Last week I was able to sit in on the studio lotteries to hear about all the classes that will be taught this semester in the School – I am a little jealous that I cannot take some of them myself! While reviewing the new books this morning, I discovered that two of our recent arrivals may be of interest to two of the studios – Wilfried Wang’s studio on Berlin and Margaret Griffin’s studio on tower design in LA.
Gigon, Annette, Mike Guyer, and Felix Jerusalem. Residential Towers. Zürich: GTA Verlag, 2015.
I will keep an eye out for other new arrivals that may be valuable to the work done in the studios throughout the semester. If you need help locating a resource or would like to request a purchase for material we do not have, please feel free to stop in or drop us a line.
We’ve recently added material to Special Collections, and I wanted to share two of the items. They will be on display in the foyer of the Architecture and Planning Library until October. Stop in to see them!
Last year Nathan Sheppard wrote about the collection of drawings by Bill Hersey and John Kyrk and noted the value of analog drawings in a digital age. As an architecture student myself, I share his perspective. But since the drawings are back on the table, perhaps we can dig a little deeper and find out more about the life and work of these unique illustrators.
The drawings arrived in 10 large rolls, with dozens of projects rolled together in each one. Nathan went through these and described the contents by roll, listing about a dozen projects. Over the past few months it has been my task to separate the drawings into discrete projects to make access easier. At the same time, I have tried to identify as many projects as possible, a task made difficult by the lack of notation on the drawings, the unbuilt nature of most of the projects, and the scarcity of published works to reference. I had to rely primarily on visual connections to link drawings to built works and even to other drawings, at times thinking like a designer to recognize when two ostensibly different projects were actually different iterations of the same building.
The drawings the duo produced are undeniably beautiful, although so many of the drawings in the archive’s collections are. What sets the Hersey and Kyrk collection apart from the others is that so far it is the archive’s only collection of a rendering office rather than an architecture firm. Hersey and Kyrk produced renderings for a great variety of architects and brought to life the visions of Charles W. Moore, William Turnbull, and Robert A. M. Stern, to name a few of their repeat clients.
“To convey advance realisations of proposed structures, to aid in crystalizing ideas in the architect’s mind and to interpret the architectural significance of existing structures,” as described by Hugh Ferriss, perhaps the most famous and influential architectural renderer of contemporary American history, are three objectives of architectural rendering.¹ Bill Hersey and John Kyrk excelled at each one. The first objective is why architects hire renderers, since they possess the advanced drawing skills to transform sketches into convincing perspectives or axonometrics. Going above and beyond that task is the hallmark of a good renderer or designer, and Hersey was known to “simply draw something else, possibly something better and perhaps closer to what [the client] really had in mind.”² As for delineating existing structures, Hersey and Kyrk drew famous buildings by the full spectrum of architects, including Thomas Jefferson, Carrère & Hastings, Greene & Greene, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Louis I. Kahn.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Hersey and Kyrk was how they worked. They owned a Volkswagen bus that they drove across the country to meet clients to work on drawings.² Not only did it take them from coast to coast where their projects were most concentrated, but it also served as a space where they sometimes drew, sometimes cooked (they had equipped it with a stove), and sometimes slept (at odd hours). This freedom prevented them from being tied down to one area and is reflected in the geographic locations of their drawings:
Although architectural renderers often travel to work on remote projects, each office’s body of work is typically highly concentrated in the region where their studio is located. Hersey and Kyrk’s mobile studio allowed them to work with Bob Stern on the east coast while simultaneously working with Turnbull on the west coast and it accounts for how they managed to keep up with Charles Moore’s numerous relocations.
New Orleans is represented especially well: the earliest of 15 identified projects in New Orleans is the Piazza d’Italia competition entry from Charles Moore (as part of Moore, Grover, Harper) produced in 1975. The entry evolved into a design developed by Moore as part of Urban Innovations Group at UCLA in collaboration with New Orleans architect August Perez III. Hersey and Kyrk’s connection with Moore took them through the Piazza d’Italia’s completion and led on to several commissions for New Orleans projects by both Moore and Perez, most of which were designed for the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition.
