New Books at the Architecture and Planning Library: Collecting

This week, I am highlighting new books on collections- of various sorts.

Karch, Fritz, Rebecca Robertson, Jen Renzi. Collected: Living with the Things You Love. Abrams: New York, 2014.

CollectedKarch and Robertson explain their motivation behind Collected:

We yearned for a forum to relate these design methods to a wider audience. To showcase the scope of possibilities for displaying, arraying, and repurposing collectibles- be they museum quality bibelots or garden variety knickknacks. To demonstrate how to live with antiques and vintage objects in an elevated manner, no matter one’s personal style and aesthetic preferences. To share inspiring examples of how collections can infuse and inform the surrounding decor- and how that decor can in turn act as a beautiful foil those objects. And thus Collected was born. (pg. 8)

Karch and Robertson identify fifteen personalities with regards to collecting: Modest-ist, Exceptionalist, Minimalist, Maximalist, Miniaturist, Colorist, Neutralist, Machinist, Zoologist, Containerist, Artificialist, Naturalist, Seasonalist, Pragmatist, and Fantasist. They examine the traits common to each type of collection and collector, the motivations driving a specific personality to collect, and how the collections might be displayed. The illustrations focus on the collections themselves, primarily photographed in situ. As I was looking through the book, I was surprised (not surprised) to see Henry Mercer’s Fonthill included.

Terragni, Emilia, ed. Room: Inside Contemporary Interiors. New York: Phaidon Press, Inc., 2014.


According to the preface:

ROOM features 100 interior-design projects from around the world chosen by 10 widely respected interior-design critics, practitioners and curators. The 100 designs featured in this volume, all of which were constructed in the last five years, are pushing the boundaries of design and constantly revising our understanding of interior space. (pg. 7)

Room is bookended with the 10 biographies of the curators and the 100 biographies of the designers. Nacho Alegre, Michael Boodro, Tony Chambers, Aric Chen, Frederico Durarte, Miles Kemp, Ko Matsubara, Jon Otis, Robert Thiemann, and Alan Yau were chosen as the curators of design; interestingly, all men. I am also intrigued by the use of “curator.”

The majority of the projects represent retail/commercial spaces, residential spaces, and restaurants/bars; followed by  installations, offices, hospitality spaces, and cultural/civic spaces; and finally, a few outliers- clinics, a yacht, a religious space, and a night club. Each project is accompanied by a description written by the curator who selected it and a series of both photographs and drawings of the spaces.

Friday Finds: Treatises on Housing, 1935

Today, I actually went into Special Collections with the intention to write on garden houses but came out with something a bit different- working class and low income housing. Both Working-class Housing and Unit Plans were published in 1935 by government agencies in Scotland and the US, respectively. The third publication reports on a competition held by the Royal Institute of British Architects on the theme of Wartime Industrial Housing (pg. 4). I was struck by the priorities expressed by the three agencies.

Department of Health for Scotland, Great Britain. Working-class Housing on the Continent. Edinburgh: H. M. Stationery Office, 1935.

Working-class Housing is a report written by John E. Highton based on his month-long tour of working class housing in Holland, Germany, Czecho-Slovakia, Austria, and France. Throughout the report, Highton makes comparisons between Scotland and the Continent, observing how Scotland both exceeds and falls behind that of its peers. The first half of the report addresses several areas of concern: Social Considerations, Financial Considerations, Housing Standards, and Considerations of Architecture and Lay-out. The second half of the report focuses on the case-studies from the Continent, including descriptions, plans, and photographs.

For Highton, his greatest concern and Scotland’s greatest failure is that of aesthetics.  He argues:

Ideas concerning architecture and lay-out are more quickly and easily adopted, and it is in this connexion, I think, that we have the most important and the most numerous lessons to learn. The fundamental lesson is that on the Continent a housing scheme is invariably given into the hands of a competent (and often a brilliant) architect…We can, however, learn much from these schemes on how to combine artistic effects with real utility and real economy. To do this, all those engaged in housing our people must be convinced that housing design is important creative work which should be entrusted to skilled hands. So far as housing is concerned, much of the architectural talent which exists in Scotland is hardly being used. Young men, largely unoccupied, who have been trained in the newest schools of architectural technique, are anxious to express their ideas, but get little chance to do so, while overworked officials cover acre after acre with drab monotonies…” (pg. 17)

Public Works Administration, United States. Unit Plans: Typical Room Arrangements, Site Plans, and Details for Low-Rent Housing. Washington D.C., 1935.

