Friday Finds in Special Collections: Picturesque and Pattern Books

Parker, Charles. Villa Rustica: Selected from Buildings and Scenes in the Vicinity of Rome and Florence; and arranged for Rural and Domestic Dwellings with Plans and Details. London: J. Weale, 1848.

In the following pages it is proposed to give…a few examples…of Domestic Architecture of Italy, the ruined edifices of which have so many years engaged the attention of those who devote themselves to the study of Antiquities, with a view to their application in the Rural Architecture of England.

Throughout the whole country, and especially near Rome and Florence, there exist a great number of habitations, which, under very natural forms, produce many pleasing varieties; combining picturesqueness and symmetry without disorder or monotony. The peculiar object therefore of the Work will be to delineate the exterior of these buildings, with their surrounding scenery, modifying the interior to the wants and manners of this country. (iii)

Charles Parker provides plans, elevations, renderings, and the cost to construct the building in England to the scale and materials prescribed. The models for his buildings are both actual and imagined. Included are drawings of non-specific details to make one’s construction more authentic, for example roof tiles. His examples provide designs for the homes of servants and staff of the country estates, for ancillary buildings like lodges and mills, for schools, and for leisurely pursuits like hunting and fishing. His examples raise the question: For whom and for which building types is the Picturesque appropriate?

Birch, John. Picturesque Lodges: A Series of Designs for Gate Lodges, Park Entrances, Keepers’, Gardners’, Bailiffs’, Grooms’, Upper and Under-Servants’ Lodges, and Other Rural Residences. Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons, 1879.

Recently, I shared one of John Birch’s other books from Special Collections- Concrete Buildings. In both the previous work and Picturesque Lodges, Birch is concerned with the cost of production and the comfort of the inhabitants. The designs of both reference the local and reflect vernacular English architecture. One might also argue that Birch suggests that a certain type of building is well suited to the Old English Rural Style, namely servant and staff housing and other ancillary buildings on country estates and parks. He writes:

Comfort and economy are the characteristic features of the plans, and most of the designs have been executed at moderate cost in various parts of the country. To those who have the taste to encourage a style of architecture adapted to English country scenery and the liberality to provide well-arranged and comfortable homes for their dependents, without pretending to make “every gentleman his own architect,” I trust this little work may prove of some service in stimulating a desire to combine the picturesque with the useful and comfortable. 

Harmony and fitness with the surrounding scenery forms the chief element of the picturesque in country buildings: too much pains cannot be taken in selecting appropriate sites and having designs prepared to suit the requirements of each situation, in order to accord with the surrounding scenery and landscape.

Most of the following designs partake of the Old English Rural Style in preference to anything of a classic character, being considered more suitable for this country, and admitting of greater variety and simplicity of form and outline in harmony with country scenery. (pgs. v-vi)

Dana, William S. B. The Swiss Chalet Book: A Minute Analysis and Reproductions of Chalets of Switzerland, obtained by a Special Visit to that Country, its Architects, and its Chalet Homes. New York: The WIlliam T. Comstock Co., 1913.

In this book the author has endeavored to transport from the center of Europe to the Western Continent, in as complete and illuminating a way as language and line may do it, the chalet of Switzerland. To some extent, too, it is hoped, the atmosphere itself has been reproduced. (preface)

Perhaps, The Swiss Chalet Book is not a pattern book in quite the same manner as those by Parker and Birch. Dana documents the buildings he found in Switzerland to include descriptions, plans, elevations, renderings, photographs, and details. While we might argue about authorial intent, Dana’s work, like the other two, does reflect the transmission of architecture, a sharing of ideas and forms.


New Books at the Architecture and Planning Library: Architecture and Movement

Blundell Jones, Peter and Mark Meagher, ed. Architecture and Movement: The Dynamic Experience of Buildings and Landscapes.  New York: Routledge, 2015.

Too often, the aesthetic is seen as opposed to the useful or purposeful, and yet life is not so easily subdivisible. It is vital to our well-being that we know where we are and where are going, in both an immediate, literal sense and in a long-term, metaphorical sense. How these two are connected, this book will gradually reveal. (pg. 4)


Peter Blundell Jones and Mark Meagher edit a selection of articles and writings about the experience of moving through and within buildings, cities, and the constructed landscape. The book is divided into four parts: Moving through buildings and landscapes: the designer’s perspective; Movement as experienced by the individual; Movement as social and shared; and The representation of moment.

