Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Photographer's Archive

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is home to the Walker Evans Archive (acquired 1994), and has recently announced a new exhibition centered on the American photographer's vast postcard collection. Evans (1903-1975), mentioned in earlier posts, was a Resettlement Administration (Department of the Interior) photographer during the 1930s, and traveled the country recording people, places, labors, and architecture. He was also an avid collector of picture postcards, saying of them: "The very essence of American daily city and town life got itself recorded quite inadvertently on the penny picture postcards of the early 20th century.…Those honest direct little pictures have a quality today that is more than mere social history.…The picture postcard is folk document." Evans meticulously arranged the collection he amassed over the course of sixty years: self-devised subject categories included American Architecture, Automobiles, Curiosities, Factories, Lighthouses, Madness, Street Scenes, and Summer Hotels.

Walker Evans and the Picture Postcard was organized by Jeff L. Rosenheim, Curator in the Department of Photographs, and will be on display from 3 February - 25 May 2009.  To view a slideshow of some of his postcards, click here.

Walker Evans. New Orleans Classic Revival House in Rampart Street. Louisiana. December 1935. Copy Print, Miscellaneous Photographs Collection, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Utilitas & Venustas

After reading Elizabeth Royte's Garbage Land recently, I have been thinking about ways in which refuse has been used in new ways. The Oxford (Oxfordshire, United Kingdom) City Museum collection includes a portion of early municipal paving that made use of slaughterhouse waste, oxen bones, primarily vertebrae (detail, shown above left).

Then one finds much later (stylized) appropriations of the visual form of the vertebrae sections, as ornamentation in Oxford, such as those seen on the engaged columns at the entrance to Queen's College (shown below).

Of course, other animal discards were employed for the building trade. The protein collagen, derived from fish, animal bone and skin, was utilized in baroque-era Poland as the binding compound in faux-marble stucco. In New Orleans and elsewhere in the United States, old plasterwork frequently contains horse hair as additional reinforcement. To read the National Park Service Preservation Brief on repairing historic flat plaster walls and ceilings, click here.

Aunt Aggie's Bone Yard in Lake City, Florida was a popular tourist attraction for families in the early twentieth century. Aggie Jones (died 1918) was a former slave who created this natural history and botanical garden on property she and her family purchased after emancipation. Bones supported by wires were used to create archways and trellises ornamenting a white sand pathway. The garden was demolished after her death, and a school now stands on the site.

Dr. Paula Lee has edited a new interdisciplinary book addressing 19th-century slaughterhouses, titled Meat, Modernity, and the Rise of the Slaughterhouse (U New Hampshire Press, 2008). Lindgren Johnson's chapter, "To 'Admit All Cattle without Distinction': Reconstructing Slaughter in the Slaughterhouse Cases and the New Orleans Crescent City Slaughterhouse" will be especially of interest to readers here.

Oxford images above taken 07.2007 by K. Rylance. Aunt Aggie's Boneyard, c. 1915 from Images of Florida's Black History/Florida Memory Project of the State Archives of Florida. Click here for more.

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.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Blizzard of 1966

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) maintains an online Photograph Library that houses thousands of public domain images that cannot be copyrighted. The collection includes many images of New Orleans, especially in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

The photograph above was taken outside of Jamestown, North Dakota by State Highway Department employee Bill Koch 9 March 1966, and captioned: "I believe there is a train under here somewhere!" The early March storm was considered the blizzard of the century, and was known for its 30-foot-high snowdrifts. This morning, 22 December 2008, Grand Forks, North Dakota reported a windchill factor of -30° F.

If you want to know more about snow, see the National Snow and Ice Data Center's (NSIDC) All About Snow, which includes this and other photographs of major historic blizzards, as well as images of snow formations, such as sastrugi.

If you want to see ice/snow construction firsthand, there are ice hotels in Canada, Finland, Romania and Sweden.  Better yet, build it yourself.  Click here to learn more from Dr. Nobert E. Yankielun, a research engineer for the Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Laboratory or watch Douglas Wilkenson's 1949 film How to Build an Igloo, provided by the National Film Board of Canada.
Hôtel de Glace, Canada. ©

New Orleans of the Future: 1958

Ground Is Broken for New Mississippi River Bridge
Gigantic Span will Inaugurate New Era in City's History

1 May 1955.  The ground has been broken and construction has begun on the new $65 million Mississippi River Bridge.  Persistence, patience, vision and hard work are making a reality of a dream that began nearly 100 years ago. 

The towering bridge will serve as a gateway to the vast undeveloped territory on the West Bank. It will open the door to immense commercial and population growth in the New Orleans Metropolitan Area.

The Mississippi River Bridge Authority, which is directing the building of the monumental structure, estimates that the first cars will rover over the 3 1/2-mile long span by July 1, 1958.  When completed, it will be the longest cantilever bridge in the United States and the third in the world.  

Work has begun on the building of the four large piers upon which the bridge will rest.  In order to secure the firm foundation for the main pier in the river, a giant concrete block as high as an 11-story building will be sunk into the river bottom.  Into the bridge itself will go 40 million tons of steel.

The structure, rising 350 feet above the river, will have two 24-foot roadways and plans include a provision for a fifth lane when necessary.

