Tuesday, November 27, 2012

1950's Saigon

In the mid-1950s, New Orleans architects Curtis & Davis received a commission to design the new U.S. Embassy in Saigon, Vietnam. One early conceptual sketch is reproduced above. Affected by heightened political tensions, the project underwent many revisions through the building's completion in 1966. Two years later the embassy building was attacked, and in April 1975, Gerald R. Ford authorized the rooftop evacuation of American personnel. The structure remained standing and was eventually returned to the U.S. government in 1995, but razed in 1998.

The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum retains an architectural model of the structure, as well as the rooftop ladder utilized in the evacuation. Tulane University Libraries' Southeastern Architectural Archive houses the Curtis & Davis office records, which include preliminary sketches and photographic documentation.

The firm's design research process incorporated an extensive series of photographs commissioned from the Saigon-based USIA-USOM Photo Laboratory. These images -- taken December 1955 -- document the buildings associated with different foreign missions:  the existing American Norodom compound, as well as the residences of the British and French governmental officials. The series includes structures associated with Shell Oil Company, its "Compagnie Franco Asiatique de Petroles" headquarters (Boulevards Norodom and Luro) and its employees' apartment complex.

Images above:

Top: Curtis & Davis. Saigon Embassy, conceptual sketch. February 1956.

Center: USIA-USOM Photo Laboratory, Saigon, Vietnam. "Shell oil company office building, corner of Blvd. Norodom and Blvd. Luro, Saigon. Constructed in the early 1930s. Photo taken December 1955."

Bottom:  USIA-USOM Photo Laboratory, Saigon, Vietnam. "The front view of the Shell Oil Company's employees' apartments in Saigon. Photo taken December 1955. Building constructed about 1952-1953."

All from Curtis & Davis Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Unit Buildings Principle

In September 1951, Laurence G. Farrant (1921-1978), a Miami-based consulting engineer, published an article in Architectural Record pertaining to a new parking structure that he had helped to realize. Working with project engineer W.C. Harry and New Orleans architects Diboll-Kessels at the request of parking lot entrepreneur George Blaise, Farrant developed a flat-slab garage comprised of 30 independent structures with column supports hinged at the bottoms.

Influenced by the work of Swiss civil engineer Robert Maillart (1872-1940), Farrant developed the plan based on the "unit buildings" principle, which allowed overlapping cantilevers to accommodate additional automobiles. The hinged column bottoms allowed the independence of the separate building units, and also provided more space for automobiles. Ramps between levels were simply hung between unit buildings in a non-continuous placement in order to secure the unit buildings' independence. Farrant asserted that his scheme yielded considerable savings in the purchase of steel and concrete, for he was able to reduce the slab thickness over what would have been required for a single monolithic base.(1)

Click here to see more recent images of the structure.

(1) Laurence G. Farrant. "Parking Garage: Series of Unit Buildings." Architectural Record (September 1951): pp. 167-170; Laurence G. Farrant. "Unit Buildings Cut Construction Costs." Journal of the American Concrete Institute 47:5 (May 1951): pp. 669-679.

Images above:  Details, Laurence G. Farrant. Drawings for garage for Blaise, Inc., 200 North Rampart Street, New Orleans, LA. Diboll-Kessels and Associates, Architects. March 1950. Weiss, Dreyfous and Seiferth Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Kahn System

In March 1906, Asa J. Biggs (†1913); a Massachusetts Institute of Technology-trained engineer and principal in the New Orleans firm Mackenzie, Goldstein & Biggs; wrote an article for Architectural Art and Its Allies heralding a new reinforced-concrete building technique, the Kahn system. Invented by Julius Kahn and patented 18 August 1903 (Patent No. 736,602), the system featured rolled bars with diagonal "wings" bent up at regular intervals to prevent shear cracks in horizontal beams (see diagram on envelope below). Kahn's Detroit-based Trussed Concrete Steel Company manufactured and marketed the reinforcement system, and its structural engineers supplied builders with their services.