Some of the articles are excerpts from primary texts like Vitruvius or the Rule of St. Benedict. A translation of Hermann Muthesius’s chapters on approach and circulation from Wie Baue Ich Mein Haus is also included. If you are interested in the complete work or how the reprinted chapters relate to the larger whole, you are in luck. APL has three editions of the Wie Baue Ich Mein Haus in Special Collections.


Friday Finds in Special Collections

Relying on my trusted method of serendipity, I found three books that I wanted to share today. They are not thematically related; however, due to their small size, they are housed near each other.

Frederick Post Co. Catalog and Price List of the Frederick Post Company: Manufacturers and Importers of Drawing Materials and Mathematical Instruments. Chicago: Frederick Post Co., 1910.

I was intrigued by both the tiny size and title of the book. “Frederick Post Company” was stamped on the spine; having no prior knowledge of the company, I was curious about the contents. I was quite surprised to discover a supply catalogue of drawing instruments and other equipment related to drafting and construction. The Frederick Post Company offered blue print papers, slide rules, drawing instruments, surveying equipment, plum bobs, and a whole host of related items.

A stamp on the title page identified local architect Roy L. Thomas, whose papers are housed in the Alexander Architectural Archive, as the previous owner. The catalogue seems like a curious thing to save, though I am glad Mr. Thomas did. The items for purchase speak to a rather different process of design than that of CAD.

Lux, Joseph August. Schöne GartenkunstEsslingen: P. Neff Verlag (Max Schreiber), 1907. (Part of the Martin S. Kermacy Collection)

This slim little book contains several interesting drawings of gardens by Max Benirschke and Franz Lebísch. While I am unfamiliar with both the author and the illustrators, the drawings reminded me of Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

Flinn, Joseph J. Official Guide to the World’s Columbian Exposition. Chicago: The Columbian Guide Co., 1893.

The Official Guide to the World’s Columbian Exposition may rate as one of my favorite finds in Special Collections to date. While the images contained in the text might be familiar to those who study American architecture, there is something rather special about being able to examine the guide first hand. In addition to the illustrations and map, it provides an overview of the fair, descriptions of the buildings, useful advice for travelers, and information about Chicago. While the Ferris Wheel is not illustrated, I rather like the description: This to some extent, takes the place of the Eiffel tower. Visitors are hurled 250 feet into the air, in cars similar to railway coaches in construction (pg. 152). I also had no idea there was a New England Clam Bake Building (pg. 153)!

Our copy is inscribed by several previous owners: Dr. N. S. Davis at State and Randolph; V. Weldon of Chicago; and Mr. S. E. Weldon of Cuero, Texas. S. E. Weldon left explicit instructions that his book should be returned to him if found. He writes:

The finder of this book, if at any time it be lost, will please send it through the [missing text] to the last address. Put one cent on it. I will pay [potentially missing text] rest. S.E.W.



Eugene Atget

Atget, Eugene. Atget Photographe de Paris. With a preface by Pierre Mac-Orlan. New York: E. Weyhe, [1930].

Abbott, Berenice and Eugene Atget. The World of Atget. New York: Horizon Press, 1964.

A couple of years ago, I had the chance to visit MoMA to see the Cindy Sherman retrospective. I remember feeling overwhelmed by both her work and the crowds in the gallery. So I wandered away to explore the other exhibits and discovered a second one on photography: Eugene Atget: “Documents pour artistes”. Everything about the Atget exhibit felt different. I was lost in his photographs and captivated by his views of Paris.

Today, I discovered that the Architecture and Planning Library has two books on the works of Eugene Atget (1857-1927). The first is a collection of 96 plates with an introduction written by Pierre Mac-Orlan, housed in Special Collections; the second is by Berenice Abbott with 180 plates and is part of our circulating collection. Both were published after his death.  Abbott  writes of him:

Though he had not received the material rewards he merited and which  might have kept him going for a longer time, his infinite pains were in the end, at least, rewarded by that monument, his immortal work. He will be remembered as an urbanist historian, a genuine romanticist, a lover of Paris, a Balzac of the camera, from whose work we can weave a large tapestry of French Civilization. Yet perhaps his most haunting photographs show simply a plow in a field near the city, a crop of wheat, or one of the trees he loved so well. (Abbott, pg. xxxi)

Comparing the reproductions in the two works, I was struck by the differences of the sepia toned photographs (1930) versus the black and white (1964) in terms of both quality and emotions produced in the viewer. Additionally, some of the photographs are cropped differently. These variations led me to wonder, which is the more authentic photograph.