From the City of New Orleans. Annual Report of the Mayor 1954-1955.  1 May 1955. Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.  JS 13.N47

Image above:  Crescent City Connection (formerly the Greater New Orleans Bridge), New Orleans.  Bridges designed by Modjeski and Masters, first completed September 1959; second completed September 1988.  08 2008 by K. Rylance.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Happy Birthday Oscar Niemeyer

Brazilian Oscar Ribeiro de Almeida Niemeyer Soares Filho was born 15 December 1907 and celebrated his 101st birthday yesterday.  The architect-urbanist designed Brasília's Cathedral and National Congress and has recently been entrusted with refurbishing his Planalto Palace, the working office of the Brazilian president.  Considered one of the last moderns, Niemeyer's stature has been predicated on a life-long capacity for work and an ability to reconcile modernism with Latin surrealism.  

In his studio, he surrounds himself with his graffiti, aphorisms of personal significance:

"The dispossessed never get a turn."

"Form follows feminine."

"When misery multiplies and hope escapes from the hearts of men, only revolution."

A typographer's son, Niemeyer has consistently recommended the works of his former friend Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980) as required reading for all architects.  He said last year in an interview on his hundredth birthday, "What I could do at 60 I can still do now."  

Want to read more?

Chora.  Montreal:  McGill University Press [for] the History and Theory of Architecture Graduate Programs.  TSA Library NA 2500.C49 vols.  I-III.

The Curves of Time:  The Memoirs of Oscar Niemeyer.  London:  Phaidon, 2000.  TSA Library NA 859.N5 A2 2000

Sartre, Jean-Paul. Existentialism and Humanism, translated by Philip Mairet.  Brooklyn: Haskell House, 1977.  HTML B 819.S32 1977

________.  Sketch for a Theory of the Emotions, translated by Philip Mairet. London: Routledge, 2002; 1962.  HTML  BF 532.S313  2002

Image above:  Antonio Scorza.  Oscar Niemeyer in his studio-library.  12 December 2007.  AFP/Getty Images.  To view Flickr Hive Mind photographs of Niemeyer's notable projects, click here.

Fellowship Opportunity: Utopias/Dystopias

The Institute for Humanities Research at Arizona State University (Tempe, AZ), which supports socially engaged interdisciplinary humanities research, invites applications for two visiting fellowships.

The theme of Utopias/Dystopias and Social Transformation is designed to stimulate scholarship that addresses the nature, value and meaning of utopias/dystopias for social transformation. Projects should utilize humanities perspectives and methodologies within and across such fields as history, literary studies, art history, film and media studies, philosophy, religious studies, gender studies, and related humanities disciplines.

Application deadline is March 2, 2009.  Additional information is available at or contact the IHR at or 480-965-3000.

Image above:  Film Still, Brazil (1985 directed by Terry Gilliam; written by Terry Gilliam, Tom Stoppard, and Charles McKeown).

Friday, December 12, 2008

ARCHITEXT Opening Event

The Southeastern Architectural Archive has recently installed a new exhibition, Architext: The Unity of Architecture and Typography, co-curated by Keli Rylance and Kevin Williams.

This exhibition covers a wide range of architectural letter forms, from the Renaissance and its introduction of classically-derived alphabets in the service of architecture and typography to the mid-twentieth century's attempts at a universal alphabet. Letters devised by Albrecht Dürer, Geoffroy Tory, Johann-David Steingruber and Berthold Wolpe are included, as are the lettering designs of New Orleans architects Moise Goldstein, William Nolan, Douglass Freret, Albert Wolf, Herbert Benson and George Riehl.

The opening has been scheduled for
Friday, December 19th from 6:30-8:30 pm and will feature presentations by graphic designer Tom Varisco and architect Milton Scheuermann.

7:00 pm
Tom Varisco will discuss his new publication Signs of New Orleans

Tom Varisco is sole proprietor and creative director of Tom Varisco Designs, an award-winning design studio in New Orleans. Varisco is the recipient of the first “Fellow Award” by the New Orleans chapter of the AIGA and an Adjunct Professor in the Visual Arts Department at Loyola University.
His book Spoiled, a photographic record of the refrigerators discarded after Hurricane Katrina, became a local best seller and was selected one of the top 50 design books by AIGA in 2006.
Copies of Signs of New Orleans will be available for purchase.

7:45 pm
Milton Scheuermann will discuss architectural lettering practices and education

Milton Scheuermann is an architect, architectural historian, calligrapher, magician and musician. The former campus architect for Dillard University and an Adjunct Professor in the Tulane School of Architecture, Scheuermann is the author of
Perspective Drawing for Architects. In 2009, he will celebrate his fiftieth anniversary as an architecture professor.

Southeastern Architectural Archive
300 Jones Hall (3
rd Floor)
/6801 Freret Street/Tulane University

New Orleans Business Archive: Carnegie Steel

In 1929, the Pittsburgh-based Carnegie Steel Company maintained a district office in New Orleans. Located in the Maison Blanche Building at 921 Canal Street, Carnegie Steel promoted its improvements to structural steel with the development of Carnegie Beam Sections in the spring of 1927:

A new form of contour was adopted for these sections in which internal flange slope was eliminated, the flanges being of uniform thickness throughout their width. This again increased the strength of the section, permitted simpler connections and facilitated fabrication and erection.

New Orleans architect Moise Goldstein (1882-1972) and structural engineer Jens Braae Jensen employed Carnegie steel for the American Bank and Trust Company Building (315-319 St. Charles Avenue, 1924), as well as for Temple Sinai (6243 St. Charles Avenue, 1927). The Southeastern Architectural Archive retains plans of both structures in its Moise Goldstein Office Records Collection.

[Image above and quoted matter from: Carnegie Steel Company. The Skyline of America. Pittsburgh, PA, April, 1929. Architectural Trade Catalogs Collection, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries].

