On the Road with Charles W. Moore

A Selection of Watercolors and Drawings from the Alexander Architectural Archives


Charles W. Moore. Photograph. aaa-cwm00038. Charles W. Moore Archives, Alexander Architectural Archive, University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.

I confess that when I began this project, I knew very little about the architect Charles W. Moore (1925-1993). In the architectural history surveys, he is there as a representative of Post-Modernism. His Piazza d’Italia is often included among the works of Robert Venturi, the Team Disney Building by Michael Graves, Philip Johnson’s AT&T Building, and Aldo Rossi’s Modena Cemetery. For me, he was member of the tail end of survey.

Joining the staff of the Architecture & Planning Library and the Alexander Architectural Archives, I discovered that discussions often turn to Charles Moore. His extensive travel is often remarked upon, and that theme was also quite apparent in the works of Kevin Keim. I was struck by how often friends, students, clients and colleagues remembered his love of travel. Bruno Miglio, a client of Moore, recalls time spent in Rome with the architect:

In 1992, we met Charles in Rome. We dearly preserve in our memories the images of him in Piazza Navona enjoying the music and water at the Four Rivers Fountain, in Villa Giulia absorbing the mysterious fascination of the Etruscans, and on the Appia Antica painting a lovely watercolor sketch until a sudden April shower chased us away. The frugal, creative glory of Borromini at the church of St. Ivo charmed him for sure, and at the Trevi Fountain, Rose and I quietly watched him slowly pacing around the bowl of the fountain, deep in his own private thoughts and memories, or maybe just entranced by the musical refrain of the cascading water…. And in the evenings we would slowly roam Trastevere in search of a piazza where old architecture, ambiance, and good food would strike an honorable balance. (Keim, An Architectural Life, 131)

As I expand my knowledge and understanding of Charles Moore through his writings and Keim’s An Architectural Life, I connect most strongly with his love of place. Moore writes:

We seek with all these devices to make places. I take it that one of the things about a place is that it is distinguishable from other places because of the specific circumstances that created it, so that when you are somewhere you are not somewhere else, and so that the particular characteristics of a spot on the earth’s surface are in some way understood and responded to in making a place, which in its ordering of the environment is a function of the civilization which created it.  (Moore, “Creating of Place,” 296)

The watercolors and sketches below represent places. Some are specific, identifiable places; others are not, yet they still suggest the sense of being somewhere. I was surprised that many of the watercolors and drawings evoked a sense of loneliness within me. There seems to be a quietness to them, unexpected by someone initially only acquainted with the Piazza d’Italia.

Arranging the watercolors and sketches into galleries was challenging. It may surprise you that many of the works included were undated or unidentified. Thus, I could not necessarily tie them to specific experiences, projects, publications, or moments of travel. The narrative could not be linear. I settled, therefore, on a mixture of specific places: – Utah, France, and Guanajuato – and themes – Landscapes and Water, Urban Fabric, and Ruins.

Gallery One: Utah, 1951

Charles Moore: Each of us moves on an average once every five years to somewhere else we’re expected to be citizens of as interestedly and effectively as we were in the previous location. In this movement of people, just about the only thing that remains specific to places on the face of the earth is the land: the structures of the land and its particular characteristics. (Moore, “Creating of Place,” 296)

Gallery Two: Landscapes & Water

Charles Moore: Thin, silent glazes of undisturbed northern lakes reflect the heavens like hand mirrors for the gods. Forest streams glide through dense Appalachian growth. Plunging cascades in Venezuelan rain-forest waterfalls fill the atmosphere with mist, drowning the humid air with thundering silence. Fog banks arriving from the sea barely clear Irish coastal cliffs, then move inland to roll over hills and valleys like phantoms. Rains fall in a soothing drone and transform Tuscan cities of stone into watercolored mirages of pastel wetness. In Japan, water sweats up from thermal volcanic arteries collecting in steaming baths inches away from crystalline mounds of snow and ice. (Moore, Water and Architecture, 16)

Gallery Three: France

Except from a letter written by Charles Moore while on a tour through Europe, 1949: There’s just no way to tell you in a letter about the French food. We started with Escargots (snails), which were wonderful, and every meal since has been a delight- wine costs less per litre than gasoline. (Keim, An Architectural Life, 37)