Hersey and Kyrk’s prolific renderings do not comprise the entire collection. A wine label design for William Turnbull’s winery and their many calendar designs reflect their strong interest in type and calligraphy. Owners of a printing press and multiple cameras, they also produced hand prints and practiced photography. Still, their business was rendering and the rendering business was changing. They were early adopters of new visualization technology and some of their later works contain early digital 3D model printouts; a letter that Bill Hersey wrote to Charles Moore in 1988 reveals the new work flow. Accompanied with it is a selection of images advertising their (better “than ever before”) work:
It was quite a privilege to see how their practice had evolved since 1975, the year they first produced a book advertising their services:
Sadly, the partnership ended when Bill Hersey passed away in 1989. I have found that the drawings here at the archive reflect at least 200 unique projects produced in under two decades. Everything from single family residences to high rises and campus master plans are represented. Although the drawings have been processed, many still remain unidentified and there must be more drawings stored away elsewhere since the majority of this collection is made up of sketches; we only have a handful of fully rendered presentation drawings. Additional drawings bearing Hersey’s signature can be found in the Charles Moore and Urban Innovations Group³ collections and a selection of their drawings can be found on John Kyrk’s website, as well as some of his most recent illustrations.
Ferriss, Hugh. “Rendering, Architectural.” The Encyclopædia Britannica (1929), quoted in Placzek, Adolf, Architectural Visions: The Drawings of Hugh Ferriss (New York, N.Y.: Whitney Library of Design, 1980), 12.
Phelps, Barton. “Bill Hersey (1940-1989) [obituary].” L. A. Architect, 1989: 4. ProQuest (292401)
Finding aids for Urban Innovations Group and the William Hersey and John Kyrk archive are not yet available.
The Library Staff Council arranged a tour of the General Land Office for the staff of the University of Texas Libraries in late July. Several members of the Architecture and Planning Library and Alexander Architectural Archives had the opportunity to attend. It was a fantastic tour!
The GLO is a great resource if you are looking for information about land settlement and ownership in the state of Texas. Many of the resources, we discovered, are also available online. They have digitized nearly 40,000 maps. While the maps are for purchase, it’s a quick way to search their collection. Researchers may also search in the Land Grants Database – again many of these resources are available digitally. Finally, I wanted to link to their list of collections and to their list of services, which includes information about fees associated with licensing and digitization of images. If you have any questions about the materials at the GLO, do not hesitate to contact them – they are friendly and incredibly knowledgeable.
Please note: The photos are of the former General Land Office on the Capital Grounds. The current office is near the Bullock Museum.
While doing a little bit of research on our collection, I came across this title and was intrigued by it – The Books of a Thousand Homes. I thus pulled it from Special Collections this morning. (The book was also reprinted by Dover, as 500 Small Houses of the Twenties.) When I pulled our copy from the shelf, I was delighted by the house on the cover. I also loved that reproductions of blueprints are included in the section, “From Plan Book to Finished Home.”
The AIA Historical Directory of American Architects has a brief biography of the editor, Henry Atterbury Smith. The Acknowledgement by the President of the Home Owners Institute, preceding the collection of plans and drawings, provides greater background on Smith. He writes:
Henry Atterbury Smith has become internationally known for his unusual and successful work in the development of practical forms of multi-family housing, being the originator and designer of the open-stair type of apartment and tenement housing the masses at low rental. The East River Homes designed for Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt, Sr., at a cost of over $2,000,000 to house originally 400 tubercular families, are a monument to his efforts. (Acknowledgment)
While the book is valuable for those researching American homes in 1920s and 1930s, I am curious about the origins and history of our copy. When we think about books as objects, we see them as distinct from other copies of the work, each with their own histories and stories – though sometimes hidden. For this reason, I am always excited to stumble upon one of the works for which we know the former owner.
The Books of A Thousand Homes at Architecture and Planning:
Several different types of tape have been used to repair the pages of A Thousand Homes, while other significant tears were left untreated. Someone created a thin bookmark that I missed on my first pass through the book, because it was tucked neatly into the spine. The note on the bookmark reads: 110 comfortable + pretty. Some of the pages have been torn away and are missing, while several of the houses have been checked in pencil. A book plate for the Library of the University of Texas has been affixed to the front cover’s end papers and the call number is Dewey, suggesting it was not a recent addition to the collection. No record exists for how this copy came into our collection, however. I can only speculate about who might have been responsible for the additions and subtractions to this work.
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