Category Archives: alexander architectural archives

Alofsin Archive: Design Education

Alofsin Archive Design Education materials rehoused in their new manuscript boxes
Alofsin Archive Design Education materials rehoused in their new manuscript boxes

Hi, I’m Kathleen Carter. As I detailed in my last blog post, I’ve been processing the Anthony Alofsin Archive, the papers of the University of Texas at Austin professor and author of several works on architecture. Currently, I’m in the rehousing stage of the project. I’ve been removing materials from their original boxes and folders and putting them into brand new archival folders and manuscript boxes.  As with anything, these materials will age and may become unusable if not stored properly. By placing the papers into acid-free folders, putting all photographs into protective sleeves, and removing any damaging materials (for example, rusting paperclips), we can ensure that the Alofsin Archive will remain in good condition for as long as possible. To start with, I’ve been working on the materials that Dr. Alofsin collected on the history of design education.

 

Alofsin's book on the Harvard Graduate School of Design published in 2002
Alofsin’s book on the GSD

The bulk of these materials are about the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD). Dr. Alofsin was commissioned by the GSD’s Dean Gerald McCue in 1985 to write a thorough history of design education at Harvard for its 50th anniversary in 1986 (also Harvard’s 350th anniversary).  With editor Julia Bloomfield and research assistant Andrea Greenwood, Alofsin accumulated over six hundred pages of documentation on the history of school. These were used to plan the exhibition “The Founding Decades of the Schools of Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and City Planning at Harvard, 1895-1935” held at the GSD in 1986. Alofsin also laid down the framework for a multi-volume series about the school. While those books were never published, Harvard later passed the rights of the materials to Alofsin. He used the research to write The Struggle for Modernism: Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and City Planning at Harvard, published in 2002.

 

GSD student Raymond F. Leonard's 1931 thesis, an example of student work accumulated in the archive
GSD student Raymond F. Leonard’s 1931 thesis, an example of student work Alofsin collected

Drafts of both the original volumes and The Struggle for Modernism are in the Alofsin Archive. The research for the 1986 project and other materials on the history of design education accumulated by Alofsin have also found their home in the Alexander Architectural Archives. These records include interviews with GSD alumni and faculty, work by students dating back to the 1930s, charts of the evolution of the GSD’s courses,  hundreds of photographic materials, and even papers from the personal archive of the first GSD Dean Joseph Hudnut.

 

These materials will all be described in a complete finding aid of the Alofsin Archive and available to researchers to see for themselves!

A photograph from the archive of early GSD students working in the historic Robinson Hall
A photograph from the collection showing early GSD students at work in the historic Robinson Hall

Semester Recap: The Unbridled Beauty of Watercolor Renderings

To kick off a series of blog posts recapping the Spring 2014 semester, we figured we’d start with one of the most visually captivating: watercolor renderings from our very own Alexander Architectural Archive.

Earlier in the semester, Judy Birdsong’s Visual Communications studio paid a visit to the Archive to check out some of our working drawings in order to see how they have changed over the years. This is a completely fascinating progression, and one of my personal favorite things to view when I visit the Archive for my own research needs. However, a few weeks later, students were assigned a project requiring watercolor — and the watercolor renderings the Archive has are an absolutely incredible resource!

I was lucky enough to be given a similar exposure to the Archive’s watercolors by Curatorial Assistant Nancy Sparrow, and I’m here to pass on the unbridled beauty. If any of you happen to have been looking to improve your architectural watercolor skills, the Archive is an unparalleled resource!

Throughout final reviews, a similar version of the same comment often comes to the surface: accurately conveying an architectural idea heavily depends on the way you draw or render your final presentation graphically. With so much focus on computer generated renderings in practice today, watercolors are almost slowly being vaulted into the ranks of a lost art. These stunning examples from the Archive showcase immaculate talent that displays a clear understanding of color, shadow, contrast, and fine detail by the artist.

We hope the following high-resolution images inspire you in some way, whether out of pure admiration, or to pursue a new (or revived!) technique in the renderings you produce yourself. Click on the below photographs to view in beautiful detail!