Unlike the Scottish report in which Highton endeavors to persuade his audience to employ architects and to think more carefully about how aesthetics could play a role in the design of housing based on existing examples in Europe, Unit Plans is a set of recommendations to architects, who might be engaged in the design of public housing. Horatio B. Hackett writes:

It must be kept in mind that the typical units incorporated are for guide purposes only. No attempt has been made to solve individual problems or local site conditions. Instead, the effort has been to present typical layouts covering different units and combinations of units, in the belief that the architects will use them as aids to develop their own ideas, both for the individual unit and the group plan. (forward)

According to the authors, “In order to approach a low-rent housing project properly, there are four major features which must be considered. They are: location of project, design of buildings, treatment of grounds, and costs as determined by selection of materials and equipment” (pg. 1).  In the section, “Design of Buildings,” it is less clear to me what the role of aesthetics plays in the US recommendations. For example:

The Government housing plan seeks to meet this situation by creating structures for these citizens that will provide the fundamentals of good, clean  living without extravagances. (pg. 1)

Or: The architecture of low-rent housing projects should express simplicity, fitness, harmony, and honesty. In addition, there must be a logical and agreeable blending between the arrangement and the design of buildings in relation to that of open areas.  (pg. 1)

Royal Institute of British Architects. Industrial Housing in Wartime. London, 1940.

The competition post dates the other two works by five years.  I chose, however, to include it, because like Highton’s report it addresses worker housing but with a very specific design problem. The problem as set forth by Royal Institute:

In response to the need for increased supplies for war purposes, a large number of new factories have been built all over the country, some in existing industrial centres, some near small towns, and others in open country. In each case their existence creates a problem of housing the workers employed. (pg. 6)

The Royal Institute proscribed design challenges both for the houses and estate plans. These challenges reflected not only wartime concerns such as air raids and group housing but also the desire for the structures to have post-war functionality (pg. 6-7).



As an architecture student, working in the archive allows me to think back 30 or 40 years when hand drafting skills determined one’s worth as an architect.  While sifting through rolls of bluelines and sepia prints, pink from chemical decay and red from revisions, I occasionally find architectural treasures.  This semester I have been working primarily on drawings from Bill Hersey and John Kyrk, two draftsmen who worked for Charles Moore.

One note scribbled in the margin of one of the drawings eloquently stated Hersey’s view on hand drafting:


In Hersey’s day, drafting was completely different than today’s digital modeling tools.  While architects now can whip out a complex form and look at it from every angle, hand draftsmen worked line by line on a single perspective.  Slower, yes, but with it’s own benefits, not to mention the romantic zen of hand drafting.  When you draw with pencil on paper, the image suddenly emerges from a series of smaller decisions, like a connect-the-dots for adults.  3D modeling simply cannot capture the same process of intuition and discovery.  While software is powerful, it lacks nuance and character and tempts designers to limit their focus to what fits on screen.  Not that digital software doesn’t have creative value, just not likely the kind that will make future archivists drool.


New Books at the Architecture and Planning Library: Architectural Agents and Architecture’s Pretext

This week I thought I would let the authors speak to their intentions. If they draw you in, please stop by the New Books Table at APL to explore the works further.

WhartonWharton, Annabel Jane. Architectural Agents: The Delusional, Abusive, Addictive Lives of Buildings. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015.

According to Wharton:

The case made for agency in this book is social and political, not legal or economic…Things and places work differently in different cultures and at different times. Indeed, the sample cases in this volume are presented to argue that the power of sites lies in the specificity of their location in the physical and social landscape and in the distinctive marks they make on their settings. Now, as in the past, buildings may be immobile, but they are by no means passive. (xix)

Kanekar, Aarati. Architecture’s Pretexts: Spaces of Translation. New York: Routledge, 2015.

KanekarAccording Kanekar:

This book will attempt to address issues concerning the intelligibility of compositional structure and formal meaning in architecture. In order to focus on this, the forthcoming chapters concentrate on specific architectural projects that are either inspired by and/or based upon works in other arts,  or specific conceptual ideas that are shared between some architectural project and works in another art form which can help understand architecture (3).

Battle Hall Conservation Study


Sample_Izabella and Sarah
GRA’s Izabella Dennis (left) and Sarah Hunter (right)

The Battle Hall Architecture and Planning Library at the University of Texas at Austin was designed by architect Cass Gilbert in 1911, setting the stylistic tone for future academic architecture and shaping the distinguished Texas university campus. In preparation for a preservation and improvement campaign of the University of Texas’ first architectural masterpiece and its later extension, West Mall Building, a Facilities Condition Report was produced by an outside consultant in 2011 to identify measures to restore the building. Several building elements required further investigation to determine original finishes, best methods for cleaning and treating historic materials, and recommendations for restoration. The UT Office for Campus Planning and Facilities Management provided support and funding for the remaining studies to be carried out through the UT Architectural Conservation Lab under the supervision of Senior Lecturer and Conservation Scientist Frances Gale.

