The Arts Connected with Building

T. Raffles Davison, ed. The Arts Connected with Building: Lectures on Craftsmanship and Design delivered at Carpenters Hall, London Wall, for the Worshipful Company of Carpenters. London: B. T. Batsford, 1909.

Carpenters Company hosted a lectures series which included the architects, Robert Weir Schultz (1860-1951), C. F. A. Voysey (1857-1941), E. Guy Dawber, (1861-1938), F. W. Troup (1859-1941), Charles Spooner (1862-1938) & M. H. Baillie Scott (1865-1945), the furniture maker Arthur Romney Green (1872-1945), sculptor Laurence A. Turner (1864-1957), and the ironworker J. Starkie Gardner (1840-1930) at Carpenters Hall on London Wall in 1909. Carpenters Company, which traces its history back to 1271 as medieval trade guild, published the series. According to Thomas Raffles Davison (1853-1937) the intention of the lectures was to inspire and encourage good craftsmanship within design. He writes:

The world is full of beautiful examples of well-applied art, only a small part of which many of us, can ever hope to see, but the principles and aims which have guided their production are open to us all. It is a good ambition to mould materials into forms of enduring beauty, and the development of artistic individuality is one of the most beneficent forces in the world.

In the following pages are examples, not only of fine old work, but of excellent modern work as well. The Arts and Crafts movement has done something definite to stir in people a belief as to the value of beautiful craftsmanship, but it probably also to some extent obscured the first essential of general design, good distribution of parts and proportions, and proper reticence of detail….What we want to see nowadays revived is that sort of simple but expressive work which may get into the hands of comparatively poor people. And there is no reason whatever why people with small incomes should not be able to indulge in beautiful craftsmanship. Good wrought ironwork, woodwork, plasterwork, and beadwork ought all to be available from workshops where craftsmen might enjoy their work by putting some of their own individuality into it. (Introduction)

From M. H. Baillie Scott’s lecture, “Ideals in Building, False and True”:

Now let us consider the old barn. A thing of beauty within ad without, not only from the tone and colour which time has given, but in all essentials of its structure. As a new building it would be no less full of charm, and yet it does not pretend to any architectural style. It is merely a piece of building, and not an expensive building either. Great posts and beams, roughly wrought, support its roof, and the whole structure is full of suggestions of infinite things. If we must worship under roofs, why cannot we have such roofs as these to worship under? How strange is the whole conception of modern ecclesiastical art! Why should there be a special  brand of art for ecclesiastical purposes? Why should we be only Gothic when we go to church? The real Goths were Gothic all the time: home and church were alike. How different has now become the modern villa and the modern church, and how alike in their lack of all that constitutes beauty in a building! (145-146)

This image was associated with the text of the quote above.



Upcoming Event: Nature in Balance

Join us on Wednesday, April 2nd for this great Research + Pizza event! Research + Pizza is a lunchtime lecture series featuring research presentations by faculty from across the university.

Here’s the overview:

What: Research + Pizza: Dr. Damon Waitt talks about native Texas plants and invasive species. This event is free and open to the public!

When: Noon, Wednesday, April 2.

Where: Perry-Castañeda Library, UFCU Student Learning Commons (PCL 2.500), The University of Texas at Austin.

Just in time for the spring riot of color that is wildflower season, Dr. Damon Waitt, Senior Director and Botanist at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, discusses his efforts helping to maintain an ecological balance between native plants and invasive species in the Texas wild.

Waitt is responsible for developing the 279 acres of gardens and natural areas at the Wildflower Center, and is the author of the Center’s Native Plant Information Network — the largest online database about native plants in North America. He also serves as the principal investigator on several projects related to the Wildflower Center’s Pulling Together Invasive Species Initiative and is a member of the Invasive Species Advisory Committee for the National Invasive Species Council.

The program will also include a plant ID session, so interested participants can send pictures of mystery vegetation to for identification by Waitt during the program.

BONUS: Free Pizza (while it lasts) from Austin Pizza — we hope to see you there!

Saracenic and Norman Remains in Sicily

Henry Gally Knight. Saracenic and Norman Remains, to illustrate the Normans in Sicily, by Henry Gally Knight, esq. London: J. Murray, 1840.

For reasons unknown to me, I wanted to share a work of Norman Sicily today from the collections. Perhaps I am missing Italy and the Normans. I remembered a folio of antiquarian photographs on the architecture of Norman Sicily in my graduate library; however, the author and title are now unknown to me.  I hoped to stumble across the work in Special Collections here. I could have searched the catalog for Normans and Sicily, of course; however, I do love the serendipity of the find that library shelves afford. While looking for my intended folio, I happened across a couple of works that will be future entries and I found the work of Henry Gally Knight, which was unknown to me prior.

Henry Gally Knight (1786-1846) traveled to Normandy and Italy in the 1830s to document the architectural remains of the Normans, which resulted in several publications: An Architectural Tour in Normandy (1836); Saracenic and Norman Remains (1840); and The Ecclesiastical Architecture of Italy (1842-1844). (W.W. Wroth, “Knight, Henry Gally (1786-1846)”).

