Friday, August 29, 2008

Restoring Paul Rudolph

In Wednesday's New York Times:

NEW HAVEN — It’s hard to think of a building that has suffered through more indignities than the Yale School of Art and Architecture. On the day of its dedication in 1963, the architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner condemned the oppressive monumentality of its concrete forms. Two years later the school’s dean brutally cut up many of the interiors, which he claimed were dysfunctional. A few years after that a fire gutted what was left. By then the reputation of the building’s architect, Paul Rudolph, was in ruins.

Under the circumstances it’s a miracle that Yale didn’t tear the building down. But several years ago the university started down the road to atonement, investing $126 million in a major restoration and addition designed by the New York firm Gwathmey Siegel & Associates.

The result should stun those who have continued to deny Rudolph’s talent. Now seen in its full glory, his building turns out to be a masterpiece of late Modernism, one that will force many to reappraise an entire period of Modernist history and put Rudolph back on the pedestal where he belongs...

To read the rest of Nicolai Ouroussoff's article, click here.

Bruce Barnes, the Librarian at UMass Dartmouth's Clare T. Carney Library, has created an informative website about Paul Rudolph that draws extensively on the Rudolph Archive in the Library of Congress and the holdings of UMass Dartmouth Library Archives and Special Collections.

Earlier this summer, the international organization DOCOMOMO (Working Party for the Documentation and Conservation of Works of the Modernist Movement) reported on a School Board vote to raze Paul Rudolph's Riverview High School in Sarasota, FL. If you are interested in joining DOCOMOMO, go to:

This past spring, Theodore Prudon, President of the DOCOMOMO US Board, was interviewed for AIArchitect about his new book, Preservation of Modern Architecture. It is currently available in the TSA Library [NA682.M63 P78].

DOCOMOMO-NOLA, a regional group focused on Louisiana modernist architecture, recently obtained chapter status, and is planning a Canal Street Car Tour scheduled for October 4, 2008.

Francine Stock for DOCOMOMO-NOLA, Building Canal Street, 08.2008.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

New Orleans Business Archive: Ole K. Olsen

Ole K. Olsen Advertisement, as published in Building Review of the South Sept. 1919.
Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division,
Tulane University Libraries

In 1919, Ole K. Olsen had his business at 823 Perdido Street, and was a contractor and a distributor of various building products, including those of Detroit, Michigan's Trus-Con Laboratories. "Trus-Con" was noted for its damp-proof coatings for exposed and underground masonry, as well as its "Asepticote," a hygienic decorative finish for interior walls.

By 1928, Olsen had expanded his operations considerably, with a large office and warehouse located at 325 North Cortez Street.

Ole K. Olsen Office and Warehouse, as published in Ole K. Olsen/New Orleans, LA.  
Associated Equipment Distributors, 1928.
Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division,
Tulane University Libraries

Although he focused on contracting/building equipment sales, Olsen was first registered to practice architecture in Louisiana in 1911 and continued his registration until the 1950s. He was born in Copenhagen, Denmark in January 1877 and graduated from the city's Polytechnical Academy in 1900. He was a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Louisiana Engineering Society and the Louisiana Architects Association.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Built Environment and Science Fiction

Philip H. Roach, Jr., Sketch, n.d.
Folder 28, Philip H. Roach, Jr. Collection,
The Southeastern Architectural Archive,
Special Collections Division,
Tulane University Libraries

A friend and colleague, Hal W. Hall, the Science Fiction Curator at Texas A & M University's Cushing Library, has developed an incredible research tool called "The Science Fiction and Fantasy Research Database."

Historic science fiction and fantasy literature frequently elucidates cultural truths in ways that evidential primary documents fail. Utopian and dystopian notions of urban design and renewal may have actually had their first manifestations in dime novels and pulp literature. Intended for the masses, these cultural forms are frequently (and alarmingly!) insightful, in sync with subconscious notions of who we are as human beings, and where we desire and fear to go. For researchers, this literature (and secondary sources) is notoriously difficult to mine for information, since analytical indexing for science fiction is often tied to limited-edition print bibliographies, known by a small coterie of researchers, but not the general public.

This is why Hal's database is so wonderful!

To search the SFFRD (and you can do so by subject) click here. To give an example, enter the search term "architecture" and see what results. Enter "building." Enter "landscape." Enter "cities."

My own to read list based on these searches:

Green, Ernest. "The Social Function of Utopian Architecture," Utopian Studies 4:1 (1993): 1-13.