Gallery Four: Urban Fabric

Charles Moore: Florence looked the way it did because of the important edifices which had something special about them, as well as all the other buildings which made up the urban milieu that made palaces possible. It is just as useful to take them together as to separate them. (Cook, Klotz, and Moore, “Interview with John Wesley Cook and Heinrich Klotz,” 203)

Gallery Five: Guanajuato, Mexico

Charles Moore: I am writing this in Guanajuato, a middle-sized town in the middle of Mexico, crammed into a narrow canyon, with just two narrow streets (one up and one down) in the bottom of a canyon, and with a maze of stepped pedestrian ways climbing up the canyon’s slopes through the most remorselessly picturesque townscape this side of Greece.  (Moore, “You Have to Pay for the Public Life,” 138)

Gallery Six: Ruins

Charles Moore: It is altogether likely that inhabitants themselves can be trusted to know where the real places on the planet are, to go to them, from Disneyland to the Athenian Acropolis and to send postcards back when the places have spoken to them, and they perceived, with great good feeling, that they were somewhere. (Charles Moore, “Principles and Enthusiasms,” in Keim, An Architectural Life, 283).


Cook, John W., Heinrich Klotz, and Charles Moore. “Interview with John Wesley Cook and Heinrich Klotz.” In You Have to Pay for the Public Life: Selected Essays of Charles W. Moore, edited by Kevin Keim, 167-207. Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press, 2001.  Originally published in John W. Cook and Heinrich Klotz, Conversations with Architects (New York: Praeger, 1973), 218-246.

Keim, Kevin. An Architectural Life: Memoirs & Memories of Charles W. Moore. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1996.

Keim, Kevin, ed. You Have to Pay for the Public Life: Selected Essays of Charles W. Moore. Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press, 2001.

Moore, Charles W. “Creating of Place.” 1984. In You Have to Pay for the Public Life: Selected Essays of Charles W. Moore, edited by Kevin Keim, 292-301. Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press, 2001.

Moore, Charles W. “You Have to Pay for the Public Life.” In You Have to Pay for the Public Life: Selected Essays of Charles W. Moore, edited by Kevin Keim, 111-142. Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press, 2001.  Originally published in Perspecta, 9-10 (1965): 57-97.

Moore, Charles W. Water and Architecture. Photographs by Jane Lidz. H. N. Abrams, 1994.

New Books at APL: Sergey Chernyshev

Lykoshin, Ivan and Irina Cheredina. Sergey Chernyshev: Architect of the New Moscow, 1881-1963. Berlin: DOM Publishers; Moscow: MA, Shchusev State Museum of Architecture, 2015.

chernyshevLykoshin and Cheredina’s work on Sergey Chernyshev, architect and urban planner, is our most recent addition from the Basics Series of DOM Publishing, Berlin, joining the works on other Russian architects Yakov Chernikhov and Felix Novikov in our library. The authors conclude of Sergey Chernyshev:

Chernyshev’s designs can be viewed as monuments to an extraordinary architect, a man who managed to preserve rich, old traditions and lay the foundation for new ones which will undoubtedly be taken up and continued by the new masters of new Moscow. Chernyshev’s designs are testaments to the master’s talent and his role in architecture, not only in Russia and not only in the Soviet era. (Lykoshin & Cheredina, 234)

The biography is extensively illustrated with a significant proportion of the material from the family archive. The authors also included brief bibliographies of contemporary architects.

New Books at APL: Ways to Modernism: Joseph Hoffmann, Adolf Loos, and Their Impact

Thun-Hohenstein, Christoph, Matthias Boeckl, and Christian Witt-Dörring, editors. Ways to Modernism: Josef Hoffmann, Adolf Loos, and Their Impact. Basel: Birkhäuser; Wien: MAK, 2015.

WaystoModernismWays to Modernism is an exhibit catalog, which accompanied the 2014 exhibit of the same name at the MAK in Vienna. Boeckl and Witt-Dörring describe the scope of Ways to Modernism:

Their “horizontal” networks and the interactions of these two heroes of modernism with their special cultural circles are a central focus of research today. These desiderata led to the development of an exhibition concept that places the body of work of these two estimable architects and designers into a cultural-historical and a conceptual-historical context in order to illuminate the emergence of the central cultural problems that Hoffmann and Loos interpreted and solved in such different ways, and to demonstrate the consequences that have been brought forth by these solutions as modernism progressed up to the present day. (Boeckl and Witt-Dörring, “Ways to Modernism,” 17.)