Frank Lloyd Wright employed the Kahn system in his Imperial Hotel (1913-23) in Tokyo.(1)  In New Orleans, Bemis Brothers' Gulf Bag Company building (329 Julia Street) was erected on 660 Raymond concrete piles, and its beams and floor slabs employed the Kahn system (1905-06).  This facilitated the builder's desire to span a clear space of 44 feet that would allow heavy bales of burlap cloth to be loaded and unloaded.(2) Edmund Burke Mason was the engineer in charge of construction for Bemis Brothers Bag Company of Boston, and supervised the construction of the Julia Street facility, as well as that of Bemis plants in San Francisco and St. Louis.(3)

(1) Joseph M. Siry. "The Architecture of Earthquake Resistance: Julius Kahn's Truscan Company and Frank Lloyd Wright's Imperial Hotel" Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 67:1 (March 2008): pp. 78-105.

(2) Asa J. Biggs. "A Re-Inforced Concrete Factory." Architectural Art and Its Allies (March 1906), pp. 13-14.

(3)John Smith Kendall. "Edmund Burke Mason." History of New Orleans, vol. 3. 1922. p. 946.

Images above: "Gulf Bag Company Building." Architectural Art and Its Allies (March 1906), p. 13; Trussed Concrete Steel Company envelope, 1909. "Louisiana Printing Co.," Martin Shepard Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Shepley in NOLA

In the 1890s, Henry Hobson Richardson's successor firm Shepley Rutan & Coolidge, Architects (SRC) received two important commissions in New Orleans. Both projects were published in the May 1896 The American Architect & Building News. Both buildings were constructed in the Central Business District, one at 1030 Canal Street (top image); the other at 221-223 Baronne Street (bottom image). The first to be completed was for the New South Building & Loan Association, erected in 1895 and the second was the Pickwick Club House, completed in 1896. (1)

The Heliotype Printing Company of Boston produced the journal images above, with the hand-colored collotype only available in the international and imperial editions.

Images above:

Top: Shepley, Rutan & Collidge, Architects. Pickwick Club-House, 1030 Canal Street, New Orleans, LA. 1896. Collotype. The American Architect & Building News (30 May 1896).

Bottom: Shepley, Rutan & Collidge, Architects. New South Building & Loan Association, 221-223 Baronne Street, New Orleans, LA. 1895. Hand-colored collotype. The American Architect & Building News (30 May 1896).

Both Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

(1) Interior plastering for the Pickwick Club-House was not completed until 1897, as club members wanted to allow the building to settle for one year to prevent the formation of wall cracks.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Mushroom System II

We had posted an earlier entry regarding the use of C.A.P. Turner's so-called "Mushroom System" in the construction of the New Orleans Johns-Manville Building (1914). One year earlier, architect Emile Weil (1878-1945)  was touted as employing the method for the "Most Up-to-Date Wholesale House in New Orleans," his Woodward-Wight building (344 St. Joseph Street). The construction photograph reproduced above appeared in the January 1913 issue of Architectural Art and Its Allies, a local architecture/building journal.

Image above: "The Mushroom System of Reinforced Concrete." Architectural Art and Its Allies (January 1913), p. 20.  Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Lexicon: Stair-Mobile

Previously we had posted a 1938 residential lift called the Stair-Travelor, designed to assist individuals needing transport from one story to the next. Thirty years later, the Atlanta-based Southeastern Elevator Company, Inc. was advertising a prefabricated StairMobile (shown above), which performed the same function, but traveled 27 feet per minute, and had the capacity to carry a 250-pound person. Southeastern Elevator's stair climber could operate on a standard 110 volt alternating current (AC) and could be finished to match one's home decor.

In New Orleans, the Jolley Elevator Corporation at 2630 Banks Street was the local distributor for the Stair Mobile.