Hatch, Richard. "The Ideology of Work and the Architecture of Utopia," in Saccaro Del Buffa, Giuseppa and Lewis, Arthur O., eds. Utopia e Modernita: Teorie e prassi utopiche nell'eta moderna e postmoderna. Rome: Gangemi Editore, 1989. pp.175-186.

Missal, Alexander. "In Perfect Operation: Social Vision and the Building of the Panama Canal," in Verheul, Jaap, ed. Dreams of Paradise, Visions of Apocalypse : Utopia and Dystopia in American Culture. Amsterdam: VU University Press, 2004. pp. 69-77.

Now, the database does not have full-text capabilities, but a simple search for the journal or book title in your library's OPAC (online catalog) will allow you to find the publication or give you the information necessary to submit an interlibrary loan request.

If you wish to join the interdisciplinary Society for Utopian Studies, which includes subscription to Utopian Studies Journal, click here.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

New Orleans Public Schools Comment Period

The New Orleans Public Schools (NOPS) have publicized their Master Plan for Orleans Parish, that includes draconian measures to rejuvenate the metropolitan school system. Their reconfiguration is based on extensive information-gathering: building assessments and standards, educational program requirements, and population projections. All of their studies are available as downloads, though the process requires a considerable amount of patience.

In 2000, the National Trust for Historic Preservation designated the nation's historic neighborhood schools as notably endangered places. The trust followed with a grant-funded publication written by Constance E. Beaumont and Elizabeth G. Pianca, titled Why Johnny Can't Walk to School: Historic Neighborhood Schools in the Age of Sprawl. Among many other issues, Beaumont and Pianca addressed the deferred maintenance problems that have certainly been the bane of Orleans Parish schools.

When New Orleans architects E.A. Christy and Charles Colbert designed and supervised school projects for Orleans Parish, they did so with utopian sensibilities about the role of education in an urban society. Over the course of time, accelerated by neglect, their buildings decayed. Tulane School of Architecture Visual Resources Curator Francine Stock has spent considerable time researching and chronicling many of these historic schools, and some of her work may be found on her regional modernism blog and related flickr archive.

The National Trust's recommendation for such properties is in stark contrast to the parish master plan:

"[The Trust] advocates for the continued use of older and historic neighborhood schools as an anchor for healthy communities. We seek not only to reaffirm the contribution made by historic neighborhood schools to their communities, but also to provide policy direction for state policy makers and for community preservation advocates who help shape state policies."

It additionally offers resources for those communities interested in "Smart Growth Schools," sustainability, continuity, and renovation. Click here to learn more and read about communities that have succeeded in their school preservation efforts.

Update: On 6 November 2008, the Orleans Parish School Board voted 6-1 to adopt the $2 billion Master Plan.

Monday, August 25, 2008

This Place Matters

The National Trust for Historic Preservation launched an initiative to celebrate and protect distinctive places as part of its "This Place Matters" Program for Preservation Month, May 2008:

"The This Place Matters campaign is designed to help people share the place that matters to them, wherever these places happen to be."

Visit and/or register on the National Trust's website, .

If you haven't read University of Wisconsin Geography Professor Emeritus Yi-Fu Tuan's Topophilia: A Study of Environmental Perceptions, Attitudes and Values (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1974) [TSA LIBRARY GF41.T82] or his Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1977) [HTML G 71.5 .T8 1977], I would highly recommend them!

If you've never heard of Yi-Fu, click here for a sense of his impact.

Cornerstones Project

National Public Radio recently featured a story about the new Cornerstones Project, a collaboration between Tulane School of Architecture's Tulane City Center and the Neighborhood Story Project. What is it?

is an effort to document and advocate for the overlooked and threatened landmarks of New Orleans. With the input of New Orleanians (living here and elsewhere), Cornerstones will be the first ground-up approach to identify New Orleans’ impor­tant historical and cultural sites and we believe it will broaden our ideas about the types of spaces that are important to our city and why they are significant to us.

Generally in New Orleans, places have been designated as important landmarks based on their architectural significance or their role in official histories. We hope our featured cornerstones help you consider other ways spaces are meaningful to our communities, such as adding playful design and color to our streets, grounding cultural traditions, storing local histories, or offering a sense of neighborhood belonging. On this webpage (please see Nominate a Cornerstone), you will find our Cornerstones Nomination Form and we would like you to identify a place that in a similar way is significant to our city.

As nominations are submitted, Cornerstones, with the help of the Tulane City Center, will update our online registry (please see Cornerstones Registry) to feature the places you think are important to our neighborhoods and New Orleans. The online registry will include nominators’ written narratives, interview excerpts, photographs, and architectural drawings to illustrate the dynamic intersection of places and people that make our city unique.

