Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Monday, December 6, 2010
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
In 1955, Duplex Electric Company patented a Curb Teller designed by inventor Clarence D. Ellithorpe. The company marketed the product to urban banks that did not have adequate space to accommodate a drive-up window. Ellithorpe's CT required a bank employee be lodged in a subterranean chamber (diagram above).
The customer, described in company brochures as the "autoist," would push a button to signal the teller, who could see the customer above via a bullet-proof glass protected periscope. The teller would then send a miniature elevator up the shaft to collect transaction documents, which could then be sent down to the teller.
Images above: Duplex Electric Company. "Curb Tellers" Brochure. New York: n.d. Architectural Trade Catalogs Collection, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collection Division, Tulane University Libraries.
Monday, October 25, 2010
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Building the Devil's Empire: French Colonial New Orleans is available through Tulane University Libraries.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Friday, September 17, 2010
Frank Lloyd Wright designed only one automobile service station (1956-1957), a commission for a Phillips 66 station. The structure is located at the intersection of Highway 33 and Cloquet Avenue in Cloquet, Minnesota. The cantilevered roof shelters a glass-enclosed visitors' waiting/observation room that overlooks the Cloquet River bridge, railroad tracks, and busy intersection. As with many of Wright's buildings, it employs the use of Louisiana cypress. In 1984, the building was listed on the National Register; in 2008, it celebrated its 50th anniversary.
Image above: Frank Lloyd Wright, architect. R.W. Lindholm Service Station (1956-1957; opened October 1958), Cloquet, MN. Fujifilm. K. Rylance 1992.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Friday, September 3, 2010
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
The printing company that produced the advertisements retained samples of all its brochures, and a successor firm inherited the comprehensive archive. Yale Robbins, Henry Robbins and David Magier were able to acquire the complete printing archive and donated it to the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library in 1986.
Monday, August 30, 2010
Friday, August 27, 2010
Monday, August 23, 2010
Monday, August 9, 2010
A huge and previously unknown trove of archival material from Philip Johnson’s architectural practice — including his hand-drawn sketches for towers that helped define postmodern architecture — is to be put up for sale by one of Johnson’s former partners, who has had them in storage for years.
The cache contains more than 25,000 design sketches, working drawings, renderings and photographs from the second half of Johnson’s architectural career, covering more than 120 projects from 1968 to 1992. While there are collections of his early work at the Museum of Modern Art, the Getty Museum and the Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library at Columbia University, documentation from this later period, in which he became known for his tall buildings, is much rarer. Included in the archive is material on the AT&T Building in Manhattan (now Sony’s American headquarters); the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, Calif.; PPG Place in Pittsburgh; Pennzoil Place in Houston; and smaller-scale structures that Johnson built around his celebrated Glass House of 1949 on his property in New Canaan, Conn., now owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
That period was “the pinnacle of Johnson’s career” as an architect, said Willis Van Devanter, an appraiser of architectural materials hired to examine the archive by lawyers for the archive’s owner, Raj Ahuja. Mr. Van Devanter described the archive as “absolutely essential to the study of modern architecture,” given Johnson’s stature as “the major influence in world architecture of the latter 20th century.”
Still, that stature was arguably based more on his role as a leading advocate for Modernism and subsequent architectural movements — beginning with the International Style show he helped organize at the Museum of Modern Art in 1932 — than on his own design work. Aside from a few of his almost universally praised projects, Johnson has been regarded by some critics and fellow architects as dilettantish, more slave to fashion than serious practitioner.
He was criticized in particular for focusing on aesthetics at the expense of more fundamental issues of function. But Michael Robinson, an expert on 20th-century documents and another appraiser of the archive, said its drawings would do much to help counter that notion.
Mr. Robinson was especially struck, he said, by the degree to which the drawings concern themselves with the surrounding context.
“Nobody thinks of Johnson as a planner,” Mr. Robinson said. “They think of him as an antiurbanist. He really was concerned with how life interacted with these buildings. You get elaborate plans for walkways, roads, the works.”