I was floored by this beautiful rendering of the Flawn Academic Center, located just across the mall from Battle Hall. Nancy and I could not stop admiring the glass…
…as well as the rectangular screen detailing that makes the FAC’s facade so distinguishable on campus. Truly, I could stare at every facet of this piece for hours!
This rendering of the Blanton Art Museum by Kallmann McKinnell & Wood Architects features a more soft and controlled style versus the more lively and articulated piece of the FAC. I love the gradient of color in the trees and the wax-like reflection of the roadway.
This detail view reveals the attention paid to the tiling under the eaves, the careful shading of the windows, and – my personal favorite – the almost exact reflection of the fenestration in the sheen of the roadway. This is such a unique technique that adds to the character of this piece, and I’m feeling a creative spark inside me just typing this!
We also love this rendering of the drama building, also on UT’s campus. This piece features some of the more lively, broad strokes of the FAC rendering. I, personally, love articulating trees and other plants with markers and watercolor, and this artist used flattering, vibrant green hues to offset the tan and sand hues of the featured building. I also purposely left this image uncropped – the paint strokes at the bottom reveal a glimpse into the creative process!

I cannot stress enough how valuable an experience it is to pay a visit to the Archive to see renderings, drawings, photographs, and even tools used by the greats we house in our collections. Not only are these collections inspiring, but they are reminders that there are endless ways to represent an architectural idea. I believe this last point is the most powerful, especially for students embarking on a career in architecture and design. The profession is inherently creative and open to interpretation – and you have the power to convey ideas in your own style!

Many, many thanks to Nancy Sparrow for bringing these pieces to my attention. We hope you take advantage of the Archive’s treasures for all of the semesters ahead!

New Collections, Maps, and Turtles!

Howdy all, and welcome back for another Mayaland Adventure! I hope everybody enjoyed the Independence Day weekend. The Architecture and Planning Library and Alexander Architectural Archive were closed over the weekend to celebrate, so it’s good to be back.

Recently, along with the volunteering on George F. and Gerrie D. Andrews Maya Architecture Collection, I worked with Donna Coates on accessioning a new collection. The process requires understanding the difference between relevant information and data for the archive, and that which is not pertinent to keep.

Some of the material is not kept because we can get copies online or within other resources, which includes items such as government documents or photocopies of publications. These items, though at times are rather interesting, cannot be kept due to limited space. With limited space comes a higher diligence for selecting essentials, and leaving items that are easily accessible elsewhere.

During the process of obtain new collections, we must also work to not get rid of aspects which another archive or department might use. Just because something does not apply to our archive does not necessarily mean someone else cannot use it. This is why we work with other facilities on campus or in town that might have use for the extra material. It is this cooperation that creates a friendly environment in the archival community.

Back in the George F. and Gerrie D. Andrews Maya Collection, we got together Friday to discuss the progress thus far, and how each member of the team thought the processing should continue. Ian brought up a good point that for the final sorting the collection should be placed into country categories, followed by alphabetical site sorting. This would allow researchers to acquire access to a specific region, instead of sifting through the entire collection. This is important for the archive as well because it prevents the material from being overly handled.

We also discussed how we would house the Andrew’s photos and writings. The decision we must make is whether to kept everything together, or boxed separately. This item is still up in the air at the moment. It seems, at least from my view that it would be useful to have the groups separate, because individuals would be likely to be looking specifically for photos or documentation, not necessarily both. It also feels more organized.

Prelimnary Map of Central Portion of Maya Ruins of Yaxha, El Peten, Guatemala
Prelimnary Map of Central Portion of Maya Ruins of Yaxha, El Peten, Guatemala

The problem arises, however, with items that are contained in the documentation that fit better within the photos portion. Here would be required to make sure to have detailed notation of each item to create a complete inventory. We also must find a place for all the drawings and sketches present within the collection. This includes maps, stelae and masks, and graffiti. These are just a couple of the questions the team faces as we continue work on the collection.

Before heading out, check out this cool photo I found while sorting. It is the ‘casa de las tortugas’ or House of the Turtles! You can see a rough scale of the building based on the individual standing in front. Enjoy las tortugas, and until next time this is Austin from Mayaland, signing off.