Image above: StairMobile Stair Climber,Southeastern Elevator Co., Inc. 441 Memorial Drive/Atlanta, Georgia. 1968. Trade Catalog Collection, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Monday, November 5, 2012

NEW COLLECTION: Albert C. Ledner Office Records

The Southeastern Architectural Archive has recently finalized the processing of New Orleans modernist architect Albert Ledner's office records. The documents span his education and professional career from c. 1943-2011.  The collection includes project drawings, correspondence, articles, patents, photographs, color transparencies and diapositives.

Ledner typically served as both architect and construction manager for his owner-built projects. He designed numerous structures for the National Maritime Union of America, and completed projects in eight states. At times he worked with his contemporaries, Philip Roach, Albert Saputo, and Leonard Reese Spangenberg.

From 1944-1955 Ledner travelled extensively to study modernist architecture, and his office records include images of structures he visited.  These photographic images record buildings primarily by Frank Lloyd Wright, but also by Bruce Goff, John Lautner and Eero Saarinen.  Notable amongst the color transparencies are those that document the construction of Florida Southern University in Lakeland, Florida.

Access the finding aid here.

View the SEAA's online exhibit, Modernism in New Orleans here.

Image above: Albert Ledner at Taliesin West, Scottsdale, Arizona, c. 1943-44. Albert C. Ledner Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Stone Mountain Granite Corp.

In 1911, the Weiblen Marble and Granite Company leased Stone Mountain, Georgia from Samuel and William Venable, operating there as the Stone Mountain Granite Corporation (SMGC) until 1936. Company founder Albert Weiblen (1857-1957), a German immigrant, gave SMGC operational responsibilities to his two sons, Frederick († 1927) and George († 1970).

The photograph above was taken by Reeves Studios, founded in Atlanta, Georgia (1914). The Atlanta History Center's Kenan Research Center has digitized a number of Reeves Studio photographs with funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

Close attention to the cutting shed image above reveals a crane operator situated inside a Pawling & Harnischfeger 15-ton type "C" I-beam crane cab. Such cranes were used in lumber mills and granite quarries, and images of its use in these and other contexts may be found in a set of digitized images from the Wisconsin Historical Society.

The Southeastern Architectural Archive retains the records of the Weiblen Marble and Granite Company, as well as supplemental information pertaining to its Stone Mountain and Elberton, Georgia quarry operations. An inventory of holdings may be located here.

Stone Mountain granite was used on many New Orleans public projects, including the pedestal of the Lafayette Square Benjamin Franklin statue, the Huey P. Long Bridge, and -- at the request of City Engineer A.C. Bell -- was used to pave the riverfront between Thalia and Nuns Streets for the construction of the Pauline Street wharf.(1)

(1) "Dock Board Lets Paving Contract." The Daily Picayune (25.1.1913), p. 6.

Image above: Reeves Photo Atlanta. Stone Mountain Granite Corporation, Stone Mountain, Georgia, c. 1914-29. Weiblen Marble and Granite Works Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Theodore Brune (1854-1932)

The German-born architect Theodore Brune died in New Orleans in 1932 at the age of 78. He obtained his architectural education at the University of Tübingen before immigrating to the United States and establishing his New Orleans architecture practice. Primarily known as a Catholic church architect, Brune also designed the Biloxi, Mississippi Yacht Club Building, Dukate's Theatre, and private residences for W.K.M. Dukate and L. Lopez, Sr. (all shown above).

He is most noted for his design of the Swiss Benedictine St. Joseph's Abbey, located near Covington in St. Benedict, Louisiana. The structure has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 2007. Blueprints reside in the Southeastern Architectural Archive's Philip P. Cazalé Office Records, a recently processed collection.

Upon his death, Brune was interned at St. Joseph's Abbey.

Images above: "Theodore Brune" & his buildings. In Biloxi Daily Herald: Twentieth Century Coast Edition (1902), as viewed 1.11.2012 via The Internet Archive.