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Frosty Canal Street

A rare sighting of snow in New Orleans! What' s next? A whale in the Mississippi?

The Daily Picayune reported on 13 January 1852:

Ladies who had never been out of Louisiana cried "Mon Dieu" by the dozens . . . After awhile the small shot of congealed water changed into large, downy flakes--old fashioned snow flakes--such as we read of in Dickens's Christmas stories, and which suggest such pleasant family pictures of glowing hearths, social chats and domestic comforts in warm and comfortable parlors.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Casselman Archive of Spanish Architecture

The University of Wisconsin's Art History Department has made available over 4,000 images from its slide library. The Casselman Archive contains images of medieval and early modern Spain taken by the late Eugene Casselman (1912-1996) during his thirty years of travel throughout the Iberian peninsula. The images span over one thousand years of architectural history, from the seventh to the seventeenth century. The majority of the slides focus on the Mudejar and Visigothic styles. To access the digital collection, click here.

Shown above is his image of the Churrigueresque West Facade (Obradorio) of Santiago de Compostela, undated.

At Large in the Library: Nicolas de Bonnefons

The oldest book in the collection of the Garden Library of the New Orleans Town Gardeners, a special research space housed in the Southeastern Architectural Archive, is by Nicolas de Bonnefons, the valet du chambre of King Louis XIV (1638-1715). He first published his Le Jardinier François in Paris in 1651. It was a vastly popular book and numerous editions appeared through the early eighteenth century. British diarist John Evelyn translated the work in 1658 and referred to it as "the first and best [. . .] that introduced the use of the olitoire [i.e. kitchen] garden."

The Garden Library's 1664 copy was the gift of Marion Leverick Miller, Marjorie Leverick Moran, and Elaine Leverick Collenberg. Published in Rouen as a small duodecimo, it was an affordable version intended for a growing bourgeois female readership. It is dedicated and prefaced "To the Ladies." The printer for this edition was also a woman, Catherine Housset (d. 1681?), who was the widow of Louis II Costé (1585?-1635) and operated this regional dynasty's printing establishment at the "Trois Croix couronnés" on the Rue Écuyère until the fourth quarter of the seventeenth century. The family was noted for its vernacular production of almanacs, romances, and dialogues. The front endpapers include a series of gift inscriptions, as one owner passed it to a friend, who passed it on, and so on, the earliest owner's mark from 1685.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Reproduction beyond Digital

For those interested in the history of mechanical reproduction and the refinements of different historic processes, the Rochester Image Permanence Institute /The Archival Advisor have recently retooled their collection of digital samples.  The site is under construction but promises to be a primary resource for the identification, comparison, history and preservation of pre-photographic, photomechanical and photographic processes.  Hopefully they will expand their list of photographic processes and also include architectural and cartographic reproduction methods.

How to access:  simply go to

The site is similar in approach to Bamber Gascoigne's wonderful How to Identify Prints, published by Thames and Hudson and an invaluable resource for archivists, art historians, cultural historians, rare books librarians, and print collectors.

For scholars, Luis Nadeau's Encyclopedia of Printing, Photographic, and Photomechanical Processes (out of print) is peerless.

Extended Deadline: Call for Manuscripts

EXTENDED DEADLINE: A peer-reviewed book

Comparative Emergency Management: Examining Global and Regional Responses to Disasters

[The editors are extending the deadline for this call to seek potential chapter contributions with a primary focus on the Caribbean, Central America, South America, and the South Pacific Regions]

Comparative Emergency Management: Examining Global and Regional Responses to Disasters

DeMond Miller, Rowan University, USA and Jason Rivera, The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, USA

Publisher: Auerbach/Taylor and Francis Publishers

Comparative Emergency Management: Examining Global and Regional Responses to Disasters, an edited volume, will encompass a dialogue regarding the impact of natural and human-induced disasters. The book will illustrate how initiating long-term regional collaborations on issues of natural disaster risk reduction and hazard risk management help build resiliency. Its main objectives are to 1) take stock of the current status of disaster management systems across regions and countries, 2) promote an integrated approach to disaster risk reduction and 3) encourage new synergies and partnerships between governments to better address disaster prevention. The book will also provide an opportunity for participants to discuss future needs and priorities in an effort to strengthen disaster risk reduction in their respective countries and the region as a whole.

The editors highly encourage case studies and will consider a mixed methods approach among the chapters. 

Send a title, an abstract and brief (3 - 5 page double-spaced) chapter proposal, in English, by Saturday January 31, 2009 to: DeMond Miller at

Monday, December 8, 2008


The Olde Towne Arts Center (OTAC) in Slidell, Louisiana presents a call for entries in a national juried exhibition for Artists' Books. The exhibition is entitled Topophilia: Love of Place.

 Entry postmark deadline: January 31, 2009
 Juror: Natasha Lovelace, Kennesaw State University
 Entry Fee: $25 for 3 entries
 For details, prospectus and entry form, please email:

 Charlotte Lowry Collins, Director
 Olde Towne Arts Center
 300 Robert St., Slidell, LA 70458

Recent Gift to the SEAA

The Southeastern Architectural Archive recently received a generous gift from Tulane School of Architecture Adjunct Faculty member Milton Scheuermann, the travel sketchbook of New Orleans architect Samuel Stanhope Labouisse, dated 1903-1904. Labouisse (1879-1918) was the founder and first president of the Louisiana Institute of Architects. His sketchbook documents his travels to western Europe from December 1903 to June 1904. Labouisse visited Amiens, Athens, Laon, Reims, Rome, Versailles, and Viterbo and sketched the architectural features of such sites as Reims Cathedral, the Villa Borghese, and the Athenian Acropolis. The canvas-lined sketchbook endpaper bears an inventory recording Labouisse's daily expenditures on lodging, entrance fees, meals, stamps and even champagne. One night's stay in Laon, France in 1904? $1.00!

