Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Slab Serifs on the West Bank

The New Orleans architectural firm of Curtis and Davis designed the Louisiana Power and Light Building on Algiers Point (completed 1966), which is the first tall structure one encounters when disembarking the ferry.  Built at an estimated cost of $1.1 million, the building is sheathed in panels featuring  intaglio square-ended serifs, repeating the company's initials.  

Slab serifs are frequently referred to as Egyptians, for many of these distinctive letterforms first emerged in conjunction with the nineteenth-century Egyptomania that followed the Napoleonic conquest. Egyptians were heavily utilized by newspapers and advertisers, as they were considered highly readable and boldly noticeable forms.  Their sturdy shapes were the stuff of wood-type job printing, which required large and durable display letters for posters. See the typophile discussion on the subject here.

If you want to know more about wood type in America, there is a museum in Two Rivers, Wisconsin, devoted to the subject. Dedicated to the preservation, study, production, and printing of wood type, the Hamilton Wood Type Museum retains an enormous collection of wood type specimens, including the forms we associate with classic WANTED posters.  

More connections between the histories of architecture and typography may be gleaned from the Southeastern Architectural Archive's current exhibition on the subject.

Image above:  Detail of photograph.  Frank Lotz Miller, photographer. Curtis & Davis, architects. Louisiana Power and Light Building Exterior Panel, Algiers Point, West Bank, New Orleans, LA. Completed 1966. Curtis Davis Collection, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

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