The creation of a registry of everyday monuments and gathering places is essential in post-Katrina New Orleans, since demolition and redevelopment plans are not always sensitive to the ways in which our cornerstones keep our community environments and social and cultural networks intact. With your help, we also want to note threats to the vitality of nominated places, so we can advocate for our vulnerable landmarks, many that have made New Orleans worth coming home to."

Want to read more?

Coming out the Door for the Ninth Ward. New Orleans: Neighborhood Story Project, 2006.

Bolding, Ebony. Before and After N. Dorgenois. New Orleans: Neighborhood Story Project, 2005.

Dennis, Jana. Palmyra Street. New Orleans: Red Rattle/Soft Skull Press, 2005.

Jackson, Waukesha. What Would the World Be without Women: Stories from the Ninth Ward. New Orleans: Red Rattle/Soft Skull Press, 2005.

Nelson, Ashley. The Combination. New Orleans: Red Rattle/Soft Skull Press, 2005.

Wylie, Arlet and Sam. Between Piety and Desire. New Orleans: Red Rattle/Soft Skull Press, 2005.

Titles have multiple holdings in Tulane University Libraries. Check the online catalog (OPAC) here.

Coming Soon to the TSA Library:

Cornerstones. New Orleans: Neighborhood Story Project, 2008.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The House That Jack Built: North Prieur Street

Left: North Prieur Street House before Renovation; Right: During
[02.2008-08.2008 by K. Rylance]

This is the Seventh Ward house that Jack built that once was a Greek Revival three-bay three-room-deep galleried house that was elevated to provide for a garage that was sheathed in siding to become a rental property that grew to fill the lot that became a six-plex that flooded during Katrina that was gutted after Katrina that is being renovated today.

It was built in the late nineteenth century on lands referred to as the Morand Concession, named after the French settler Charles Antoine de Morand, who was a surveyor's assistant to both Adrien de Pauger and LeBlond de la Tour. He established a brickyard on Bayou Road on behalf of the Company of the Indies, and after its financial demise in 1731, he purchased the property and moved his family from Chartres Street to a plantation near the yard and clay pits. After his death in 1756, the property passed hands many times until it was developed by investor Louis Bringier in the 1860s.

The Seventh Ward is especially known for its craftsmanship. The Slidell construction crew working on the site today expressed they had never seen anything built like this. . . with all the framing joints hand-cut, flexible, and strong. They said they could kick out the siding, but that the frame could withstand an earthquake, move with it and remain structurally sound. They conveyed that the only right angles were the ones they put there.

In 2002, the New Orleans Museum of Art published its catalog Raised to the Trade: Creole Building Arts of New Orleans, in conjunction with its similarly-themed exhibition. Many of the craftsmen featured in both exhibit and publication were natives of the Seventh Ward, where knowledge of carpentry, lathe-work and plastering passed from generation to generation. Structures were raised in a communal spirit, as carpenter Sal Doucette expressed for the project's oral history:

"My mother and daddy, my grandfather, Peter Mercadel, everyone practically, was raised in the Seventh Ward. . . through my father and grandfather and my uncles. Everybody in the family was a carpenter. . When I was eight years old, my grandfather, every weekend used to have about thirty carpenters parked out in front of the door. During those days you could have your house built within maybe three weekends just for gumbo and beer! The wife would cook the gumbo and her husband would have the beer on the job site and you had your house built for practically nothing. . . The majority of the Seventh Ward was built in that manner." (p.140)

Want to read more?

New Orleans Museum of Art. Raised to the Trade: Creole Building Arts of New Orleans (New Orleans, LA, 2002).

Toledano, Roulhac and Mary Louise Christovich. New Orleans Architecture, Vol. VI, Faubourg Tremé and the Bayou Road (Gretna: Pelican Publishing, 1980).

Thursday, August 21, 2008

New Orleans Business Archive: Dixie Mill Supply Company

Dixie Mill Company Storage, S. Diamond Street, 08.2008 by K. Rylance

Dixie Mill Supply Co. opened at 631 Tchoupitoulas in 1917. Its president was M.E. Cahn and its secretary was Joseph Goldstein. By the mid-1920s the business had moved to its current location at 901 Tchoupitoulas. Today, Dixie also deals in metallurgical salvage: the photograph above was taken of the interior of one of Dixie's South Diamond Street storage spaces, just as the contents had been sold to a third party. An elbow joint, such as the ones seen in the foreground, may fetch as much as $1,000 on the open market, depending on metal content.