Masonry Testing in the UTSOA Architectural Conservation Lab
Masonry Testing in the UTSOA Architectural Conservation Lab
Marble Cleaning
Marble Cleaning Tests on the Battle Hall Staircase

Graduate Research Assistants Izabella Z. Dennis and Sarah B. Hunter from the UT School of Architecture Historic Preservation program had the opportunity to participate in this materials conservation study. The work included laboratory analysis of finish samples from ornamental metals, exterior wood building components, the interior wood reading room ceiling and interior plaster finishes. Cleaning tests were performed on interior marble, and protective treatments were evaluated for the exterior limestone veneer. The study involved archival research of the original construction documents and subsequent renovations of Battle Hall, on-site condition assessments and sample collection, and both laboratory and on-site testing. Based on the findings, recommendations were made to help restore original finishes to metal, wood and plaster elements of Battle Hall during its proposed renovation.

Finish Sample Statigraphy
Finish Sample Statigraphy

After documenting original finishes, including linseed oil paints and lead pigments, practical recommendations were developed using contemporary materials. This project involved close collaboration with Facilities Services in accessing hard-to-reach building components, conducting interior marble cleaning tests and exploring practical preservation solutions.

Friday Finds: Source Books for Woodwork and Terra Cotta

Each of the following companies presents their products differently, both visually and textually, which led me to speculate about the intended audiences.

Universal Catalogue Bureau. Universal Millwork Design Book No. 20. Dubuque, IA: Universal Catalogue Bureau, 1920.

It’s a no nonsense book. It begins with a brief introduction and instructions for ordering. Accordingly:

In compiling this design book, we have endeavored, as far as possible to meet the requirements of the prospective home builder, as well as architect, contractor, and dealer, and in so doing, have eliminated a great number of superfluous designs, limiting the book to what we, after careful study, consider Universal Designs.

The designs shown are not mere creations of a fanciful mind but are practical designs that have been carefully selected and approved. (pg. 5)

The products are arranged largely by department, and a color rendering of an interior room highlighting a specific element such as a door, staircase, or mantel introduces some of the sections. If a rendering is present, a short explanation about the importance of the feature is included.  Aside from the mantels and staircases, most of the products in the catalog are presented free from context; rather, they float on the page. Brief descriptions also accompany the products suggesting certain styles or rooms for which it might be appropriate. Arguably, it falls to the purchaser to envision how the particular element would look in the home.

This copy of Universal Millwork Design Book No. 20 does not have a donor associated with it; however, it does have indications of use. On the back endpapers, a cabinet and window were sketched. Throughout the book, notations (often names), measurements, or alterations to the design were made.  Another interesting aspect of this particular copy is that it was produced with or for the Steves Sash & Door Co. of San Antonio. At this time, it is unclear to me what the relationship is between the Universal Catalogue Bureau and this local company.

Curtis Companies. Architectural Interior and Exterior Woodwork Standardized: The Permanent Furniture for Your Home[Clinton, IA.]: The Curtis Companies, [c1920]. From Joe Gutherie. 

Unlike the Universal Millwork, Curtis Companies undertook great effort to contextualize their products. The company introduces four styles- Colonial, Southern, English, or Western- to which their products could be adapted. Each style has a lengthy description which also includes color renderings of the interior and exterior and suggestions for which pieces to consider. The catalog is arranged both by room (living room) and product type (windows). Like Universal Millwork, each section is introduced by a color rendering and a description regarding the importance of that particular feature in the home. Each of the pieces are contextualized with a sketch of the element in situ, associated with one or more of the styles, and accompanied with a description.  The company even notes that it can help when one lacks an architect.

If there is no architect available to help you in working out your problems, the Curtis dealer will do it for you. He will give you sound advice on the advantages and disadvantages of using certain materials and information as to their relative cost and procurability. Tell him your ideas, your desires, your troubles. He is worthy of your confidence….

If this book helps you to know and select correct architectural woodwork for your home, it will have done its part to help you obtain a home that will endure “as long as human work at its strongest can be hoped to stand.” And the Curtis trademark…will symbolize, to you, as time goes on, woodwork which helps immeasurably to make the center of your world, to you, the loveliest spot on earth. (pg, 6)

Even without the reassuring text about the Curtis dealer, the catalog itself suggests that the Curtis Companies sought to reach a much broader audience than that intended for the Universal Millwork. One has to do much less work to envision oneself surrounded by Curtis Companies woodwork.

The Northwestern Terra Cotta Company. The Northwestern Terra Cotta Company, Chicago[Chicago: The Company, 190-?]. From the Ayres and Ayres Collection.

