Friday Finds: The Arts and Crafts Movement

The Arts and Crafts Movement - CoverGillian Naylor’s 1971 book The Arts and Crafts Movement: A Study of Its Sources, Ideals and Influence on Design Theory explores theory and purposes of the Arts and Crafts movement.  According to Naylor, “its motivations were social and moral, and its aesthetic values derived from the conviction that society produces the art and architecture it deserves” (pg. 7).  This is, in part, what Naylor seeks to understand.  By placing the Arts and Crafts movement in its historical context, as well as demonstrating how the movement fits in the larger field of design.

Starting from Britain and moving into other European countries and the United States, the Arts and Crafts movement had a profound influence on design.  The movement encouraged the consideration of society in design, as architecture and popular designs are the product of the society in which they are created.  Also, one aspect of the movement encouraged the making of products by hand, rather than by machine.  This was most particular to Britain, where there “was the conviction that industrialization had brought with the total destruction of ‘purpose, sense and life'” (pg. 8).   So the encouragement of handmade products became a major aspect of the Arts and Crafts Movement.  Taking the reader through the history of the movement, and even the figures and events which led to the movement, from Pugin and Ruskin to William Morris to the guilds, so that Naylor concurrently provides a history of design.  She explores design and the changes in trends through the designs and lives of the major figures who made the Arts and Crafts Movement possible.

In fact, The Arts and Crafts Movement is considered one of the early seminal texts  on the history of design.  Published in 1971, the book was written in the midst of a challenging time in Naylor’s career, as she sought to shift from writing popular magazine articles to more scholarly endeavors.  Naylor became one of the first female writers at Design magazine in 1957, run by the Council for Industrial Design (COID).  As such, such was assigned pieces related to “women’s interests.”  Through this position and the pieces she wrote for Design, Naylor gained expertise in the field of design and design history.  After giving birth to her son (having a child, her contract with Design dictated, meant she had to resign her position), she did some freelance writing for Design, but ultimately focused on writing scholarly works on the history of design and architecture, eventually becoming a professor of the subject.  At a time when women were still forced to leave their jobs after becoming mothers, Naylor managed to continue to pursue her passion for design history and become one of the foremost experts on the topic, writing several texts which remain some of the most influential in the field of design, including The Arts and Crafts Movement (Pavitt, Jane. “Gillian Naylor (1931-2014).” Journal of Design History, Volume 27, Issue 2.  2014.).

Arguably, the life of Gillian Naylor was just as fascinating and important as the book she wrote is influential.  Not only did she write one of the defining texts of design history, but she also wrote two major books about the Bauhaus (The Bauhaus in 1968 and The Bauhaus Reassessed in 1985).  Naylor serves as a reminder of the many challenges and hurdles women faced in building careers as recently as the 1960s.  She was relegated to “women’s topics” as a writer at Design and yet went on to become one of the most respected scholars on design history in Britain.  A member of a panel which awarded Naylor an honorary doctorate in 1987 noted that, “‘If Sir Nikolaus Pevsner is the father of design history, then Gillian Naylor is its favorite aunt.'”  Examining the career of Gillian Naylor, though, it is clear that she is far more than a favorite aunt of design history.  As an art historian, especially of architecture, Sir Nikolaus The Arts and Crafts MovementPevsner is a critical figure in developing the line of scholarship through which the history of architecture and design is viewed.  But, Sir Nikolaus had little to do with design history, specifically; he certainly does not deserve the label of “father.”  In truth, Naylor is more the mother of the history of design than anything else, and displayed a true and rare passion for the subject.  It would have been easier for her to find another job with a magazine that did not require her to resign once she became a mother, but instead she chose to continue writing about design history.  That kind of love for the history of design and perseverance through challenges warrants a far higher honor than the label as the “favorite aunt” would suggest.

Alofsin Archive: Student Materials and Professional Work

Hello again, this is Processing Archivist Kathleen Carter with more information on progress of the Alofsin archive.

As the processing of this collection comes to a close (things are nearly complete!) I’ve been at work on two standout areas of the collection: Anthony Alofsin’s student work from his years studying architecture at Harvard University and Columbia University and his professional work as an architect. In step with materials I’ve already processed, both contain a wealth of information and a large number of stunning visual materials. These are also the areas of the collection that contain the largest number of drawings by Alofsin, which currently fill a flat file cabinet.

A model Alofsin made for his coursework while a student at Harvard University in 1978
A model Alofsin made for his coursework while a student at Harvard University in 1978

Alofsin attended the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) from 1978-1981 and began researching the history of the GSD and design pedagogy there (which eventually led to his book on the history of the GSD, The Struggle for Modernism, published in 2002). The archive includes his course notes and design work, including architectural sketches and drawings and a model built as one of his first projects for the school. The Alofsin archive also includes notes and work created during his time at the Department of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University, where he received Master of Philosophy and Ph.D. degrees. It was there that Alofsin began his research on Frank Lloyd Wright, and his doctoral dissertation was on Wright’s connections to Europe.