Iron-Clad Joint Co. Advertisement from Soards' New Orleans City Directory for 1918 Vol. XLV, p. 10. The Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

City directories are an excellent resource for those interested in historic businesses and architecture. Many early twentieth-century "yellow page" advertisements display products, buildings, and company slogans. The Southeastern Architectural Archive maintains a collection of New Orleans and suburban directories, as well as trade catalogs associated with the use of metals in architecture, especially aluminum and steel.

Resources for Architectural Salvage:

Subscribe to Architectural Salvage News here

The Architectural Bank
1824 Felicity Street

Carrollton Lumber Company
2938 Leonidas at 8600 Earhart Boulevard

The Green Project
2831 Marais Street

Habitat ReStore
2830 Royal Street

Preservation Resource Center Warehouse
2801 Marais Street

Ricca's Architectural Sales
511 North Solomon Street

Charity Hospital Redux

RMJM Hillier and their project team gave their assessment of the feasibility of Charity Hospital to provide 21st-century healthcare to the New Orleans metropolitan area. Commissioned by the Foundation for Historical Louisiana (FHL), in response to Louisiana House Concurrent Resolution No. 89 (HCR 89), the Hillier-led design team concluded their study in three months.

Their response to the critical questions: "yes, yes, yes." Click here to read the Preservation Alert and see the movie.

The team's assessment in part relied on archival documentation of the Weiss, Dreyfous, and Seiferth structure, as well as on non-destructive technologies whose prototypes were developed during the Cold War by the U.S. military. Robert Silman, the structural engineer noted for his work on Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater, was hired to test the 68-year-old building's integrity. In the process, he examined original drawings provided by the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center (LSUHSC-MNCLO) Facilities Management Department Archives. Historic photographs revealed that the vast majority of the exterior cracks had appeared during the earliest years of the building's life, as the structure settled into New Orleans' notorious "gumbo."1 Then the settlement leveled off, became asymptotic. Using infrared thermographs to document differential heat (and therefore moisture retention) as well as radar imaging to reveal the disposition of the steel members, Silman was able to unequivocally state his belief that Charity Hospital as built far exceeded standards of its day, and with minor adaptation could meet current code load standards. To download the full report follow the link here.

To read Times-Picayune coverage, click here.

1 Anecdotal reports indicated that Charity Hospital had settled approximately 18" very early on. The WPA reported in 1937 that in the first ten years of the U.S. Custom House, it had settled 19.33" in some places; when additional stories were added, settlement maximums had increased to some 28". See: Some Data in regard to Foundations in New Orleans and Vicinity Collected and Compiled by the Soil and Foundation Survey as Requested by Louisiana Engineering Society. Board of State Engineers of Louisiana, 1937, vol. I. The Custom House, on Canal between North Peters and Decatur, is one of the South's oldest federal buildings.

[Detail: Unidentified photographer, Charity Hospital's Facilities, c. 1940. Box 27, Weiss, Dreyfous and Seiferth Collection, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries].

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Charity Hospital

The Foundation for Historical Louisiana has announced a public presentation of the Existing Conditions and Facilities Assessment of Big Charity Hospital on August 20, 2008 at 2:30pm in the auditorium in the Port of New Orleans Headquarters Building at 1350 Port of N.O. Place. The facility is located on the riverfront at the end of Henderson Street behind the New Orleans Convention Center.

As charged by the Louisiana Legislature, the Foundation retained the services of the architectural firm, RMJM Hillier, to “…assess the condition of the facility and evaluate its potential uses as a location from which medical services may be offered to the population of the Greater New Orleans area…” and to “…examine and evaluate the entire Big Charity structure to determine the advisability of repairing or restructuring the entire facility…” This assessment will be the first post-Katrina report on the structural integrity and potential reuse of the building.

The Foundation for Historical Louisiana asks interested parties to RSVP to the Foundation for Historical Louisiana at 225-387-2464 or because seating is limited. The presentation content will also be available on the foundation's website at beginning August 21st.

When the Public Works Administration (PWA) authorized a grant to assist the state of Louisiana in financing Charity Hospital, the New Orleans firm of Weiss, Dreyfous and Seiferth was selected to design the structure. When completed in 1940, Charity was the second largest hospital in the country, the tallest building in the city. Sculptor Enrique Alvarez designed the ornamental screen above the main entrance lintel. The Southeastern Architectural Archive houses the collection of Weiss, Dreyfous and Seiferth.

Tulane School of Architecture on Sundance

The Sundance Channel has announced the launch of its new reality series "Architecture School," which was filmed during the 2007-2008 academic year at Tulane University's School of Architecture (TSA):

"The six-part series from creators Michael Selditch and Stan Bertheaud follows a group of students at Tulane University's prestigious School of Architecture as they submit competing designs for an affordable home in Katrina-battered New Orleans. The stakes are high: the winning model will be built during the course of the school year and put up for sale, enabling one fledgling architect to begin his or her career with a high-profile splash.