Every year, the Tulane School of Architecture awards the Samuel Stanhope Labouisse Memorial Award for excellence in the documentation of historically significant Louisiana architecture. For more information, click here.

Samuel Stanhope Labouisse, Rose Window at Laon Cathedral, 24 June 1904. Graphite on paper. Recent gift of Milton Scheuermann to the Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Experimental Geography

iCI's touring exhibition Experimental Geography, curated by Nato Thompson, may interest architects and others who share an admiration for experimental approaches to the idea of geography:

Geography benefits from the study of specific histories, sites, and memories. Every estuary, land fill, and cul-de-sac has a story to tell. The task of the geographer is to alert us to what is directly in front of us, while the task of the experimental geographer—an amalgam of scientist, artist, and explorer—is to do so in a manner that deploys aesthetics, ambiguity, poetry, and a dash of empiricism. This exhibition explores the distinctions between geographical study and artistic experience of the earth, as well as the juncture where the two realms collide (and possibly make a new field altogether).

To order the exhibition catalog:

The exhibition's itinerary:

Rochester Art Center, Rochester, Minnesota
February 7 April 18, 2009

The Albuquerque Museum, Albuquerque, New Mexico
June 28 September 20, 2009

October 2009 - January 2010

Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville, Maine
February 21 - May 30, 2010

June - August 2010

Image above: The Center for Land Use Interpretation, Untitled (image and text panels depicting the programs and projects of CLUI), 2007.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Grey Villet, photographer. North Dakota Farmers Randy and Lois Oster Speak with Lawyer Activist Sarah Vogel on Their Farm, Which Faces Foreclosure. Outside Wing (Burleigh County) North Dakota. October 1982. LIFE on Google. [The Osters were later evicted from their property and pursued legal proceedings against their bank and then the federal government].

In 1986, Frank and Deborah Popper postulated a Buffalo Commons for rethinking land use in the Great Plains. They suggested that the federal governent's intervention could save the declining region by recasting it as an enormous park, the nation's largest historic preservation project. They have recently enlarged on their original ideas as Buffalo Commons Two, emphasizing that "sustainable land use must support a wider mosaic, spanning a continuum from wilderness to agriculture to urban, of land uses ecologically well-grounded"(Popper and Popper, 2008). Stressing sufficiency and flexibility over excess and uniformity, the Poppers have adopted concepts from economists Ernst Schumacher and Herman Daly and agriculturalists Wendell Barry and Wes Jackson to emphasize ecological restoration and non-market-driven social services. They are currently working on Buffalo Commons Three.

Recently, the New York Times reported that the state of North Dakota, unlike the rest of the country, is experiencing an embarrassment of riches, contemplating what to do with a $1.2 billion budget surplus. The state currently has 13,000 unfilled jobs and not enough job seekers to fill them. One lifelong resident was quoted as saying, “prudence is important at this point . . . North Dakota never gets as good as the rest of the country or as bad as the rest of the country, and that’s fine with us.” To read more, click here.

Want to read more?

Popper, Deborah and Frank Popper. "The Great Plains: From Dust to Dust" Planning Magazine (1987).

_________. "The Buffalo Commons: Metaphor as Method" Geographical Review 89:4 (1999): 491-521.

_________. "The Onset of the Buffalo Commons" Journal of the West 45:2 (2006): 29-34.

_________. "Looking Forward: Adding the Buffalo Commons to the Grasslands Mix." 31 October 2008.

Preservation Today

The New York Times has begun a series of articles --  based on a six-month investigation -- exploring the operations of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. The evaluating body consists of 11 commissioners, whose composition  must include at least three architects, one historian, one city planner or landscape architect, one real estate agent and one resident of each of the five boroughs.  The Chairman, Robert B. Tierney, holds ultimate authority over the process.  The commission does not document the resolution of each nomination, nor does it develop statistics related to how many nominations it rejects or defers.  To read Robin Pogrebin's first piece, click here.

In New Orleans, many Mid-City residents are lamenting a recent decision to appropriate a sizable portion of the neighborhood for a new VA-LSU medical corridor.  The Department of Veterans Affairs announced yesterday that the area bounded by South Galvez Street, Tulane Avenue, South Rocheblave Street and Canal Street would be the site of the new VA Medical Center.  The State of Louisiana announced that the area bounded by South Galvez Street, Tulane Avenue, South Claiborne Avenue and Canal Street would be the site of the new LSU Academic Medical Center.  

In response to the announcements, activist Karen Gadbois, writing on her Squandered Heritage blog, addressed the related FEMA Section 106 process and contrasted it with her experience in Mexico.  Richard Moe, President of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, commented:

"In selecting these sites, the VA and LSU have made a serious error. They chose alternatives that will not only be the most time-consuming, costly, and complex, to implement, but will needlessly destroy a historic neighborhood where residents are struggling to rebuild their community in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. . . We strongly urge the VA and LSU to reconsider, and take a look at other less harmful alternatives."

For those interested in the latest preservation news, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the online news forum Preservation Today are excellent sources.  