Calling the archive “extraordinarily complete,” he added, “You literally see him thinking on paper all the way through to the final drawings necessary to actually build a building.”
The archive also offers insight into aesthetic matters, like the evolution of Johnson’s approach to shaping buildings, said Christy MacLear, who until recently was executive director of the Philip Johnson Glass House. For example, she said, the drawings demonstrated similarities in the massing of several notable but modest buildings on the Glass House property and of the vast Crystal Cathedral that Johnson worked on around the same time.
And there are also working drawings for at least 50 unbuilt projects, including London Bridge City, an office complex on the Thames; four Times Square office towers; and a house for Johnson’s companion, David Whitney. The archive “has a lot of things Johnson thought about but never got off the drawing board,” said Wilbert R. Hasbrouck, who was also consulted on the collection and was an owner of the Prairie Avenue Bookshop in Chicago, which has gone out of business. “This archive is going to open up a whole new field of study about his work, particularly on the unbuilt buildings. It fills out a lot of gaps that we didn’t even know existed.”
Mr. Ahuja, the archive’s owner, was a former design partner of Johnson’s. An Indian-born architect, he joined the firm as a young man in 1971 and ran its Iranian office before becoming a partner with Johnson and John Burgee in 1984. During his tenure Mr. Ahuja developed a strong affinity for Johnson, who left the partnership for a consulting role in 1986 and left the practice entirely five years later.
Mr. Ahuja and Mr. Burgee clashed over Johnson’s level of involvement. “I was more for keeping Johnson in the firm as a consultant and as a designer, and Burgee was more determined to get Philip out,” Mr. Ahuja said in an interview. “I thought, without Philip Johnson, we would not be getting the assignments we were getting. He was the man.” (Speaking by telephone from California, where he has retired, Mr. Burgee said he had not forced Johnson out, adding, “He voluntarily withdrew.”)
Mr. Ahuja, now 69, said he ended up with the archival material in 1995 as part of a Chapter 11 proceeding in which Mr. Burgee sought bankruptcy protection for the firm and for himself. The bankruptcy followed an arbitration between Mr. Ahuja and Mr. Burgee in 1988, when Mr. Ahuja left the firm.
Since then, Mr. Ahuja said, he has kept the archive in a warehouse: “The court awarded me the drawings, which I have safeguarded because they are our legacy.” But having paid for its maintenance for years, he added, “it is time to transfer it to respectful hands, and I have my family’s security to think of as well.”
Mr. Ahuja said that he did not know when or how the rest of the collection would be sold. (It has received two separate appraisals, but lawyers for Mr. Ahuja, James Frankel and Andrew Ross of Arent Fox in Manhattan, declined to disclose the valuations.)
Mr. Burgee played down the importance of the archive. “It’s mostly working drawings and drafting drawings,” he said. “We purposely didn’t keep design sketches because they weren’t good enough. Philip was sensitive that he didn’t want his hand drawings shown anywhere.”
Ms. MacLear said that Johnson was known for weak drawing skills. He had a “high-concept” sketching style, she said.
But Mr. Ahuja said standard office procedure had been to roll and store all drawings, and that there had been no policy of destroying Johnson’s.
So far one significant piece of the collection has been sold, in what Mr. Ahuja’s lawyers described as a kind of market test: a seven-and-a-half-foot-tall presentation drawing of the AT&T skyscraper’s facade at 550 Madison Avenue, which the Victoria and Albert Museum of London acquired at auction for $70,000 in April.
However the rest of the archive is sold, Mr. Ahuja said, he hopes it will be bought en masse by a single institution so that it will be available to scholars and students. The architect Robert A. M. Stern, dean of the Yale School of Architecture, said he was sorry that even the single rendering had been sold separately. Although he has not seen the materials, he said, it was clear to him that “the worst thing would be breaking the archive up.”