ARCHITECTURE SCHOOL opens a window onto the art and science of architecture while telling a unique and uplifting story about the literal rebuilding of New Orleans. Filmed during the 2007-2008 school year, the series follows the construction of the third home in Tulane University's URBANbuild program, which offers fourth-year architecture students the opportunity to design and build a low-cost single-family home over the course of the school year. Founded in 2005, URBANbuild is a partnership between Tulane's School of Architecture and Neighborhood Housing Services of New Orleans (N.H.S.), a nonprofit agency that works to restore urban neighborhoods."

The series premieres on August 20, 2008. "The Big Idea," the first episode, is available on-line through hulu.

Tulane School of Architecture 1973: Studio Presentation, First Year Design, Fall Semester [Box 7, Tulane School of Architecture Records Collection, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries].

Monday, August 18, 2008

Archivision Now Available through ARTStor

Tulane University Libraries have recently subscribed to Archivision's digital library!

Archivision's rapidly growing collection encompasses
architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning, archaeology, art and art history. This is a foundational architecture collection consisting of 28,000 digital images covering Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, 18th and 19th Century, Islamic and Modern sites, gardens, parks and works of public art selected from Archivision's library of approximately 120,000 images. Of interest to regionalists is the collection of photographs of contemporary architecture in Florida.

rchivision Inc. is a supplier of professional images of architecture, gardens, parks, landscapes, public art and design for educational & commercial use. They have been documenting historic & contemporary sites around the world since 1993 and are continually adding to both their library and their digital archive.

Access is provided through ARTstor. This database and the Archivision modules are available to Tulane University students, staff and faculty.

UPhO #2: New Orleans Tavern Scene, 1934

This 1934 photographic print from a nitrate negative reveals a good deal of cultural information: spittoons in the foreground, bottle labels of the stocked bar, the National Recovery Act sign on the left wall, the Anheuser Busch advertising prints, the posted photographs of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Can anyone identify the tavern? The photographer? The barkeep?

This is the second in a new series of Unidentified Photograph Objects. . . from the collection of the Southeastern Architectural Archive. The first UPhO was recently identified by anthonyturducken who will be the recipient of an SEAA prize!

[Unidentified photographer, unidentified bartender in unidentified New Orleans tavern, contract print from nitrate negative, 1934]

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Unbuilding: Rubble

In her first visit to New Orleans in 1974, Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic for the New York Times Ada Louise Huxtable described a "demolition derby" underway in the Central Business District (CBD):

"Rows of Greek Revival commercial buildings, of the kind New York ruthlessly demolished in lower Manhattan in the 1960's still stand, often enhanced by the iron filigree galleries added from the 1850s on. But many are gone and more are being knocked down almost daily, as are the later Italianate, Renaissance and cast-iron structures nearby, that make up the 19th century commercial city."1

At the time Huxtable was writing, the French Quarter had been spared an earlier threat, in large part due to the creation of the Vieux Carré Commission. The 1930's New Orleans of architect- photographer Richard Koch had witnessed a tendency towards what Los Angeles Times writer Christopher Reynolds has called erase-atecture. Koch recorded some of these demolitions while conducting work for the Louisiana Historic American Buildings (HABS) program. The photograph reproduced here depicts an unidentified man at the site of the just-razed Office of the Southern Pacific Railroad Company (former Old Morgan Building aka William Brand House), 331 Magazine Street. Over the course of its lifespan, the building originated as a private residence, was redeveloped to serve the purposes of banking, and finally housed a succession of two railroad companies before it was demolished in the autumn of 1938. The Works Progress Administration reported on September 14: "The Old Morgan Building, Magazine & Natchez Alley has been torn down to its foundations. Negro laborers are now scraping and stacking the bricks. . . [which] are a bright vermillion, and because of their being covered with cement have retained a brilliant hue."2

Jeff Byles'
Rubble: Unearthing the History of Demolition (New York: Harmony Books, 2005). [TSA Library TH 447.B95 2005] is a cultural history of rubble-making. Describing demolition as a particularly American approach to urban renewal, Byles nonetheless presents European programs such as Baron Haussmann's percée/arterization of Paris alongside the razing of New York's Penn Station and the clearing of vast tracts of housing in Detroit and Los Angeles. This is a very generalized book, and those who seek an in-depth analysis of "Demolition for Progress" will find it lacking. For those interested in the current demolition of housing projects in New Orleans, Byles' chapter 7 discussion of the Captain W.O. Pruitt Homes and the L. Igoe Apartments in St. Louis will be provocative.