Casa de Las Tortugas
Casa de Las Tortugas

Documenting vernacular architecture in Texas

Earlier this summer, I wrote about processing the Wayne Bell papers. Because of my resulting familiarity with his work, I went on to work with the records of the Winedale Historical Center, the historic preservation program in the School of Architecture that Bell directed for many years.
When we interviewed Bell, we asked about the unique challenges of preserving historical sites, especially when a property or features of it have deteriorated beyond repair. His answer? You can preserve by creating a historical record. Throughout the Winedale Historical Center records are field notes, site plans, drawings, photographs, oral histories, and other materials kept safe in the Alexander Architectural Archive, documenting important information about buildings from across central and south Texas.

Zimmerscheidt-Leyendecker House field book
Field book entry, Zimmerscheidt-Leyendecker House

You hope that, with good preservation work, the building will remain. Sometimes, however, disaster strikes. In 1981, just five years after UT historic preservation students worked on the Zimmerscheidt-Leyendecker House in Colorado County, an arsonist destroyed the property. The students’ records are now that much more valuable to maintaining the cultural memory of this home.
By Amanda Keys, processing assistant in the Alexander Architectural Archive and School of Information student focusing on archival enterprise and special collections

William A. Storrer collection donated to the University of Texas at Austin

Storr
William Allin Storrer at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY. William A. Storrer Collection.

Noted Frank Lloyd Wright scholar, Dr. William Allin Storrer, has donated his manuscript, research and reference archive to the University of Texas at Austin Libraries. The collection consists of photographic prints, negatives, slides, drawings, papers, books and periodicals that led to his groundbreaking publications: The Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright: a Complete CatalogThe Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright: a Guide to Extant Structures; and The Frank Lloyd Wright Companion. Storrer chose the University of Texas at Austin because of its School of Architecture’s “focus on organic and environmentally viable architecture and because of the presence of Wright scholars Anthony Alofsin and Richard Cleary among its faculty.”

The Storrer Collection joins nearly one hundred other archival collections consisting of more than a quarter of a million drawings and thousands of photographs and related materials in the Alexander Architectural Archive and more than 88,000 volumes in the Architecture and Planning Library.

Marin County Hall of Justice
Frank Lloyd Wright. Marin County Hall of Justice, San Rafael, CA (S.417). William A. Storrer Collection.

Storrer produced the first comprehensive catalog, along with a definitive numbering system, of Wright’s nearly 500 built works. The 3rd edition of the Catalog identifies in photo or drawing every extant constructed project. It also incorporates the maps and directions from his earlier Guide (1991). Storrer’s Companion (1993) provides an additional textual component, plans, and photographs, as well as new documentation on nearly 100 properties that have been destroyed. The range of this documentation makes his publications essential tools for all Wright scholars.

“The Storrer Collection represents the most comprehensive documentation of Frank Lloyd Wright’s built work that has ever been assembled outside Wright’s own archive,” states Alofsin. “It will provide generations of scholars with an incomparable foundation upon which to base future Wright research and study. Having the Storrer collection in the Alexander Architectural Archive confirms the University of Texas at Austin as the primary location for advanced scholarly research on Wright, America’s best known architect and a major cultural figure of the twentieth century.”

interior of residence
Frank Lloyd Wright. Interior of the John Storrer residence, Hollywood, CA (S.215). William A. Storrer Collection.

“Dr. Storrer’s generous contribution marks a significant opportunity for the School of Architecture,” emphasizes Dean Fritz Steiner. “With Storrer’s appointment as Adjunct Professor of Architecture, the University of Texas at Austin now offers graduate students seeking to pursue advanced scholarship on Frank Lloyd Wright unparalleled expertise and a range and depth of archival materials found at no other institution of higher education.”

Once processed and cataloged, the Storrer collection will be available by appointment within the Alexander Architectural Archive.

Texas Committee for the Preservation of Architectural Records established

The Texas Committee for the Preservation of Architectural Records (TxCOPAR), sponsored by the Alexander Architectural Archive at the University of Texas at Austin, has been established to assist in the location of historical records and the preservation of the architectural heritage of Texas. The web site for the Committee can be found at http://drupal.lib.utexas.edu/apl/aaa/copar.html.

TxCOPAR will serve as a resource for sharing expertise on the management and preservation of architectural records, as well as information about the location of those records. To date, over 30 repositories have been identified in Texas. At this early stage, the web site is primarily dedicated to gathering membership information through its online form. The Texas Committee urges those who own or care for architectural documents or those who are interested in locating and preserving architectural records in Texas, to join TxCOPAR.