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Cold War Modern

Two months ago, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London launched its Cold War Modern exhibition:  Last weekend, the V & A hosted a conference focused on Cold War culture; this Friday (28 November), the museum is sponsoring a symposium that brings together architects, critics and curators to discuss experimental architecture in the 1960s.   If you can't visit London before the exhibition's closing 11 January 2009, at least check out the website, which features an interactive timeline riddled with architectural drawings, photographs and models. 

Above:  Kenneth Adam, Design for the War Room in Dr. Strangelove (1962). Felt-tip pen on card.  Additional section added to drawing, 1999.  Collection Sir Kenneth Adam, London.  Didactic from exhibition.  


Last week, I posted some UPhO images of raised southwest Louisiana coastal houses, and this early twentieth-century Key West, Florida, photograph reminded me of them. It is one of nearly 5,000 images that comprise the Dale McDonald Collection that is available online via the Florida Memory/State Archives portal. McDonald (1949-2007), was a firefigher and photographer born in Key West, who amassed an extensive collection of photographs and slides.

Last year, architect Alison Brooks received the Manser Medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) for her Essex Salt House, an elevated structure built on the floodplain of the North Sea. Brooks based her design -- which the RIBA judges praised as "breathtaking" -- on modernist post-War beach houses in the United States. To read/see more, click here.

Photograph: unidentified photographer. The House on Stilts, End of the NW Channel, undated. Florida Memory/State Archives of Florida. Viewed 25.11.2008. [URL:]

Monday, November 24, 2008

Tableaux Vivants: Street with a View

I am enamored of Robin Hewlett and Ben Kinsley's Street with a View, filmed in May 2008 along Sampsonia Way in Pittsburgh's Northside.  Its reinterpretation with Google Street View just appeared this month.  

For a fuller description of the project, click here.

Urban Tapestries is a similar project that was conceived and developed by Proboscis with collaborators the London School of Economics, Birbeck College, Orange, HP Research Labs, France Telecom R& D United Kingdom, and the British Ordnance Survey.   The platform allowed people to build relationships between places and associated narratives, pictures, recordings, and videos.  The projects are documented in a variety of media, connected by spatial memories.   

The University of Massachusetts in Lowell recently applied for a new patent that will help individuals create two- and three-dimensional maps of information searches.  Digital results may be superimposed in an interactive visual interface designed to harness human spatial memory. 

A former colleague once told me the story of a highly regarded professor, who, knowing he was going blind, began to construct a building in his mind, an expansive multi-storied structure with many rooms.  In certain rooms, he stored certain types of knowledge. The pathways he took from one space to another were traceable, years of accumulated knowledge that once had occupied thousands of individual notecards were now retrievable by accessing these mental spaces.  To read more about historic "Memory Palaces" click here.

Read more in the TSA Library:  

Donlyn Lyndon and Charles Moore.  Chambers for a Memory Palace.  Cambridge, MA:  MIT Press, 1994.  NA 737.L96 A3 1994

Photograph:  tENTATIVELY a cONVENIENCE is a Mad Scientist / d-composer / Sound Thinker / Thought Collector. Whenever he has the energy he devotes himself to "undermining 'reality' maintenance traps"— which naturally made him an ideal contributor for Street With A View! Also a maker of costumes, tENT made an appearance in his Bird Brain persona.  Street with a View URL:  Viewed 24.11.2008.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Citywide Master Planning for New Orleans

Herbert Gehr, photographer. Seven members of the Omaha City Planning Commission holding a meeting in front of an aerial map of the city showing the Missouri River as they plot the position of 17 major projects to improve their city. LIFE July 1947 on Google []

The Times-Picayune reported on Saturday that New Orleans is a shrinking city, one that needs to develop "smart decline" strategies for its future.   To read more, click here.  Master plans certainly abound in post-Katrina New Orleans:  Citywide Master Plan, Orleans Parish School Board Master Plan, Archdiocese Master Plan, Public Libraries Master Plan.  To find the data for the planning, here are the main links:

New Orleans Master Plan []

Orleans Parish School Board Master Plan []

New Orleans Public Libraries Master Plan []

The next citywide meeting for the New Orleans Master Plan/Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance (CZO) has been announced for 13 December 2008, to be conducted at the Behrman Gym, 2529 General Meyer Avenue.  This will be the fourth in a series of such meetings, and is intended to focus on the theme "How We Prosper."

Keep checking the New Orleans Master Plan website for future updates.

ARCHITEXT Exhibition

The Southeastern Architectural Archive has recently installed a new exhibition, Architext: The Unity of Architecture and Typography, co-curated by Keli Rylance and Kevin Williams.

This exhibition covers a wide range of architectural letter forms, from the Renaissance and its introduction of classically-derived alphabets in the service of architecture and typography to the mid-twentieth century's attempts at a universal alphabet. Letters devised by Albrecht Durer, Geoffroy Tory, Johann-David Steingruber and Berthold Wolpe are included, as are the lettering designs of New Orleans architects Moise Goldstein, William Nolan, Douglass Freret, Albert Wolf, Herbert Benson and George Riehl.

Exhibition closes 8 May 2009.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

LIFE Photograph Archive on Google

LIFE and Google have collaborated to make millions of digitized photographs available online. Many of these images were never selected for print publication, but they record nearly 150 years of historical figures, events, and places. To search the archive, click here. The metadata is pretty sparse to non-existent but it is great to have the images publicly available. Caution: broad subject searches will cap out at 200, but hopefully this is something they will improve.