The exhibit and catalog explore five themes: New Consumer Worlds, Otto Wagner, Modern Lifestyles, New Viennese Ways 1910-1938, and Resources: 1960 until Today. The essay, “The Legacy of a Decade-long Struggle: ‘Ornament and Crime’ after 1909,” by Christopher Long, a faculty member from the School of Architecture, is included in the catalog.  The work is highly illustrated and includes many beautiful architectural drawings. I also discovered that the MAK has an extensive online collection, which is worth checking out as well!

Boeckl, Matthias and Christian Witt-Dörring, “Ways to Modernism: Antecedents, Hightlights, and the Impact of Two Philosophies.” In Ways to Modernism: Joseph Hoffmann, Adolf Loos, and Their Impact, edited by Christopher Thun-Hohenstein et al., 16-35. Basel: Birkhäuser; Wien: MAK, 2015.

Let’s Go to the Fair!

Back in February, I discovered the guidebook to the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago in APL’s Special Collections. As part of the blog entry for this Friday Finds, I included the image of the Texas State Building. After reading the post, Nancy Sparrow notified me that the Alexander Architectural Archive had material related to the building from the archive of James Riely Gordon (1863-1937), who designed the pavilion for Texas. We decided to hold off on sharing the material, because one of the drawings (see the image below) was to be included in the Harry Ransom Center’s  upcoming exhibit, Frank Reaugh: Landscapes of Texas and the American West. The exhibit opened on Tuesday and will run until November 29, 2015, which means I now have the opportunity to share the archival material with you!

Accepted Competitive Design for the Texas State Building, World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago 93, Riely Gordon, architect, San Antonio Texas. Alexander Architectural Archive, University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.

I am following Chris Meister’s interpretation of the evolution of the design of the Texas State Building (Meister, 89-101). Initially James Riely Gordon entered the competition with his partner D.E. Laub; however, the final entry belongs to Gordon. Meister writes of the significance of the competition for Gordon:

Designing the Texas pavilion for the great world’s fair would garner national attention for the energetic San Antonian and put him in contact with some of the leading lights of his profession. Publicity accompanying the fair probably did more to raise his countrymen’s awareness of architecture than any other single event. In addition, after two redesigns, the Texas State Building as built represents an important step in Gordon’s development of his signature courthouse plan. (Meister, 89)

I very much enjoyed the chance to look over the drawings and photos and discuss the project with Nancy. She pointed out details of the buildings of which I was not aware such as the longhorn skull over the entrance or the design of the windows as copied from the Mission San José y San Miguel de Aguayo in San Antonio. I am also rather fond of the statue holding the lone star atop the dome in the initial design.

If you are interested in learning more about James Riely Gordon, Chris Meister’s book, James Riely Gordon: His Courthouses and Other Public Architecture is an excellent place to start. He provides extensive evidence for the development of and influences on the Texas State Building as well as a description of the completed building, highlighting the longhorn as well (Meister, 89-101, description 95 and 98)! You can also make an appointment with the archive to examine the archival collection. For more information on the design of the award, the American Historical Association has a discussion on it in Perspectives on History. And if you are interested in learning more about the Columbian Exposition, a great read is The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson and one of my favorites.

Meister, Chris. James Riely Gordon: His Courthouses and Other Public Architecture. Lubbock, Texas: Texas Tech University Press, 2011.

New Books at APL: The Pantheon

PantheonMarder, Tod A. and Mark Wilson Jones, ed. The Pantheon: From Antiquity to the Present. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015.

I think it would be near impossible to pick a favorite building, but the Pantheon is a definite contender! I was thus excited that this book arrived today. I noticed last week that it was “in process” according to the Recent Arrivals of the library’s website. The work consists of a collection of twelve essays plus the introduction. The first half focuses on the ancient Roman Pantheon. The essays included cover issues of dating and construction as well as a discussion on Agrippa’s earlier building. The later half considers the Pantheon in various historical contexts. I look forward to reading the new research regarding dating and construction as well as the chapter on the Middle Ages.