Demolition-as-Spectacle: More than 4,000 pounds of dynamite and 21 miles of detonating cord were used to raze Seattle's Kingdome in March, 2000. [gwrash youtube video].

1"Outside Eyes Turn to CBD Demolition," The New Orleans States-Item 23 April 1974 (Lifestyle Section B) page 1.Box 4, Tulane School of Architecture Records Collection, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

2Report dated 14 September 1938, Louisiana Works Progress Administration Collection, The State Library of Louisiana.

[Photographs above: Alfred Eisenstaedt, Architecture Critic Ada Louise Huxtable, LIFE 1974 (available via and Richard Koch, 331 Magazine Street, autumn 1938. Richard Koch Drawings and Photographs Collection, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries].

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Lexicon: Lexan Polycarbonate

In the early 1970s, Edward B. Silverstein and Associates was contacted by the Tharp-Sontheimer-Tharp Causeway Funeral Home to renovate its building and parking accommodations. The funeral home supplied the firm with promotional materials from different makers of stained glass windows in hopes of commissioning a "Tree of Life" for its chapel. One potential supplier was Glass Crafts of La Crosse, Wisconsin, who specialized in "vandal-proof" stained glass windows reinforced with Lexan polycarbonate.

The resin was first accidentally discovered by chemist Dr. Daniel Fox, who was working on developing a new wire insulation substance. By the early 1960s, NASA had adapted it for use; later, the 1969 Apollo 11 astronauts wore Lexan polycarbonate pressure helmets and visors. Lexan's use as a window material began in 1968. Today it is associated with a wide variety of products, from Nalgene bottles to riot shields to cellular phones. Click here for a Lexan Timeline.

The Tharp-Sontheimer-Tharp owners ultimately decided to commission two Blanko antique glass windows in a "contemporary style broken up in linear patterns" from the New Orleans manufacturer and designer of art glass, Henry J. Lips, Inc. (Correspondence, 6 July 1971. Edward B. Silverstein Collection).

[Image: Advertising from Glass Crafts, 604 So. Third Street, La Crosse, Wisconsin, 1971. Job #845, Edward B. Silverstein Collection, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries].

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Lexicon: Batture Dwellers

Batture, the raised driftland between the levée and the normal level of the river, was considered public land by French Louisiana law. Thomas Jefferson entered the debate in 1811, when a New Orleans resident (and former mayor of New York) named Edward Livingston brought suit against the President for violating his right to batture, in removing him from the Mississippi River's alluvial soil along the Faubourg St. Marie (today encompassed by Julia, Girod, Commerce and St. Peters).

The Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration reported on the Riverbend area New Orleans Batture Dwellers in 1938:

"[They] build their houses of driftwood salvaged from the Mississippi, inhabit a ramshackle shanty town sometimes called 'Depression Colony,' located between Carrollton Ave. and the protection levee at the Jefferson Parish line. It is composed of a wide variety of shacks, neat little cottages, and houseboats. The houses are built on stilts and are safe from all but the highest flood stages. During low water the batture is laid out in little gardens with chicken coops and pig pens. When the water rises, the livestock is taken up on the little galleries that run at least part way around each house and the occupants remain at home until 'Ole Man River' becomes too dangerous. Driftwood in the river supplies ample fuel; the river plenty of fish; and the near-by willows, material out of which wicker furniture can be made and sold from house to house in the city. There is no rent to pay, as the batture is part of the river and the property of the United States, and consequently beyond the reach of local ownership or taxation." [p. 280]

In 1953 The Atlanta Daily World reported that New Orleans batture dwellers had won a legal battle against the Orleans levee board:

"The Orleans Levee board had contended that the batture. . . should have been vacated so that the United States engineers in New Orleans could make repairs along the Mississippi Levee in the area of the Batture.

Justice Luther E. Hail ruled in the civil district court, however, that the board failed to establish ownership of the Batture property, and therefore dismissed each of the suits.

The battle for possession of the Batture has been going on for some time in New Orleans and some 30 dwellings along the river are involved.

Although the houses are imperiled by the river whenever the city experiences a heavy rainfall such as yesterday's three inch downpour, the dwellers refuse to move out of their homes and live elsewhere.

The buildings--constructed of stilts on the river--are rickety Weather-beaten affairs that don't give the appearance of being too soundly built. The occupants, however, all express satisfaction in the construction of their dwellings."
[17 July 1953 available from Proquest].

