Friday, April 11, 2014

Louis Kahn's African-American Vernacular



Also posted on Society of Architectural Historians blog, March 26, 2014

When the telephone rang in my office at Franklin & Marshall College, I was surprised to learn that the caller on the other line was a resident of a Louis Kahn house and, most strikingly, a Louis Kahn house that has been largely forgotten. In 1942, Kahn, Oscar Storonov, and George Howe reconfigured the traditional row house to serve a community of African-American steel workers returning from World War II. Known to just a handful of architectural historians, Carver Court in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, had receded from public attention. And for that very reason, the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia had placed it on its 2012 Endangered Properties List. Thanks to the stewardship of Ben Leech and the research of Allee Berger, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission determined Carver Court eligible for listing in the National Register of HIstoric Places in March 2013.

As the local architectural historian, I was invited to meet with civic and community leaders of Caln Township to brainstorm on the future of this housing complex and to strategize on celebrating its unique role in the history of African-American labor. Although I am not a Kahn expert, I had worked in Louis Kahn's archives as a student, and wanted to seize the moment that William Whitaker and Ben Marcus have set into motion with their spectacular new book, The Houses of Louis Kahn, and accompanying exhibition at the University of Pennsylvania Architectural Archives.

Carver Court is no ordinary house by virtue of its users, some of which are the original African-American steelworkers. Most of the better-known Kahn houses were commissioned by Philadelphia’s professional class and are located in the suburbs, while Carver Court engages Kahn’s early commitment to social and economic justice. If it were up to Kahn, Carver Court would not have been segregated. Race politics at this Pennsylvania mill town necessitated the residential division between black and white workers, even though both groups worked for the same Lukens Steel factory. The lynching of Zachariah Walker in 1911 underscored such ethnic tensions. Caln Township was initially settled by William Penn in 1714. Ironically, the white and black housing projects were separated by the Gardner-Beale farm, which had strong Quaker roots and served in the Underground Railroad. A farmhouse from 1811 survives and is now surrounded by Coatesville High School completed in 1968.
Louis Kahn was a housing activist as early as 1931, when he founded the Architecture Research Group. His partner, Oscar Storonov (and Alfred Kastner), had designed the first Modernist housing project in America, the Carl Mackley Houses for the hosiery workers union (1932). Kahn’s activism helped fight Philadelphia’s resistance to public housing and led into the foundation of the Philadelphia Housing Authority. Carver Court is the greatest physical manifestation of Kahn’s labor union vernacular.
Coatesville is located half way between Philadelphia and Lancaster at the intersection of the Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line and the Brandywine River. Coatesville’s steel mills, that produced the beams for the World Trade Center, are of great historical significance and, like Kahn’s housing, continue to operate (under new global management). Carver Court’s remoteness from Philadelphia and the general economic decline of manufacturing have contributed in a slow forgetting of both Pennsylvania’s labor movement and Philadelphia’s architectural engagement. Six decades after its original completion, Carver Court asks some important questions. It is only one of five housing projects designed by Kahn, Storonov, and Howe, and it the single specimen of their African-American architecture. Carver Court has slipped the radar of preservationists and historians because it looks nondescript and lacks the telltale signs of high modernist distinction. Its ordinariness, however, is what makes it exemplary. Taking cues from Le Corbusier’s elevated piloti, Kahn invented a scheme of adoptive design that reinterpreted the traditional row house. His “ground-freed” housing form elevated living quarters to the second floor and left the first floor open to the owner’s specific interpretation. Rather than limiting what the owners did with their allotted housing unit, Kahn wanted the occupants to exercise some freedom in how to use the first floor. It could function as a garage, a workshop, or added living space. The architect’s agency could be supplemented by the occupant’s agency, giving the community a sense of ownership and design engagement. Thus, the very indeterminacy of Carver Court that makes it a specimen of democratic design has also caused its progressive neglect by scholarship.
The phone call from Carver Court and the meeting with Caln Township precipitated a series of questions on both the original significance of the monument as well as the pedagogical opportunities in its rediscovery. A call from a grassroots community generates a research opportunity beyond the obvious scholarly needs. Involving undergraduate students in the documentation of Carver Court’s story seems one of those rare opportunities to engage students with artifacts. First, it is astounding how much work remains to be done even on America’s most important modernist architect. Understanding the afterlife of Carver Court is one immediate challenge, but one of great potential in teaching what Delores Hayden called “the power of place.”

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Leonora Herman, Camac Street, 1924

The city is the big theme at the Phillips Museum this academic semester. Complementing the traveling show Theresa Bernstein: A Century in Art, Art History major Ali Tufano has curated Art for Life's Sake: Perceptions of American Realities in the 20th Century. Tufano has brought out of the Phillips Museum's vaults a set of paintings, drawings, and photographs that have never been seen. The show includes a couple of relatively obscure female Impressionists that deserve our attention, Caroline Peart (1870-1962) and Leonora Herman (1888-1966). The latter is especially important for Franklin and Marshall College, as our studio building is named after her relative, Jacob Leon Herman (Class of 1916)

Featured in the exhibit is Leonora Herman's Camac Street, Philadelphia (1924), which opened the viewer into a remarkable historical street, as well as, to a series of questions regarding the role of the female artist in the city. This is the question that my colleague Linda Aleci raised in her lecture that compared Theresa Bernstein to Marguerite Zorach (recently curated at the Phillips Museum). For Aleci, Zorach had to leave New York City in order to create a more primordial and equitable domestic reality. It is much more difficult to answer that question for Leonora Herman since so little has been written about her life and works. In this scholarly vacuum, I try to re-inhabit Herman's painting in order to understand its contemporary urban context. I do this by a combination of observation and light research, using the Sanborn Fire Insurance maps that Penn State has recently digitized for the entire state of Pennsylvania. The relevant map is Philadelphia, vol. 2, (1916), sheet 143.