Image above: John Dominis, photographer. Cathy Curtis Stirring a Pot in the Kitchen of Her Home, Designed by Her Father, Nathaniel Curtis. New Orleans, LA. LIFE 1965.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Charity Hospital Redux II

George Riehl, Rendering of Weiss Dreyfous Seiferth Design for Charity Hospital, as photographed by F.A. McDaniels of New Orleans, n.d. Weiss, Dreyfous Seiferth Collection (Gift of George Riehl), Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

The Foundation for Historical Louisiana, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the Louisiana Landmarks Society have identified Charity Hospital as an endangered building.

As reported in two August posts, the Foundation for Historical Louisiana as charged by House Concurrent Resolution 89 of the 2006 Legislative Session, commissioned an extensive analysis of the viability of Charity Hospital to provide 21st-century medical care to the region. International architectural firm RMJM Hillier conducted the feasibility study and reported its fervent belief that Weiss Dreyfous and Seiferth's Charity Hospital could be renovated more quickly and more economically than a new LSU/VA Medical campus could be constructed on the Regional Planning Commission (RPC) site.

Where is the RPC site? It is an extensive 71-acre area of Mid-City New Orleans -- bounded by South Claiborne and Rocheblave, and Canal Street and Tulane Avenue -- and includes 250 homes and small businesses. The National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Preservation Resource Center have put together a flickr set of affected properties. To see them, click here. The site includes important modernist buildings SOM's Pan-American Life Insurance (1951) and Charles Colbert's Olivetti Showroom (1966). Where buildings are concerned, people are concerned: The story of the Mid-City homeowners reminds me of the historic Wimawalas reported earlier this year.

The New Orleans Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the New Orleans Committee to Reopen Charity Hospital, Louisiana ACORN, United Teachers of New Orleans, and C/3 Hands Off Iberville are sponsoring A Call to Action on Friday, November 21st at 12:30 pm in front of City Hall, at Perdido Street and Loyola Avenue.

Garden Library Gift

Detail of Woodrow Ogden, photographer. Ante-Bellum Louisiana Home, Afton Villa, St. Francisville, Louisiana. n.d. Printed by H.N. Conray, Inc., New Orleans.

The Southeastern Architectural Archive is home to the Garden Library of the New Orleans Town Gardeners, a local garden club affiliated with the Garden Club of America and the Smithsonian Institution.

Last week, through the efforts of New Orleans Town Gardener Ruthie Frierson, the Library was the recipient of an important gift from Genevieve Munson Trimble, who has spent nearly the last forty years preserving the gardens of Afton Villa Plantation. Ms. Munson Trimble has generously donated her gardening journals, both the originals and copies, as well as landscape architect Neil Odenwald's related reports, to the Garden Library.

Although the plantation home, shown above, was destroyed by fire in 1963, Trimble's vigorous preservation efforts have resulted in a revitalized series of terraced gardens and a romantic garden amidst the ruins, the latter inspired by Vita Sackville-West's Sissinghurst Castle Garden, Kent. Trimble's journals provide a wealth of information, from records of hardy (and not-so-hardy) plant varieties to accounts of personally significant events, wedding together her landscaping and her life.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Blight in the Atomic Age

National Paint, Varnish and Lacquer Association. Film still from The House in the Middle (1954). Full film available from the Prelinger Archives:

The subject of Cold War Architecture has come up on this blog before, in part prompted by a childhood spent in North Dakota, home at one point to an estimated 1700 nuclear weapons. Children statewide were still doing "duck and cover" drills into the 1980s. In 1999, the Brookings Institution identified the five states with the largest nuclear arsenals; North Dakota came in fifth behind New Mexico, Georgia, Washington and Nevada. Since disarmament, historic preservationists have been able to save North Dakota's last Minuteman missile launch complex, which will open summer 2009 outside of Cooperstown as the Ronald Reagan Peace Through Strength Missile Silo Historic Site.

1950's-1960's concrete and asbestos advertisements housed in the Southeastern Architectural Archive evidence the Cold War preoccupation
with blast-proof architecture. Paint manufacturers also emphasized the atomic-prophylactic benefits of their products: The National Paint, Varnish and Lacquer Association produced The House in the Middle (1954) to demonstrate that the unkempt unpainted house was more susceptible to nuclear annihilation.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

UPhOs #4-5

Unidentified photographer, Louisiana Views: Southwest Coast, undated. Miscellaneous Photographs Collection, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

I mentioned in earlier posts that the Southeastern Architectural Archive is home to an extensive collection of partially identified or fully unidentified photographs that document the Louisiana built environment. These two photographs are from a series of views of the state's southwest coast, all black-and-white, all square-format images mounted to embossed cardstock.

A year ago, the New York Times published Robin Pogrebin's article on the post-Katrina architecture of New Orleans, referring to it as "posthurricane vernacular" and naming individual styles: The Defensive; The Defiant; The Do-Good.

More recently and more expansively, Chicago-based Alexander Trevi has posted a series of essays and/or pictures addressing coastal building on his landscape architecture-focused Pruned blog. To read more, click here.

Any help in obtaining more information about our photographs would be much appreciated!

Allegory of a City (1939)

Film credit: American Documentary Films, Inc. The City, Part I (1939). Prelinger Archives, Moving Image Archive.

Sound familiar?

"Year by year our cities grow more complex and less fit for living. The age of rebuilding is here. We must remould our cities and build new communities better suited to our needs."