Notebook containing course notes for a Design course that Alofsin took at the Harvard Graduate School of Design
Notebook containing course notes for a Design course that Alofsin took at the Harvard Graduate School of Design
Notebook containing course notes for a Romanesque Architecture class Alofsin took at Columbia University
Notebook containing course notes for a Romanesque Architecture class Alofsin took at Columbia University

After completing his education and in addition to his teaching position with the School of Architecture at The University of Texas at Austin, Alofsin worked professionally as an architect. He designed his own residences, including a house and condominium in Austin, Texas, in addition to building homes for clients. This year he was named a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (FAIA), the highest membership honor reserved for architects who have made substantial contributions to the field.

Plans for the Rogers Residence
Plans for the Rogers Residence by Alofsin in 2008

Architectural plans as well as reports and documentation from every stage of the design process are included in the Alofsin archive. As with previous materials, I have carefully rehoused and inventoried all of the materials regarding Alofsin’s professional work. Both his student work and his professional work are organized and have been described in the finding aid of the collection to be available to researchers.

Photos of Alofsin's personal home in Austin, TX, which he designed
Photos of Alofsin’s personal home in Austin, TX, which he designed


With these parts of the archive rehoused and inventoried, the project is getting close to completion! Remaining are some of Alofsin’s personal correspondence and administrative documents from his work as professor with the School of Architecture.

Friday Finds: The Romance of London

Romance of London CoverGordon Home’s The Romance of London highlights “how many of these architectural links with the centuries long past still exist in London” in hopes of encouraging citizens to care about the futures of these historic places (pg. 2).   Published in 1910, The Romance of London includes illustrations of the iconic buildings around London and seeks to tell the story of the city through these buildings.

Home explores early London (namely as it was under the Romans and the Saxons), the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, The Guildhall, and other landmarks.  The chapters on each structure are short histories that help to contextualize the buildings, though Home includes little about their contemporary (in 1910) uses. In the case of the Tower of London, one of the most famous buildings in the city, there is only a brief mention at the end of the chapter of how the building has served many purposes, as a “castle, a royal palace, and a prison, and is now an arsenal and one of the most popular show-places in London” (pg. 17).  Home spends a great deal of time exploring London’s churches, including Westminster Abbey (which constitutes the longest chapter in the book), St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the chapter on “Some Old London Churches.”  Together, the three emphasize the role of the Church, both the Catholic Church and the Church of England, in London’s history.  As the center of politics in England, London was also the seat of power for religious figures in the nation.  Home discusses the construction of Westminster, particularly; with its Gothic architecture and long history, Westminster remains the most prominent church in the city, host to the coronation of every monarch since 1066, royal weddings, and other major British events.  Where Westminster Abbey is distinctly Gothic, St. Paul’s Cathedral is Roman and Corinthian in style, though the original St. Paul’s (destroyed in the fire of 1666) was also Gothic.  The new St. Paul’s contains elements of Gothic and Roman architecture, thereby paying homage to England’s history as a Roman occupied territory and the popularity and frequency of Gothic architecture in England.  The golden dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral remains an iconic part of London’s skyline as a representation of a blend of much of England’s past.

When the book was published in 1910, England had just come through a major constitutional crisis, leading to a sudden general election early in the year.  There was a desire to restore regular order to the nation, and London most particularly, as the seat of government.  After such a tumultuous moment in Britain’s history, it is understandable that Home would wish to look back on the monuments to British greatness in one of the world’s most splendid cities.  And yet this ignores the majority of Londoners’ experience.  Most of the city’s inhabitants did not enjoy the benefits of London’s palaces, or have the privilege of moving among the most elite of British society who would have been at Westminster Abbey for the  coronation of a new monarch.  In truth, many of London’s citizens lived a very different life from the world portrayed by Home; there were no castles or royal jewels or grand Elizabethan Halls in their lives.  To them, London was teeming with carts and carriages, grime, and suffragette protests, a social context which is ignored in The Romance of London.  Much of what Home espouses as London was inaccessible to the average citizen in the city.Romance of London Page

The Romance of London portrays only specific parts of the history of the city.   Home is true to the title of his book: it is little more than a romanticized history of London and its buildings.  London is undoubtedly a romantic city, full of cobblestone streets, stone buildings, and tributes to the grandness of the British.  Humans have a tendency to record in history that which is favorable to themselves, often to the detriment of the average person.  Those ordinary stories, equally as valuable as those Home tells about Kings and Templars and religious leaders, are hidden or ignored.  This is not at all unusual, but nonetheless lamentable.  London’s history is partially written in its famous buildings, and though Home briefly mentions the Italian and English workers who built Westminster Abbey, they possess rich stories of their own that are not told.  Likely, those stories are lost forever, and the architectural history of these buildings is the poorer for it.  For all the wealth of Britain’s social elite and the richness of London’s past, Home’s telling of its history ignores the average Londoner, whose experience of London was not the romantic, idealized version of he portrays.