[Photograph: Detail of a Works Progress Administration photograph. Batture Dwellings near Audubon Park, 1930s. Collection of the State Library of Louisiana]

New Orleans Location Unknown: UPhO #1

Walker Evans took this photograph in January 1936 for the Farm Security Administration (FSA). He identified it on a caption card as "Degenerate period of early twentieth-century New Orleans architecture. Louisiana."

PBS will air a new documentary about the FSA starting in August. "Documenting the Face of America: Roy Stryker and the F.S.A./O.W.I Photographers" is narrated by the chairman of the N.A.A.C.P. Julian Bond. It will air on station WLPB on August 18 at 9:00 pm.

Does anyone know where this structure was/is? This is the first in a new series of Unidentified Photograph Objects. . . from the collection of the Southeastern Architectural Archive. The reproduction of the uncropped print from the nitrate negative (click on thumbnail in the above right) may help for context.

UPDATE: Thanks to flickr anthonyturducken for ID-ing this house as the structure at 1439 Annunciation!

[Photograph Left: Detail of Walker Evans, Degenerate Period of Early Twentieth-Century New Orleans Architecture. 01.1936. Copy print from the FSA-OWI Collection/Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress LC-USF342-001291-A. Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries; Right: Walker Evans, Degenerate Period of Early Twentieth-Century New Orleans Architecture. 01.1936. Uncropped print from nitrate negative, FSA-OWI Collection/Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress LC-USF342-001291-A. ]

Monday, August 11, 2008

Lexicon: bousillage, bouzillage, barreaux, briquette-entre-poteaux, wattle and daub

Enterprise Truck through Spanish Moss, City Park. 05.2008 by K. Rylance

Did you know that some 3 billion people live or work in buildings constructed of earth?

, or bouzillage, a hybrid mud brick/cob/wattle and daub technique is a mixture of clay and Spanish moss or clay and grass that is used as a plaster to fill the spaces between structural framing and particularly found in French Vernacular architecture of Louisiana of the early 1700s. A series of wood bars (barreaux), set between the posts, helped to hold the plaster in place. Bousillage, molded into bricks, was also used as infilling between posts; then called briquette-entre-poteaux. The bousillage formed a solid mud wall that was plastered and then painted. The bousillage also formed a very effective insulation." [Earth Architecture. Viewed 08.12.2008]

Ronald Rael's Earth Architecture is forthcoming from Princeton Architectural Press (anticipated December 2008). His related website has been ranked one of the Top 30 Design Blogs & Resources for Architects.

FOR RENT: Briquette-entre-Poteaux at St. Anthony and N. Rampart.
03.2008 by K. Rylance

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

At Large in the Library: Survival City

Vanderbilt, Tom. Survival City: Adventures among the Ruins of Atomic America. Princeton Architectural Press, 2002.

Tulane University Library: Howard Tilton Memorial, F595.3 .V36 2002

It begins. . .

"I want to get to where the Cold War is still ending in America, so I set out after sunrise one early July morning from Grand Forks, North Dakota, bearing west on U.S. 2. After some 45 miles, I turn left on N.D. 1, then drive another 45 miles down a road of typical Dakotan sparseness, so empty that passing drivers wave with old-fashioned courtesy at the sheer novelty of human company. . . "

Tom Vanderbilt's fascinating study takes the reader through the open terrain of the American West, in search of vestiges of its Cold War era architecture. He roams through the Dakotas, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and Texas as he uncovers the secret (and not-so-secret) projects of the U.S. military. He addresses the seeming paradox of co-existing International Style glass-sheathing and blast-resistant concrete bunkers.

One might imagine that the architects who conceived these remote experiments would be exclusively nameless government engineers and security officials, but Vanderbilt's book is populated with the likes of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM), who designed Oak Ridge, Tennessee (aka "the atomic city"); Erich Mendelsohn, who worked on the government's Dugway Project; and Paolo Soleri, who designed the experimental community Arcosanti. Just consider the advice of the mainstream architecture community as conveyed in Architectural Record from April 1958: "'Atomic radiation is a new building design element to be taken into account with wind, weather, and sanitation.'"

I just wish the book contained an index! And my thanks to Penn State's architectural historian, Dr. Craig Zabel, for making the book recommendation. Cheers!

[Photograph: Benjamin Halpern. Safeguard Complex, near Nekoma (Cavalier County), North Dakota, c. 1970. HABS/HAER, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress]

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Richard Koch (1889-1971)

Richard Koch was a New Orleans-born Tulane University football letterman and architecture graduate (class of 1910). After continuing his studies in Paris and serving apprenticeships in New York and Boston, Koch returned to his birthplace. Appointed in 1933 as District Officer for the Works Progress Administration's Louisiana Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), Koch toured the state documenting its architecture in photographs, measured drawings and written reports. The fruits of his labor may be viewed in the Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs Division; his photographs and negatives in the Southeastern Architectural Archive. His personal papers reside in the Historic New Orleans Collection.