The Committee follows the model of other regional COPARs that are part of the national COPAR (Cooperative Preservation of Architectural Records) effort. This national effort was established in 1973 and is maintained by the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress as a center for information on architectural records in the United States. COPAR directs researchers to repositories in all states.

TxCOPAR is suitably based at the Alexander Architectural Archive, the largest repository of architectural records in Texas, with more than 250,000 drawings and over 860 linear feet of papers, photographic material, models, and ephemera, representing thousands of projects in Texas and beyond. The Alexander Architectural Archive is located within the Architecture and Planning Library, a unit of the General Libraries. Many important resources are located nearby, including the Texas State Archives, the Texas Historical Commission, the U.T. School of Architecture, and the U.T. Graduate School of Library and Information Science (GSLIS) with its strong Archives and Preservation and Conservation Studies programs. TxCOPAR, however, is a statewide effort dependent on its members. It is a statewide service committed to the preservation of architectural records in Texas and the sharing of information about the location of these records.

Extensive Maya architectural research archive donated to the General Libraries

The largest, most exhaustive and fully documented visual record of architecture of the Lowland Maya area in the world has been donated to the General Libraries Alexander Architectural Archive at the University of Texas at Austin. The George F. and Geraldine D. Andrews Papers, donated by Mrs. Geraldine D. Andrews, represent the life work of Prof. George F. Andrews (1918-2000) of the University of Oregon, and his wife, Gerrie.

“The Andrews Papers– along with the recently acquired library of Prof. Linda Schele donated by her husband David – makes UT Austin one of the major locations in the world for the study of Maya architecture and culture,” said Harold Billings, director of General Libraries.

In the late 1950s, Prof. Andrews and his wife visited the Yucatan for the first time. For the next 40 years they were to devote their professional lives to the study and documentation of Maya architecture. This extended investigation produced the Andrews Papers, a modest name for a remarkable collection that includes an architectural data bank covering 850 buildings at 240 archaeological sites in the lowland Maya area.

The collection consists of three main components: (1) approximately 3,500 pages of descriptive data covering both exterior and interior architectural, decorative, and construction features; (2) more than 2,500 architectural drawings (sketches, maps, plans, sections, elevations, details, and restored views); and (3) several thousand photographs showing the buildings in their present form, which ranges from partly destroyed to substantially excavated and partly restored.

As Prof. Andrews noted shortly before his death,

“. . . perhaps the most important aspect [of what he referred to as the Architectural Data Bank] . . . is that the data from every building or site considered has been put into the same standardized form, making comparisons of individual buildings, building complexes, specific sites or entire regions relatively simple. For example, features such as base moldings, medial moldings, and cornice moldings can be compared at both inter-site and intra-site scales since the data for all sites is recorded in the same format and drawings have been made at the same scale. . . . anyone interested in Maya architecture from any point of view would find the data bank of considerable value as a basic research resource for comparative architectural studies, investigations of architectural details and construction techniques, or in making areawide studies of stylistic attributes, building forms, or site-level patterns of settlement.”

Prof. Andrews directed his first field project at the site of Comalcalco, Tabasco, Mexico, with the support of the Ford Foundation. He and his wife also served as members of the Sayil, Xculoc, and Xkipch archeological projects.

Prof. Andrews retired from full-time teaching in 1980 and devoted the next 20 years to full-time research and study of the Maya. He was the author of numerous monographs including Maya Cities: Placemaking and Urbanization (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1975) and a three-volume collection of his important essays and studies entitled Pyramids and Palaces, Monsters and Masks (Lancaster, CA: Labyrinthos, 1993-1999).

The Andrews Papers are currently being inventoried in the Alexander Architectural Archive. For more information please contact Beth Dodd, Curator, Alexander Architectural Archive, or Nancy Sparrow, Curatorial Assistant, at (512) 495-4621. For general information on the Alexander Architectural Archive consult: http://drupal.lib.utexas.edu/apl/aaa

General Libraries acquires Cret Library

The General Libraries has acquired the library of Paul P. Cret (1876-1945), the architect responsible for The University’s 1933 Master Plan, the design of the Main Building and UT Tower, and 18 other buildings on the UT campus.

