Monday, February 28, 2011

James Lamantia (1923-2011)

New Orleans architect and artist James Rogers Lamantia, Jr. (1923-2011) passed away on Saturday, 19 Feburary 2011. A graduate of Tulane University's School of Architecture (B.S. 1943) and Harvard University's Graduate School of Design (M.Arch. 1947), Lamantia received the Prix de Rome in 1948. He was a Fulbright Fellow to Italy in 1949, before returning to the United States to work for The Architectural Forum. He regularly taught art and architecture courses at the Tulane School of Architecture, where he was appointed full professor in 1974, and where he was the first recipient of the Richard Koch Chair in Architecture.

After spending a few years in New York City, Lamantia established a professional practice in New Orleans. By 1955 he was a partner in the firm Burk, Le Breton and Lamantia, which was noted for its church and school buildings. In 1958, he worked with Arthur Q. Davis to design showrooms for the Orleans Gallery, a cooperative artists' organization of which Lamantia was a founding member. He directed the renovation of of the Presbytere Building and contributed to the renovation of New York's Central Park.

A prolific artist and designer, Lamantia exhibited oil paintings in the Whitney Museum of Art's "Fulbright Painters" show in 1958. He designed room schemes and furnishings for Interiors magazine, and collaborated with Louisiana-based sculptor Lin Emery on a brass fountain for Edgar A.G. Bright. His most recent works were collages, assemblages from his Hurricane Katrina-ravaged collection of Piranesi prints.

James Lamantia was an early and lifelong supporter of Tulane University Libraries' Southeastern Architectural Archive. His donations included his own drawings, Frank Lotz Miller negatives and photographs, Piranesi prints, and countless rare books, including a first edition of John Ruskin's The Seven Lamps of Architecture and Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc's Habitations Modernes.

Top: Graduation Photograph, James Rogers Lamantia, Jr. Tulane University Class of 1943. Courtesy University Archives, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Bottom: Robert Helmer (1922-1990). St. Catherine's of Siena Church Baptismal, Metairie. Serigraph. James Lamantia Collection, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Lost New Orleans (23 December 1952)

In 1952, the New Orleans firm of Curtis & Davis was commissioned to design an L-shaped parking garage in the square bounded by Canal, Common, S. Rampart Streets & University Place. The architects hired professional photographer Frank Lotz Miller (1923-1993) to document the surrounding properties.

The Metro Hotel was located at 1021 Common Street, Yank's Cocktail Lounge was at 1017, and Gonzales Tailors was at 1015. Kay's Shoes was located at 136 S. Rampart Street. The Common Street structures remained standing through the 1960s & 1970s, but the Rampart Street store was razed sometime before 1978.

Eglin's Parking Garage was built in 1953, a six-deck steel-framed structure with an 800-car capacity.

Images above: Frank Lotz Miller, photographer. Buildings on Common & Rampart. 23 December 1952. photographic negatives. © Curtis and Davis Collection, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Architectural Records & the Law

On January 23 1897, The American Architect and Building News reported on the architect's right to retain property ownership of drawings:

Notwithstanding the decision of the Courts as to the question of ownership of plans, we find clients still contending for what they regard as their legal right, and the architect as pertinaciously maintaining the usage of the profession in declining to part with documents prepared for his own special use. One would have thought that, after the many disputed cases that have been decided on this question, architects would have shown their appreciation of the old maxim, 'Discretion is the better part of valor,' by making it a stipulation in their agreements with building owners that all designs and drawings they prepare should be retained by them, in case of the abandonment of the work from any cause. As 'custom' of the profession in this particular matter has been overruled, and the profession have been straightly told by judges of the law that any rules they make among themselves have no binding force beyond their own societies, it seems all the stranger that members should go on incurring the risk of making claims which they cannot maintain. The property in plans, particular rates of commission, the authority of the architect to bind his employer by all acts and orders, as a general agent, and other matters, are points which are continually being brought before courts of law with the presumption that, owing to the uncertainty of the law, the conflicting opinions of judges and juries, what has been decided before may be reversed. And it is in this 'glorious uncertainty of the law' that the disputants and their advisers try their luck, even after the points have been theoretically decided against them.
We have not yet very clear legal definitions of the duties of architects in regard to this matter. There are numerous instances where the architect's drawings and specifications are abandoned through want of funds, or some other reason, and where the client claims the drawings prepared when he pays for them. He supposes he has a right to the work which is represented in the drawings; he thinks, naturally, that when he comes to build he can use them, or at any rate, they will be of service. With a strange perversity such men do not understand what they pay an architect for -- namely, his brains and experience -- in other words, a design; for the time he has taken in preparing necessary drawings to assist him in carrying out the work, and that if he parts with these, he is throwing away his chance of employment another day.