Lewis Mumford, writing for The City (1939)

The Prelinger Archives is an extensive collection of ephemeral films that was established in 1983 by Rick Prelinger. 2,000 of its 60,000 films have been made available online via the Internet Archive. For those interested in geography, cartography, architecture and design, it is a wonderful resource.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Utopian Theory/Utopian Practice: Call for Papers


Utopian theory/Utopian practice
Confluence, tension, intersection, incommensurability

34th Annual Meeting
Blockade Runner Hotel
Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina
October 29-November 1 2009

The Society for Utopian Studies invites you to submit abstracts for any of the following:

• a paper (between 15-20 minutes)
• a panel (usually of 3 papers)
• an informal panel on a topic (e.g., 3 presenters, or a presenter and 2 or 3 respondents)
• a presentation or performance of creative work on any topic related to utopia

Scholars and artists from all disciplines are encouraged to present on difficulties and opportunities afforded by the theme “utopian theory/utopian practice.” How do we understand the relationship between theory and practice in a field where the practice might seem improbable and the theory “merely theoretical.” How utopian can theory be if it cannot be put into practice? How utopian can practice be if it continually strays from theory? We also welcome papers on other aspects of the utopian tradition -- from the earliest utopian visions to the utopian speculations and yearnings of the 21st century, including art, architecture, urban and rural planning, literary utopias, dystopian writings, utopian political activism, theories of utopian spaces and ontologies, music, new media, or intentional communities.

Please send a 100-250 word abstract by May 10, 2009 to:

Claire P. Curtis
Department of Political Science
66 George St.
College of Charleston
Charleston SC 29424

Or e-mail submissions to (please put “sus submission” in the subject line)

As you submit your abstract, please indicate if you have:
A. any scheduling restrictions
B. audiovisual needs (overhead projector; DVD/VHS player)
C. a need for a written letter of acceptance of your proposal, or whether an e-mail acceptance will suffice. Changes in the time and date of your panel will not be possible after panels are scheduled; requests for AV will not be honored unless you submit them with your original abstract.

For inquiries about the program e-mail Claire Curtis at

For information about registration, travel or accommodations, please contact the Conference Coordinator, Peter Stillman at

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Allegory of a City (1921)

In 1927, the American painter Charles Sheeler (1883-1965) was first commissioned to visually document the Ford Motor Company's River Rouge plant, and thereby established his reputation as an architectural photographer. Seven years earlier, Sheeler had collaborated with photographer Paul Strand (1890-1976) to develop an homage to New York City, a short film called Manhatta. Their work, considered the first American avant-garde film, has recently been digitally restored with a new score by Donald Sosin. To watch the pre-restored film via the Metropolitan Museum of Art's portal, click here. To see the new restoration, you need to go to the Museum of Modern Art November 14th or 15th.

The creation of the restored version -- conducted by Lowry Digital Images of Burbank, California -- was dependent upon the use of the earliest extant copy, a 35-mm duplicate made in England in 1949. According to the Library of Congress, nearly 80% of the American silent era films have either been permanently lost or the extant copy is in unrestorable condition.

Image above: Charles Sheeler and Paul Strand. Film still from Manhatta (1921).

Friday, November 7, 2008

Cisterns Fantasia

A few months ago, I posted an unidentified photograph of a New Orleans cistern. Here is a suite of New Orleans cisterns with fanciful caps, an image from the Keystone-Mast Collection at the University of California-Riverside Museum of Photography, available through the Online Archive of California (OAC). The photographer, subjects, date and exact location are unknown. The stereograph was manufactured by the Keystone View Company, which became one of the largest commerical stereograph producers in the country by the early twentieth century.

B.L. Singley of Meadville, Pennsylvania founded Keystone in 1892 to market photographs he had taken of the French Creek flood. The company continued to manufacture educational photographs and slides until 1963, when it was purchased by the Mast Development Company. The Southeastern Architectural Archive has an extensive collection of architectural lantern slides, many manufactured by Chicago's McIntosh Stereopticon Company.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

New Orleans in 1950

A view into the crystal ball, authorized by the Krewe of Rex in 1899:

"New Orleans is now the most healthful city in the entire Mississippi Valley. The mild winters exclude those maladies known only to the rigorous climates further north. Yellow fever and kindred plagues have long since ceased to exist. The perfect drainage, perfect water supply and perfect sewerage have relegated those dreadful maladies to the oblivion which so well becomes them.
Since the building of the Nicaragua canal in the early part of this century, the commerce of this port has arisen yearly in the most rapid manner. The first year after the canal was built the imports and exports of New Orleans increased over 20 per cent. The building of the canal, together with the perfect sanitary condition that the city had been placed in, made it the principal port in the country.
[. . .]
One of the most important cities of the United States, in point of the business it carries on, is Havana. Although Cuba has not been a part of the union quite fifty years, yet it is in every sense of the word an American city. Even the Spanish language, spoken there exclusively fifty years ago, has become almost a forgotten tongue. The great volume of commerce carried on between the states situated on the continent and Cuba, goes through New Orleans.
Porto Rico has also become thoroughly American. The great resources of that now powerful state lay dormant after the island had been acquired by the United States through the Spanish American war. The importance of the island may be shown best when it is known that Porto Rico is represented in the Congress at Washington by thirteen congressmen.
The states last admitted into the union, those along the northern portion of South America, have also grown and developed most marvelously within the last few years. Mexico, that is, the territory known during the last century by that name, but now comprising eleven states of the union, has also become one of the most enterprising sections of this great nation. All this development in the gulf region of the two continents has added to the greatness of the city of New Orleans." [pp. 60-63]

Want to read more?