The SEAA's Richard Koch Collection consists of over 5,000 individual photographic works, covering much of the Mississippi River delta, including sites in rural Mississippi and Louisiana, as well as the city of New Orleans. The vast majority of the photographs date from the 1930s, although Koch continued his photographic work into the mid-1960s.

The photograph shown here was taken in June 1936 of a woman leaning on a cast-iron railing at 1441 Magazine Street. Cast-iron architectural ornament proliferated in late 19th-century New Orleans, and could/can be found on tombs, fences, cornices, verandas, columns, lintels, and railings such as this. Typically, the New Orleans cast iron work was painted to simulate the appearance of bronze or in a bright greenish hue. The rose trellis pattern was a popular one in the city.

Want to read more?

Ann Masson and Lydia Schmalz's Cast Iron and the Crescent City (1995) in the Special Collections Division's Louisiana Collection.

John G. Waite, "The Maintenance and Repair of Architectural Cast Iron." National Park Service Preservation Brief 27 (October 1991). Click here.

[Photograph: Richard Koch, 1441 Magazine Street, June 1936. Richard Koch Collection, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries].

Monday, August 4, 2008

TSA Library: Coming Soon

Borasi, Giovanna, et al., editors. Sorry, Out of Gas: Architecture's Response to the 1973 Oil Crisis. Montreál: Canadian Centre for Architecture, 2007.

If you missed the CCA's Related exhibition
( 7 November 2007 - 20 April 2008)


Atlas of Vernacular Architecture of the World. Routledge, 2008.

Birdfoot: Where America's River Dissolves into the Sea.
Culver City, CA: Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI), 2007.

Bergdoll, Barry and Peter Christensen, eds. Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling. New York: MOMA, 2008

Eco-Architecture II: Harmonisation between Architecture and Nature. WIT Press, 2008.

Jakle, John A. and Keith A. Sculle. Motoring: The Highway Experience in America. University of Georgia Press, 2008.

Pawley, Martin. The Strange Death of Architectural Criticism: Collected Writings. Black Dog, 2007.

Rykwert, Joseph. The Judicious Eye: Architecture against the Other Arts. Reaktion, 2008.

Shaftoe, Henry.
Convivial Urban Spaces: Creating Effective Public Places. Earthscan, 2008.

Szokolay, Steven V. Introduction to Architectural Science: The Basis of Sustainable Design, 2nd ed. Architectural Press, 2008.

The Tulane School of Architecture Library welcomes book acquisition suggestions. If you wish to make a request, simply click here.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Lexicon: alberca, algibe, citerne, cuve, cistern, réservoir

Newspapers across the country were reporting a drought in late nineteenth-century New Orleans. The 5 June 1898 New York Times commented:

It is hard for us rain-soaked Northerners to believe, but there has been a long
drought all through the region of which New Orleans is the centre, and the
people of that city are face to face with a water famine. It is true that despite
the failure of the clouds to do their duty, the Mississippi has not yet run dry, and
as the water works of New Orleans gets their supply from the river, one
unacquainted with the circumstances might suppose that no scarcity could
exist. The trouble is that the city doesn't own its water works, and the company
which does charges such enormous prices for its service that a large majority of
the people still trust to ancient cisterns. The contents of these have been
getting steadily lower for some time; now many of them are empty and the
others might as well be, for the small amount of semi-liquid matter in them is
a peril to the health of everybody that drinks it.

Cisterns were known in local parlance by a number of different names: alberca, algibe, citerne, cuve, réservoir. The above-ground variety, shown here, were normally used in the late 18th-19th centuries, were iron-strapped cedar barrels. A pipe connected to the house supplied running water. The house depicted in this picture is roofed with shakes, also called known by variant names merrain, merin, miren (called pickets in English). [For more information on the nomenclature, see: Jay Dearborn Edwards and Nicolas Kariouk Pecquet du Bellay de Verton's A Creole Lexicon. Baton Rouge: LSU Press, 2004]. anthonyturducken has posted a current-day Uptown New Orleans cistern on flickr.

Today's New Orleans is witnessing the daily loss of millions of gallons of potable water. To listen to John Burnett's National Public Radio report, click here.

The image above is one of many unidentified photographs in the collection of the Southeastern Architectural Archive. Handwritten on the back is the notation: "N.O. housing -- slums." Any assistance in identifying the location of the photograph would be much appreciated!