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.