Whyte, J.H. New Orleans in 1950, being a story of the carnival city, from the pen of a descendant of Herodotus, possessing the gift of prescience. New Orleans: A.W. Hyatt, Co., 407 Camp Street, 1899. Louisiana Collection, Special Collections Division, 976.31 W 629

Whyte also addresses modern homes, office buildings, and hotels.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Master Plan for New Orleans

From Bruce Eggler's piece in today's Times Picayune:

"New Orleans voters narrowly agreed Tuesday to amend the City Charter to give the city's forthcoming master plan the force of law, meaning that all zoning and land-use decisions will have to conform to the plan.

The master plan is supposed to guide the city's development for the next 20 years, creating a framework to promote goals such as economic development, better housing, improved infrastructure and environmental quality.

The City Planning Commission has hired a team of consultants to create the plan, which is expected to be finished by late 2009."

Public meetings are planned for November 8-13th. For more information, click here.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day 2008

William M. Vander Weyde. Uncle Sam. c. 1900. negative, gelatin on glass. George Eastman House Collection on flickr.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Nominate an Endangered Place

John Eberson, architect. Walter Smalling, photographer. Tampa Theatre, Hillsborough County, Florida. n.d. Historic American Buildings Survey.

Since 1988, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has accepted nominations for "America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places," utilizing the designation to raise public awareness regarding threats to the nation's cultural heritage. Do you have a place that you would like to nominate? If so, contact the Southern regional office of the National Trust for a consultation about the appropriateness of your proposed nomination:

Southern Office

(Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, Tennessee, South Carolina, Virgin Islands)
456 King Street, 3rd Floor
Charleston, SC 29403
Tel: 843-722-8552

For more information about nomination criteria, click here. Nominations for the 2009 list are due by Friday, December 5, 2008.

The Tampa Theatre, shown above, was once endangered. Designed by Romanian-born theatre architect John Eberson prior to the Great Crash, the theatre opened to the public in 1926. Although it enjoyed decades of great popularity, by the 1960s the structure was under threat. In 1973, Tampa citizens rallied to save the landmark and subsidized a $2 million restoration. Today the theatre hosts over 600 events a year, including performances that showcase its historic Wurlitzer Organ. Last year for Halloween, legendary organist Rosa Rio performed her original score to accompany F. W. Murnau's German expressionist film Nosferatu (1922). She was carried to the stage in a coffin, and revealed to the audience her true age, 105. In a 2006 interview, Rosa conveyed, "I can't explain it. . . when I'm on stage [at the Tampa Theatre], I'm like a kid again." Sadly, this year she is not performing after over sixty years on the keyboards.

It is worth noting that Rosa played both the Strand and Saenger Theatres in New Orleans. She met a young Ginger Rogers while playing at the newly opened Saenger (1927), and when the Mississippi flooded its banks that same year, Rosa and others lifted up the theatre's organ to save it from the rising waters. She and her companions lived for two days in the Saenger and used its curtains for bedding. To read more, click here. The Southeastern Architectural Archive retains architect Emile Weil's drawings for the Saenger Theatre, 143 N. Rampart/1111 Canal Street, 1925-1927. The structure has been closed since Hurricane Katrina. Weil also designed the Pensacola, Florida Saenger Theatre, which opened in 1925 and has been undergoing renovations since this spring.

Rosa Rio Tampa Theatre Performance, 2005. Youtube. Viewed 31 October 2008.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Haunted Libraries of the South

Readers will be happy (or disappointed) to note that none of Tulane University's Libraries made this year's list of "Haunted Libraries" of the southern United States. Despite having served in the past as the physiological laboratory for Tulane's Medical School, with abundant sinks for anatomy classes (i.e. dissections), the Tulane School of Architecture (TSA) Library and Slide Library did not make ALA Librarian George Eberhart's showcase. Joseph Merrick Jones Hall, home to the Southeastern Architectural Archive, was formerly Tulane's Law School -- featured in Alan Pakula's 1993 film The Pelican Brief -- but it also did not instill terror.

Plans for the Richardson Memorial, which houses the TSA Libraries, and Jones Hall reside in the Southeastern Architectural Archive.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

New Orleans in New York/New York in New Orleans

From today's New York Times:

"With a star-filled roster of 81 artists and a projected 50,000 visitors from out of town, it may indeed bring benefits to New Orleans. But it is already clear that the arrangement has not been one-sided, and the New Orleans contribution has been rich. With its history of destruction and rebirth, artistic triumph and economic struggle, this crumpled crescent of a city provides a singular interpretive context that acts as a resonance chamber."

To read the rest of Shaila Dewan's piece about Prospect.1, click here. To watch a slide show, click here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Architectural Lettering & Pop Culture

What does architecture have in common with Wonder Woman?

In the 1930s, the Keuffel and Esser Company (also known as K & E) of New York developed an architectural lettering kit called the Leroy Lettering Set. It was designed to assist architects and engineers in producing uniform, precise lettering that was intended to be no less legible when reproduced in blueprints and other formats. The earliest sets included xylonite templates, scribers and nickel silver/stainless steel lettering pens. To look at some of the company's catalogs, including images of the set shown below, click here.

Many in the comic book industry quickly adopted Leroy lettering. Wonder Woman of the 1940s, the Golden Age of American comics, employed Leroy, as did the EC Comics (Entertainment Comics) edited by Al Feldstein (born 1925) in the 1950s.

[Images above: Scenes from Wonder Woman #25 (1947); Leroy Lettering Sets Brochure, 1937]