside research on recent historic preservation projects in Texas that gave some consideration to the original interior design. Several of these projects will be featured in the exhibit.

The next step was to outline the structure of the exhibit and select final images to display. Then came the title. The title needed to convey the subject (interior design), design era (modernism), time period (post-WWII), place (Texas), and the intent (consideration for historic preservation) in a concise and catchy package. After brainstorming and rearranging words what must have been hundreds of times, Inside Modern Texas: The Case for Preserving Post-War Interiors rose to the top.

Lots of behind-the-scenes tasks are still ahead to get this exhibit up and on display. Look for Inside Modern Texas some time in March.  Meanwhile, don’t forget to go beyond the stacks to the reference collection, Alexander Architectural Archive, and even special collections for your own research needs.

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!

Architects Being Real

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

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

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

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

The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Scotland

David MacGibbon and Thomas Ross. The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Scotland from the Earliest Christian Times to the Seventeenth Century. 3 vols. Edinburgh: David Douglas, 1896-1897.

The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Scotland by the architects David MacGibbon(1831-1902) and Thomas Ross (1839-1930) was an extension of their work on the domestic architecture of Scotland. The authors sought to document all extant churches from the early medieval period through the Reformation and arranged the text chronologically. Each entry includes a basic description of the architectural fabric, often including measured drawings and occasionally an historical account associated with the churches. For anyone interested in early Scottish architecture, it is an excellent starting point.  Below are the drawings for the Chapel of St. Margaret, Castle Rock, Edinburgh.


Edinburgh: Old and New

Cassell’s Old and New Edinburgh: Its History, its People, and its Places.  London:  Cassell & Co., 1883.

Knowing that my areas of interest lie outside the core collection of the Architecture and Planning Library, I was not sure what I would discover in Special Collections. I wandered the stacks looking for familiar titles and old friends. One of the title’s that piqued my interest was Old and New Edinburgh.  It is a three volume set that I had not previously come across in my studies.  To be fair, Edinburgh was the site in which my archival research took place but not included as a case study. Most of my time was spent at the National Library, the National Archives, the Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, and the National Museum of Scotland.  I rarely took the bus into the city center, preferring to walk from my apartment. Walking let me explore the city and better understand it.

Upon my first trip to Edinburgh, I was struck by the very visible distinction between Old Town and New Town, which is now separated by Waverley Train Station and Princes Street.  Looking south from Princes Street is Old Town with Castle Rock, medieval churches, and winding streets.  Pieces of the twelfth century town still remain.  Within the castle grounds is small chapel with a chevron arch associated with Queen Margaret. East of the castle at the end of Canongate is Holy Rood Abbey founded by David I in 1128 as an Augustinian Priory.  The site is now part of Holyrood Palace, while the new Parliament  building across the street  offers even further contrast to the architecture of the old city.  North of Old Town lies the eighteenth-century New Town with its regularly planned streets and neoclassical architecture.

James Grant (1822-1887) writes of this contrast in Old and New Edinburgh:

In Edinburgh every step is historical; the memories of a remote and romantic past confront us at every turn and corner, and on every side arise the shades of the dead. Most marked, indeed, is the difference between the old and the new city- the former being so strikingly picturesque in its broken masses and the disorder of its architecture, and the latter so symmetrical and almost severe in the Grecian and Tuscan beauty of is streets and squares…

On one hand we have, almost unchanged in general aspect, yet changing in detail at the ruthless demands of improvement, the Edinburgh of the Middle Ages…her massive mansions of stone, weather-beaten, old, dark, and time-worn, teeming with historical recollections of many generations of men…

On the other hand, and all unlike the warrior city of the middle ages, beyond the deep ravine overlooked by Princes Street- the most beautiful of European terraces-and by that noble pinnacled cross which seems the very shrine of Scott, we have the modern Edinburgh of the days of peace and prosperity, with all its spacious squares and far-stretching streets, adorned by the statues of those great men who but lately trod them. And so the Past and Present stand face to face, by the valley where the old waters of the North Loch lay. (vol. one, 2)

To view a map of the current city with some of the historical sites identified, please follow this link.  I selected a few of the plates from Grant’s book to compare to the map of the city today as well as roughly corresponding photographs from my collection.