Unlike the two woodwork catalogs, this catalog presents itself as a portfolio of the company’s work. While they do include instructions on how to request estimates and the information the company needs to produce architectural terra cotta pieces for you, the book itself is primarily examples of the company’s previous work. After a brief history and the advantages of terra cotta, the company highlights their accomplishments and process:

WE PRESENT THIS CATALOG TO OUR PATRONS, not in an attempt to repeat or resell that which already has been done, but to show in some degree what has been accomplished, and the approval standard methods that have been evolved….We omit the usual catalog sheets with all kinds of ornamental stock work, as it is impossible to meet even a small fraction of the ever varying demands, as to style and dimensions, of the long list of architectural features. When desired, we shall attempt to find stock molds approximately corresponding with designs submitted and will send photographs and drawings of such features as we have for approval. (pg. 3)

While the Northwestern Terra Cotta Company may have stock pieces, their catalog is intended to generate custom work from architects as opposed to the stock products carried by the Curtis Companies or the Universal Millwork, which could be purchased by anyone constructing a house.

The Texas State Cemetery and James G. Reeves Collection

"Texas State Cemetary." JVR & Association. c.1995 James G. Reeves records, Alexander Architectural Archive, University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin
“Texas State Cemetery,” JVR & Association, c.1995. James G. Reeves records, Alexander Architectural Archive, University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.

The Alexander Architectural Archive is pleased to share this gem for National Landscape Architecture Month. The Texas State Cemetery Preliminary Master Plan is part of the James G. Reeves Collection.  In the Master Plan, Reeves writes:

This plan strives to create a feeling of reverence, respect, dignity, and honor for those buried here and the people of Texas….The intent of this redevelopment is to create a cemetery worthy of our proud history and culture in Texas. This plan hopes to instill a “soul,” a reverence, to the ground that holds the remains of notable Texans that helped first define a republic and then a state. This plan aspires to affirm that this ground is sacred to Texans, Texans of all races, creeds, and ages. (Texas State Cemetery Master Plan, JVR & Associates and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, January 1995, pg. 2)

There are several files associated with the Texas State Cemetery in the James G. Reeves Collection. The collected materials include contracts, correspondence, meeting notes, collected research materials, and the Master Plan prepared by JVR & Associates and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The Master Plan includes not only recommendations for landscape and architectural features but also a copy of the Project Nomination Form for the State Wide Transportation Enhancement Program.

The two aspects of the collection that I found particularly interesting were the correspondence and the collected research for this project. From these materials, one can begin to form a picture regarding Reeves’s involvement and also his process. For example, there is a road map that had been refolded to highlight the location of the cemetery, and Reeves marked the spot with an arrow. Reeves’s handwritten notes that eventually became more formalized documents are also included. In some of the notes, it is apparent that Reeves was unsure about the greenhouse and proposed pond. In the Master Plan, however, it was included though with a potentially limited future (Texas State Cemetery Master Plan, JVR & Associates and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, January 1995, pg. 14).

As a recent transplant to Austin, I was not aware that we had a State Cemetery until today. I am curious to see how the Master Plan as proposed by James G. Reeves was developed on the site. And if anyone should make it there before me, I encourage you to use the materials established by American Society of Landscape Architects to share the Texas State Cemetery with others!

Friday Finds: Summer and Holiday Rentals

Sommer und Ferienhäuser aus dem Wettbewerb der Woche: 10 Sonderheft der Woche. Berlin: August Scherl, 1907.

This work contains 60 designs submitted for the Summer and Holiday House competition of 1907. The submission categories are broken out by the production cost- a house for 5000 Marks, 7500, 10000, and 20000. There was also a category for house boats, which appears independent of cost. Each entry includes numerous drawings- plans, elevations, sections, perspectives and sometimes site plans and interior perspectives. The materials, location, cost, and architects are also provided. Hermann Muthesius’s article, “Sommer- und Ferienhäuser,” prefaces the competition entries.

The designs are in the vein of the Arts & Crafts, and I would be quite happy living in many of them. The personal delight I take in this work aside, it is a great resource for those interested in the Arts & Crafts or domestic architecture in Germany at the turn of the century. Because the work features drawings from many different architects, it also allows the reader to explore the varied forms of representation and drawing that architects produce.

New Books at APL: Yearbook Landscape Architecture and Urban Design

Bukman, Bert, ed. Blauwe Kamer Jaarboek Landschapsarchitectuur en stedenbouw 2014. Uitgeverij Blauwdruk en Stichting Lijn in Landschap, 2014.  [Blauwe Kamer Yearbook Landscape Architecture and Urban Design 2014]

Landscape_2014This week’s new book was selected to highlight National Landscape Architecture Month. The Yearbook highlights five themes with twenty-five projects: Design as Kickstart, Innovative Cities, Design as Research, Station Central, and Breathing Space. Looking over the book, it seems that many of the projects chosen feature designers who were not only original in approach or offered models to be looked to but also used design to reflect upon, to challenge, to make visible, to confront, or to provide solutions to social issues. While the Yearbook focuses specifically on the work of Dutch designers, the larger themes that the projects represent should have wide spread appeal.