To read more, see "The Ownership of Drawings," The American Architect and Building News 55:1100 (23 January 1897): p. 29.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Newberry Symposium

"Mechanisms of Exchange: Transmission, Scale, and Interaction in the Arts and Architecture of the Medieval Mediterranean, 1000 to 1500"

Friday, February 25, 2011, 8:45am to 5pm

The Newberry Library, 60 E. Walton Street, Chicago, IL

Organized by Heather E. Grossman, University of Illinois at Chicago, and Alicia Walker, Washington University in St. Louis

Sponsored by the Center for Renaissance Studies at the Newberry Library, the Newberry Consortium Committees of UIC and Washington University in St. Louis, and the Dean of the College of Architecture and the Arts, UIC.

The symposium brings together scholars working in art and architectural history and archaeology to consider the mechanisms of cross-cultural exchange in the medieval Mediterranean world, and specifically the question of how styles, motifs, and techniques were transmitted in architecture and the monumental arts versus the portable arts. Speakers include specialists in western European, Islamic, and Byzantine art and architectural history. Speakers will present individual case studies, followed by a roundtable discussion reflecting on methodological questions relating to transmission and scale in interaction.

For the full schedule of the symposium, including abstracts of the papers, please see:


While there is no fee to attend this program, participants must register in advance with the Newberry Library. Use their online form; e-mail; or call 312.255.3514. Lunch will be provided to registered participants.

Faculty and graduate students of Center for Renaissance Studies consortium institutions are eligible to apply for travel funds to attend CRS programs. Contact your Representative Council member for details.

Monday, February 14, 2011

WDS Project No. 703

After The Times-Picayune published photographs of the Green Mansion being relocated to clear the footprint for the new Veteran's Administration medical complex, my colleague Kevin Williams noted that the house was designed by the New Orleans firm of Weiss, Dreyfous & Seiferth (1928) and pulled the drawings.

Smith Wendell Green (d. 1946) commissioned the structure in 1928, with Weiss Dreyfous Seiferth drafting plans in September. The draftsman for the project was "A.R."

Above: A.R. for Weiss, Dreyfous & Seiferth. Sheet No. 3 (Detail); Plan No. 703. 4 September 1928. Weiss, Dreyfous & Seiferth Collection, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

New NARA FEMA Resource Online

The National Archives and Records Administration has recently made available over 8,000 digital images relating to disasters and emergency management programs. Wim Henderson took the photograph above on 5 October 2005 in order to record Hurricane Rita wind damage at Holly Beach, Louisiana.

To search the photographs, go to NARA’s Online Public Access search page at
Researchers may browse the photographs by clicking the link that reads “View all Online Holdings” in the top right corner of the search results. For more refined searching, key words may be entered into the search box at the top of the page.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

New Orleans Architects & E.J. Bellocq

New Orleanian John Ernest Joseph Bellocq (1873-1949) is most renowned for his photographs of Storyville prostitutes, but he also worked for local architects to record their events and accomplishments. The journal Architectural Art and Its Allies is riddled with reproductions of Bellocq photographs, some with attributions and others not.

On 19 August 1908, the city's architects and contractors participated in an "Exchange Outing Day" on the Tchefuncta River across Lake Pontchartrain. They boarded the steamer G.H.A. Thomas, after assembling at Canal Street and the Half Way House (recently razed) to catch a train to the West End. E.J. Bellocq captured part of the journey, as Roy C. Moyston acknowledged in Architectural Art and Its Allies:

"After reaching the further neck of the canal, however, the steamer slowed down in order to attitudinize for the benefit of Photographer Belloc [sic], whose effort is here reproduced."

Image and quoted text from Moyston, Roy C. "Exchange Outing Day." Architectural Art and Its Allies 4:2 (August 1908): p. 3.

Architect Frederick W. Brown

Architectural Art and Its Allies reported in September 1907 the arrival of a new architect:

Mr. Frederick W. Brown, of the firm of F.W. Brown, Ten Eyck Brown & P. Thornton Marye, of Atlanta, architects of the new courthouse, will open up permanent offices here under the name of Brown & Brown, and expects to make New Orleans his home. He is a strong believer in the great future of this city, and that the advance along the lines of building cannot be retarded. Mr. Brown will be joined here next month by his daughter, Miss Kathleen Ten Eyck Brown, who is now in Chicago, engaging in the woman's golf tournament for the national cup.

In speaking of the courthouse work, Mr. Brown said that it was progressing finely. While the public may not be able to see signs of material progress, much of the most difficult work of preparing foundations has been done and it will not be many weeks before the superstructure will begin to rise.

"Frederick W. Brown: Court House Architect Makes New Orleans His Home." Architectural Art and Its Allies III:3 (September 1907): p. 7.