Friday, August 6, 2010
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Monday, August 2, 2010
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Monday, July 26, 2010
Friday, July 16, 2010
Image above: Unidentifed photographer. Unidentified House, New Orleans, c. 1980. Miscellaneous Photographs Collection, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
"secret groups oppose the dishonest political practices of the Carpetbagger Government, which not only exploited the chaotic conditions caused by the passing of 'plantation days' but also rendered helpless the impoverished landowners. A new State Constitution was adopted in 1879; the Capital is moved to Baton Rouge; the negroes, uncertain of their future, return to the fields. Paul Tulane's gift makes possible the founding of Tulane University. This leads to the center motif of the panel which represents Western Civilization contrasting the past Indian Civilization. Symbolized are three aspects of Man; the Material, the Spiritual and the Creative. The idead of resurrection, basic to the Christian doctrine, is expressed by the center figure soaring upward, transcending the material world. There follows the advancement of education wherein all races have equal opportunities, and New Orleans becomes a medical center. Emphasis is placed upon the development of the sciences: Physics, Medicine, Sociology and Anthropology. Reference is made to the importance of New Orleans as a port through the exchange of goods with other countries. The panel ends with symbols of industry and atomic power with an allusion to the conquest of outer space and the unknown" (1955).
The Southeastern Architectural Archive retains forty cartoon drawings by Conrad Albrizio related to his murals for the Waterman Steamship Company Building located in Mobile, Alabama, as well as Albrizio's small brochure, Mural Paintings in the New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal (New Orleans: Conrad Albrizio, 1955). Additionally, the SEAA houses architectural records associated with the New Orleans firm Toledano, Wogan and Bernard.
Image above: Leon Trice, photographer. Waiting Room of the New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal, 1954. Toledano, Wogan and Bernard Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.
Friday, July 9, 2010
"The illustrations contained in this book give some idea of what may have been the Venetians' attitude toward their building. The value of their architecture to the modern designer is not the offering of a wealth of curiously beautiful details to be copied that they may grace our modern buildings. Venetian architecture can teach us that buildings can be beautiful without being grave, and they can delight us with their delicate charm and flaunting disregard of established principles without becoming trivial."
Samuel Wiener returned to Europe in 1931, focusing his energies in Germany and the Netherlands, and visiting Walter Gropius' Dessau Bauhaus and Erich Mendelsohn's Einstein Tower.1
Image above: Samuel G. Wiener. Venetian Houses and Details. New York: Architectural Book Publishing Company, 1929. Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.
1 Karen Kingsley. Modernism in Louisiana: A Decade of Progress 1930-1940. New Orleans: Tulane School of Architecture, 1984.
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
In the late 1950s, the New Orleans-based Industrial Electric, Incorporated was the local dealer of a porcelain enamel product called Firon. Utilizing a base of 16-18 gauge vitreous enameling steel coated with acid-resistant enamel frits and oxides, Firon boasted durability, weather resistance, and easy maintenance. Its popularity was in part due to an increasing demand for color in modern buildings, and it came in a wide array of colors, with varied textures and finishes.
Monday, June 28, 2010
Friday, June 25, 2010
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Monday, June 21, 2010
20 June 2010. An unidentified photographer recently took these images of the Devils Lake, North Dakota area. During the 1930s & 1940s (when my grandmother was a child), Devils Lake was a barren salt flat. Since 1993, the water level has risen some 25 feet, more than doubling the lake's parameters, as can discerned from a succession of Landsat images. Geologists have projected that this pattern will continue for a century, and federal, state, and local leaders are attempting to develop a series of solutions for the affected communities (1). The smoke one sees in the center image is a property being burnt by its owners; the submerged trees reflect placement of other rural properties prior to inundation. The Spirit Lake Casino, owned by the Sisseton Wahpeton Sioux bands and shown in the bottom photograph, once boasted a shoreline location; now it has become an island.
Friday, June 18, 2010
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Monday, June 7, 2010
The Guardian's current architecture critic Jonathan Glancey has been creating a series of films (begun 19 May 2010) that follow Nairn's footsteps across the British countryside. Watch the installments here.
Friday, June 4, 2010
Thursday, June 3, 2010
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
MOBILE, Ala. — The beaches were still open; the restaurants were still serving shrimp. Fishermen were still casting for whiting off the white sandy shores. And ads on television still proclaimed the region open for business.