New Books at the Architecture and Planning Library: Codesigning Space

Marlow, Oliver and Dermot Egan. Codesigning Space: A Primer. London: TILT and Artifice Books on Architecture, 2013.

According to Marlow and Egan:

Pertinent to the codesign approach is an understanding that it is the people that use the space who give purpose to it, who activate and animate it with their encounters and insights, and who imbue it with meaning. With this in mind, it has become imperative to develop a way to engage those people, the end-users in a process that embeds their ideas, ambitions and creativity into the final product, be it a building, a space, furniture or services. It is these people who know best what they need from design. This endows the designer with a role unlike the one that is traditionally expected; it requires the designer to work with intuition and to facilitate creativity and cultivate existing tensions into productive contributions. (pg. 53-54)


The primer includes TILT’s manifesto along with a series of short articles or interviews on the theory underpinning their practice of codesign and examples of the types of workshops and exercises that TILT undertakes with all stakeholders.

Introductory illustration to Practice

New Books at the Architecture and Planning Library: Selling the Dwelling

Cheek, Richard. Selling the Dwelling: The Books that Built America’s Houses, 177-2000. New York: The Grolier Club, 2013.

Richard Cheek’s Selling the Dwelling is the corresponding publication to the exhibit of the same name hosted by the Grolier Club in New York. He writes of his motivation for the exhibit:

I became intrigued by the promotional aspect of both architectural literature and commercial catalogues, as produced from the country house era through the post-World War II building boom. How were these publications selling the dwelling? What sort of ideal home were they marketing, and to whom were they appealing? The exhibition here at the Grolier Club and the visual history that accompanies it attempt to answer these and related questions, beginning with the publication of the first American architectural book in 1775 and extending to the end of the twentieth century, when Web sites began to replace printed house design catalogues. (pg. 7)


The work is arranged chronologically; each chapter has a brief introduction to the historical period to provide a bit of background for the illustrations that follow. The greatest feature of Selling the Dwelling is the great number of illustrations of primary documents- books, catalogues, magazines, ephemera, toys, and other objects. For those with a budding interest in the transmission of architectural ideas with regard to American domestic architecture, this work would be an ideal introduction. If you happen to find a publication of interest, do be sure to follow up with  a search in the Architecture and Planning Library. We might just have it.

Happy Birthday, Blake Alexander

Blake Alexander in his UT office
Blake Alexander in his UT office

Blake Alexander, namesake of the Alexander Architectural Archive, was born on February 4, 1924 in Paris, Texas. He was a longtime architectural educator at the University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture as well as a dedicated force in the education, documentation and preservation of Texas heritage.

Professor Alexander first started the collection that today is known as the Alexander Architectural Archive in 1958 when he adapted an assignment for his architectural history course at UT to follow the Historic American Building Survey (HABS) format. This required students to measure and document historic Texas structures. The documentation collection quickly outgrew his office and began to collect in a small storage room, dubbed “Alexander’s Closet”.

Blake Alexander with Ty Cox at Winedale's Lewis Place (Stagecoach Inn)
Blake Alexander with Ty Cox at Winedale’s Lewis Place (Stagecoach Inn)

During the 1960’s, a student brought Professor Alexander large paper sacks full of water-damaged drawings that had survived the 1900 Galveston hurricane. The drawings were from prominent local architect Nicholas Clayton, and sparked the idea to welcome the donation of original drawings by Texas architects that deserved to be preserved. In 1979, The University of Texas Libraries began to collect these drawings in “The Architectural Drawings Collection”.

The “Architectural Drawings Collection” was renamed the “Alexander Architectural Archive” in 1998 after the Texas Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians launched a campaign to honor the archives founder and recognize Professor Alexander’s pioneering contribution to the preservation of our architectural history. Today, the archive contains over 200,000 drawings and over 61 linear feet of papers, photographic materials, models and ephemera representing projects from Texas and beyond. The archive and Professor Alexander’s efforts have been an invaluable resource for restoring some of Texas’ most important and beloved buildings.

Happy Birthday, Blake Alexander!