Saracenic and Norman Remains is light on text; however Knight identifies an important trait about Norman architecture:

It may be said, that Architecture flourished wherever the Normans ruled. In the construction of these buildings the Normans adopted the style, and employed the workmen, of the conquered country, but not without imparting to the fabric a character of their own. (Preface)

His intention for the documentation and publication of the plates of the architecture of Norman Sicily was to provide evidence for the pointed arch. He argues that the pointed arch was a characteristic of the architecture produced by the Normans in Sicily prior to its use in later medieval architecture and a feature adopted from Islamic architecture.  He concludes, “The old hypothesis of the Crusades, as the origin of the introduction of the pointed style in Continental Europe appears, after all, to be entitled to more attention than any other suggestion.” (Preface)  The origin of and the use of the pointed arch in Medieval architecture is of course a rather complex issue and a debate that I do not wish to enter into here.  I hope rather that you take a moment to enjoy the complexity and beauty of the architecture of Norman Sicily, which is often neglected in survey courses.

W. W. Wroth, ‘Knight, Henry Gally (1786–1846)’, rev. Jane Harding, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2013 [, accessed 20 March 2014]

The beauty of concrete: Le Béton en Représentation

Beauty is probably not the first word that comes to mind when people think of concrete,but one look through photographs in Le Béton en Representation:La Mémoire Photographique de l’Enterprise Hennebique 1890-1930 is enough to make you fall in love with the material. Francoise Hennebique’s “ferro-concrete”, a system of steel reinforced concrete patented in 1892 as Béton Armé, helped popularize the use of concrete in Europe and the near east.  In addition to establishing his own company, Hennebique cannily used a network of agents to license the use of his patented system to firms constructing their own designs with the amazing results that between 1892 and 1902 over 7,000 structures were built using the system Hennebique.

You might think, that is all very interesting, but this book is in French and I can’t read it.  Why would I check this out?  Check it out for the amazing, inspiring photographs! The commercial photographers who documented these buildings may have only been interested in creating realistic images to use in advertising and promotional materials, but these images are so beautiful! Photography captures the prismatic surfaces and stark lines of concrete silos, bunkers, and staircases and transforms bland industrial structures into stunning modernist compositions.  The fine tonal gradations of concrete are captured so exquisitely by the medium of black and white photography, the hard shell metamorphoses into a sensual surface, almost suggestive of human skin.

To be inspired by more images like these , Le Béton en Représentation can be found in the library catalog here.


The Daily Mail

Daily Mail Ideal Labour-Saving Home. London: Associated Newspapers, 1920.  Bungalow Book: Reproductions of the Best Designs Entered for the Daily Mail Architects Competition for Labour-Saving Bungalows, 1922. London: Associated Newspapers, 1922.  Ideal Houses Book: Reproductions of the Best Designs Entered in the Daily Mail Architects’ Competition, 1927. London: Associated Newspapers, 1927.

Today I discovered three publications issued by the Daily Mail between 1920-1927 that reflect the ideal standards for modern homes, focusing on efficiency, convenience, and comfort. The introductions/prefaces suggest that the middle class and homeowners of post-World War I Britain needed guidance to establish cost efficient and well planned homes. The Daily Mail thus offered a competition for architects to submit their designs for the modern house and additionally held exhibitions in 1922 and 1927 in order to educate their reading public.

The 1920 catalog is markedly different from the later two. In addition to the house plans from the competition, the catalog also offers advice to the modern homemaker. The essays include the cost saving benefits of a well designed and  well equipped house with all the modern conveniences; the ideal equipment needed to set up a home; instructions to interpret the architectural drawings printed within the publication; and lastly postcards that offer tips and tricks from their readers. The Household Appliances Committee of the Design and Industries Association offers this advice in their essay, “The Equipment of the Ideal Labour-Saving Home”:

The decoration of a small room should be its cleanliness, the colouring of the walls and necessary textiles, the paint or stain of the woodwork, and the brightness of the everyday crockery on the dresser. Lessened and cheered by such surroundings, housework becomes more a pleasure than a drudgery. Every superfluous article should be looked upon as a dangerous nuisance, the cause of unnecessary irritation. (The Equipment of the Ideal Labour-Saving Home. A Report by the Household Appliances Committee of the Design and Industries Association. pg.43)

The essays largely disappear in the 1922 and 1927 publications to focus on the competition drawings and advertisements. One of the significant changes between 1920 and 1927 entries is that the spaces for the live-in maids and staff largely disappear, with a stronger focus instead on cost and necessity. The judges of the 1927 restricted the architects to design houses for either  1,500 (Class A) or 850 (Class B). According to the 1927 Introduction:

The object of the competition is two-fold. First to obtain the best possible plans combining beauty and utility. Secondly, to obtain plans which would give the best possible value for money commensurate, with good materials and workmanship. Experience with previous competitions showed that architects as a rule, were prone to attempt to provide more in the plans of house than was practically possible for the expenditure to which they limited. It was for this reason that the cost n both sections were definitely laid down. (Introduction, pg. 27).

While the plans and elevations provide insight into the ideal layout of middle class houses in Britain during the twenties and the essays provide guidance in establishing a modern household, the advertisements are equalling enlightening. Many of the ads address women, stressing modern conveniences and comforts.





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!