But as the oil slick made its way inexorably here toward the barrier islands at the mouth of Mobile Bay, with forecasts for a swath from Mississippi to the beaches of Pensacola, Fla., sometime this week, the mood was of the last days.
“You guys are our first line of defense,” Casi Callaway, executive director of Mobile Baykeeper , a preservation group, told about 50 volunteers gathered in a room filled to capacity. “Your job is to document what we have here that’s beautiful. BP will have to make it right.”
They had come to train as volunteer field observers, taking photographs and notes on the conditions of the shoreline before the oil arrived. Now, suddenly there was an urgency to their preparations. Over the weekend, isolated tar balls had washed ashore on nearby Dauphin Island, interrupting a busy beach holiday. “It’s starting,” Ms. Callaway said. “The first groups today took beautiful pictures of the western shore of Mobile Bay. But there are fish kills everywhere. One of our friends was on Dauphin Island when the tar ball washed up. Her 12-year-old daughter just started crying.”
Until a few days ago, some people here had hoped, perhaps unrealistically, that the winds and currents would move the oil away from Alabama’s coastal islands, where fishing and tourism dominate the local economy.
“I had townspeople calling me and saying it’s not coming here,” said Grace Tyson, who runs Tyson Realty on Dauphin Island, shaking her head. “It’s like with the hurricanes. They’re predicted but then they don’t arrive. People said, ‘Take my condo off the market.’ ”
Business is down by more than 75 percent, she said. And with the latest forecast, she added, “I’d say closer to one hundred.”
The area had gotten a few tar balls in early May but no steady flow. Beaches filled for the Memorial Day weekend.
On the coastal island of Gulf Shores, some residents who had seen tar balls near their property said that their neighbors had told them not to talk about it. Ms. Callaway said that after she had appeared on television to talk about the tar balls on Dauphin Island, she, too, had received angry responses from locals. “I had people telling me, thanks a lot, you killed our tourist season.”
Then, on the eve of the opening of red snapper season, a major event here, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration expanded the boundaries of federal waters closed to fishing and the state department of public health closed the oyster beds.
“We have teams in place to clean up all that’s coming in,” said Jeff Collier, the mayor of Dauphin Island. “But this is foreign to us. I worry about our ability to keep on keeping on. I like to think that we will get less than New Orleans, but who knows? It could get that bad.”
Fishermen and businesses have already put in claims with BP and the state for lost revenue, though the big losses are still to come, said Jeanine Stewart, an owner of Burris’ Farmers Market in Loxley, where sales “bottomed out” almost immediately after the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon on April 20, but had crept back up since.
“The big thing businesses want to talk about is government supplements or BP claims,” Ms. Stewart said. “They’ve advised all of us to file claims.”
At the market, the television is turned to news, and Ms. Stewart calls people in to watch whenever there is an update on the spill. “It’s that much on our minds,” she said. “We’re still lying in wait. We still have that hope.”
But for Betty Edwards, that hope was dwindling. Mrs. Edwards and her husband have owned homes on Dauphin Island since 1978, and returned even after two were destroyed by Hurricane Frederick and Hurricane Katrina. She said she was still eating local seafood five days a week. “Everyone’s really scared,” she said.
“My mother is sick and I should be with her,” she said. “I said, ‘I’m going to stay here until it’s all closed.’ It could a couple days. But it’s when, not if.”
At the training session for volunteer field observers, Jon DeJean said she felt helpless, in part because she felt BP and government agencies were not telling the whole truth about the spill. “I was angry from the start,” Ms. DeJean said, “but the frustration is growing. For weeks I’ve been feeling powerless and helpless. I feel coming here is at least a step in the right direction. It gives me the feeling of doing something.”
But Tim Helland, a kayak fisherman, acknowledged that there was not much the observers — or anyone — could do.
“We’re going to patrol the beaches, and we’ll know exactly when it comes,” he said. “But it’s still coming. I’m 62. I may not be fishing where I fish ever again.”