The collection totals approximately 700 volumes published between 1560 and the 1930’s plus 43 albums, portfolios, and boxed sets of photographs. The books, many of which are rare, are mostly large, folio-size, and profusely illustrated. Many are in their original leather or cloth bindings. Most of the books are classic texts still in use today by architects and architectural historians.

Included in the collection are offprints, exhibition catalogs, prospectuses, annual reports, monographs, trade and industrial materials catalogs, journals, and periodicals regarding architecture and planning, housing, restoration, and bridges. The photographic materials consist of documentation of the work of Paul P. Cret and his successor firm. The books in the Cret Library will be housed in the Architecture and Planning Library. Photographic materials will be cared for in the Alexander Architectural Archive.

The Cret Library was acquired with funding from the Martin S. and Evelyn S. Kermacy Collection Endowment, the School of Architecture, the General Libraries, and the UT System Academic Library Collection Enhancement Program (ALCEP).

“This is a magnificent collection of great historic value to UT Austin and of current value to a range of architectural historians and practicing architects,” said Harold Billings, Director of General Libraries. “With the addition of this collection and the continuing expansion of the Alexander Architectural Archive we now have one of the major architectural resource centers in the nation on our UT Austin campus.”

In 1907 Paul P. Cret founded what became the most successful beaux-arts architectural firm in Philadelphia. In addition to his work on the UT Austin campus, he designed such prestigious edifices as The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., the Rodin Museum, and The Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia. While practicing architecture, Cret also headed the Department of Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania for over 30 years. After Cret’s death in 1945, his four partners assumed the practice under the partnership of Harbeson Hough Livingston & Larson (renamed H2L2 in 1976). The Cret Library was acquired from H2L2. It is highly unusual that a collection of this type and size should survive in its entirety.

Architectural Drawings Collection named for Professor Blake Alexander

The General Libraries Architectural Drawings Collection at The University of Texas at Austin has been renamed The Alexander Architectural Archive in honor of Prof. D. Blakeley Alexander, long-time UT School of Architecture professor and noted architectural historian and preservationist whose original collection of architectural drawings provided the foundation for the collection in 1979.

“It was Professor Alexander’s early collecting of these materials for the Architecture Library, his persuasion of donors to place their archives in the collection, the use of his own personal funds from time to time and obtaining the support of others, and the many years of unflagging effort on his part that have made this collection a reality,” says Harold Billings, director of General Libraries.

Lawrence W. Speck, Dean of the School of Architecture, observes, “It will be a great asset to the archive to bear Blake Alexander’s name. He has an extraordinary reputation as an advocate for the preservation of our architectural heritage in Texas.”

It was upon the joint recommendation of Harold Billings and Dean Speck that President ad interim Peter Flawn approved the renaming of the Architectural Drawings Collection.

Now a professor emeritus, Alexander received a Bachelor of Architecture degree from The University in 1950. After obtaining a Master of Arts degree in fine arts and archeology from Columbia University, he returned to UT Austin to teach in the School of Architecture for nearly 40 years. Alexander is the author of numerous publications relating to Texas architecture, including Texas Homes of the Nineteenth Century (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1966).

The Alexander Architectural Archive contains over 200,000 drawings as well as specifications, correspondence, contract documents, photographic materials and objects documenting the architecture of Texas and the Southwest. It includes resources for projects by such prominent Texas architects as Nicholas Clayton, James Riely Gordon, Ralph Cameron, Atlee & Robert Ayres, and O’Neil Ford. The Archive also contains documentation for the work of national and international architects such as Marshall & Fox of Chicago; Smith & Brewer and Sir Aston Webb, both of London, England; Harwell Hamilton Harris of Los Angeles; Paul Cret of Philadelphia; and Charles Moore. The Archive is also the repository for historic drawings of University of Texas buildings. The material available in the Archive encompasses all aspects of the design process as well as landscape architecture, interior design, historic preservation, and community and regional planning.

The Alexander Architectural Archive is housed in historic Battle Hall on the UT Austin campus along with the Architecture and Planning Library. The Archive is open for academic and professional research. In order to insure the preservation of the materials as well as the quality of service, the Archive is accessed by appointment only. Appointments are taken Monday through Thursday, 9:00am-4:00pm. Hours of operation are subject to change according to holiday and intersession schedules.