Gone to Cincinnati

Irene here with a post about a trip to the Buckeye State, Ohio! In early October, several members of the Alexander Architectural Archives attended the 40th anniversary conference of the Society for Commercial Archeology (SCA) in Cincinnati, Ohio. If you wish to learn more about the processing of the SCA collection, please read my previous post. Along with educating the organization about the processing portion, we were also there as an outreach measure for both monetary and archival material donations. My supervisor, Stephanie Tiedeken, Archivist for Access and Preservation, and I co-presented on the project during the paper sessions. Beth Dodd, Curator of the Alexander Architectural Archives, also attended the conference. Along with presenting, we were also fortunate to participate in tours focusing on the history of Cincinnati and the surrounding area.


Day 1

We arrived on Wednesday, October 4th for the opening reception at the Washington Platform Saloon & Restaurant. After dinner, those brave enough to climb several hundred feet below the surface visited lagering cellars that exist below many structures. Cincinnati had a very active brewing business in the 1800s until the Prohibition Era. The tour guide noted that Cincinnati is thought to have the largest underground system of these cellars in the United States.

Day 2

The next day consisted of a tour of Cincinnati. We toured the Carew Tower, which was the tallest building in Cincinnati until 2010. We were treated with wonderful views of the surrounding area.

The view at the top of Carew Tower.

After, we loaded up on the buses and visited one of Cincinnati’s historic neighborhoods, Over-the-Rhine. As mentioned before, the city had an active brewing economy mostly due to the large amount of German immigrants that came into the area. The tour consisted of us walking around the neighborhood and learning about the influence of German immigrants in society and the local economy. Additionally, architecture is a big theme with SCA. Walking around Over-the-Rhine provided an interesting way to see first-hand the evolution of architecture from then to now. We also visited more underground lagering cellars.

Bruce Willis apparently filmed part of Marauders (2016) in this cellar. These cellars would house the barrels of lager until the Prohibition Era.
Bruce Willis apparently filmed part of Marauders (2016) in this cellar. These cellars would house the barrels of lager until the Prohibition Era.

We also stopped at a restaurant where the owner had covered the outside facade and lawn area with neon signs. The one below is one of my personal favorites of the whole trip.

One of my favorites! Any guesses why? Ballantine's was Martin Crane's (from Frasier) favorite beer!  In the background, you can see more neon.
One of my favorites! Any guesses why? Ballantine’s was Martin Crane’s (from Frasier) favorite beer! In the background, you can see more neon.

The best part of Day 2 was the 40th anniversary dinner at the American Sign Museum. Along with the wonderful food (including a tasty mac and cheese bar!), Tod Swormstedt, a former SCA board member, gave a very detailed tour of the space. The ambiance coming off the lights really created a wonderful atmosphere to celebrate the 40th year of SCA. Check out all of the fantastic neon signs.

Just a small sample of the signs at the American Sign Museum!
Just a small sample of the signs at the American Sign Museum!
The American Sign Museum also had a Big Boy sign! I didn’t get the pose exactly right…

Day 3

Friday was the presentation of the papers. I had never presented at a conference before, so the nerves were quite high. Stephanie and I were in the third session of papers, The 20th Century Roadside in the 21st Century. The two other paper sessions were Exploring the History of Cincinnati and the Buckeye State, and History and Preservation of the American Roadside. Each presenter was allotted 20 minutes to present with a 20 minute Q&A after each paper session. I am happy to report that our presentation went very well. I tried to slow down and focus on positive faces on the crowd. We received a lot of questions about the SCA collection from the audience. Following the paper sessions, Neon, a documentary covering the history of neon in the United States was shown.

Day 4

The focus of Day 4 was a tour of the Dixie Highway, one of the first major highways in the United States. We loaded up on the buses at 8 am and began our travels to Lima, Ohio. Along the way, we stopped at various regional mom-and-pop shops including Kewpee Hamburgers for a late lunch. We also stopped at businesses with interesting signs as seen below. The day concluded with the closing dinner at the Mecklenburg Gardens for a German dinner.

Mom and pop shops have some of the more unique signs!

The context for why we attended this conference was centered on acquiring additional SCA archival material, but also educating others about what the Alexander Architectural Archives does as an archive. Many times I have had to explain what an archive does and how archivists operates within such an institution. The opportunity to speak directly to SCA members, the individuals donating their material, about the SCA collection was education for both groups. We actually came home with new acquisitions including posters and towels for a conference in Miami during the early 80s.

The opportunity to present at the SCA conference was a highlight of my fall semester. Among my classmates, I have been one of the few to have had the opportunity to present at a conference for their job. I also learned more about the amount of preparation needed to create a professional level presentation, which is always needed! Stephanie and I created a nice PowerPoint presentation, which we both practiced numerous times including one final run on the day of paper sessions.  On a more personal level, I have become quite knowledgeable about the history of SCA. It was wonderful and slightly bizarre to actually meet the individuals featured in the collection. I was starstruck a few times. I am very grateful for the opportunity to present on a project that has been a passion of mine. Next time you see a neon sign or a diner, stop and take a look around! You won’t regret it!