Camac Street is a North-South alleyway between 12th and 13th Streets in Center City Philadelphia. Like many such alleyways in the city, its prohibitive width has spared it from major automobile traffic and helped it retain its 19th-century charm. The block that Herman painted stretches between Spruce and Locust Streets and its best known for the innovative private clubs that it housed (and continues to house). Herman's painting focuses on the East side of the block. Built in 1825, a group of 12 row houses here were consolidated during the later 19th century into six private clubs, giving the block the name "The Little Street of Clubs." It is relevant for the artistic career of Herman because the block housed the Plastic Club, a women's fine arts club founded in 1897, to which Herman no doubt belonged. A little further down the blog, we find the oldest art club in the U.S., the Philadelphia Sketch Club, founded in 1860, but with membership limited to men. Both institutions continue to function today on the same spot. Herman's painting, therefore, should be seen as a celebration of artistic comradery and the new social roles offered to women, who would meet every Wednesday, attend a morning workshop, paint, and given the opportunity to exhibit works on a monthly show. At the Plastic Club, Herman would have interacted with leading women artists, such as Violet Oakley, who completed the murals of the Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg at the same time as Herman's Camac Street was painted. And we can also presume that the painting of Camac Street was once displayed at the Plastic Club on Camac Street. The hanging textiles that Herman painted across the alley way may also refer to the spirit of exhibition that was sanctioned here.

Using the 1916 Sanborn maps, we can get a little closer to the urban environment that forms Herman's subject matter. I have extracted the relevant information on the sketch (left). The centerpiece of Herman's painting in a distinctive white stucco building with round windows, illuminated by the afternoon light shining from the west on Manning Street. Originally a stable, 255 S. Camac Street is marked in the 1916 map as "Office." Soon after the end of World War I, in 1919, it was converted into a popular tea room, The Venture Inn, run by Blanche L. James. As the photo from the Free Library of Philadelphia shows (below), this cosy tea room also functioned as an art shop. Although I am not sure if this information was known when Herman painted Camac Street in 1924, the stable had been connected to the the underground railroad. In later years, urban myth developed that the stable was originally owned by the Barrymore family of actors, but that seems to have been fabricated. Today, the Venture Inn is a centerpiece of gay pride, housing Philadelphia's oldest operating gay bar and restaurant.

The second prominent building shown in Herman's painting is the two-story red brick at 252 S Camak St, that was restored in the 2000s into the Acanthus Office Building. When Herman painted it, the structure housed Le Coin d'Or, a private club devoted to French cuisine. The space once housed a leading French restaurant, Deux Cheminees that moved one block away, and ultimately closed in 2006. Next in line, in 247 S Camac, which continues to house the Plastic Club. Rising beyond it is 239 S Camac, which housed the Charlotte Cushman Club, named after a famous actress, and first female director of the Walnut Street Theater around the corner. Cushman's Lesbian history makes this an appropriate member of today's Gayborhood. The function of the Cushman Club was to offer residence to traveling female actresses passing through Philadelphia. Although not visible in Herman's painting, two more clubs continue northwards. The Poor Richard Club (241 S Camac) was founded in 1906 by members of the advertising industry. And finally the Sketch Club (235 S Camac) provided a meeting place for artists like Thomas Eakins and W. C. Wyeth.

Having performed this archaeological review of the spaces within the painting, the work begins to take up some additional significance. Some elements need further clarification. For instance, what are those fabrics hanging between the Coin d'Or club and the garage across the street? Do they resemble flags? Might this be a reference to armistice celebrations? Furthermore, we see a finial or sculpture rising out of the corner of the corner of a distant building. What exactly is that? It is not there today.

Herman's Camac Street is more than a recording of contemporary social realities. It has an artistic value of its own that needs to be brought into alignment with the depicted subject. The interplay of light and shadow, the bright post-Impressionist colors, even the modernistic shapes of the stucco'ed Venture Tea Room command our attention. With the archaeological information in place, we might be able to unpack this work further and evaluate the work of this female artist in the cultural practices of Philadelphia.

The image of the painting, courtesy of the Phillips Museum of Art, Franklin and Marshall College. For more historical images of Camac Street, see here.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Lively Archaeology

A rare occasion when T. S. Eliot brings up Corinth. Arguing for a relationship with antiquity that is so lively as to be as present as the present. This is a complicated but fundamental argument for a kind of modernism of cyclical time and a cosmic banal present (Ezra Pound, James Joyce, T. S. Eliot, H. D.)

"We need an eye which can see the past in its place with its definite differences from the present, and yet so lively that it shall be as present to us as the present."

Eliot is critiquing attempts to naturalize antiquity by making it seem close to us in sentiment or form. He is writing against Gilbert Murray's translation of Euripides, whose performance he just saw in the theater.

I read this 1920 plea for an ancient present while the little one was playing violin upstairs in the fabulous Green Tambourin (noted below).


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Slow Archaeology


Chanced coalition between three fragments picked up from the pavement of a Lancaster parking lot, beaten by ice, snow plows, wheels.

         A. Torn packaging of emergency Tylenols
         B. Transparent Blue pen cap lost its functional counterpart
         C. Sole insert once compressed by foot in shoe

While on the next page dwells the drawing of a five year old who got a hold of the notebook and couldn't resist making it hers.

Thinking of Bill Caraher's SLOW ARCHAEOLOGY.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

In the Valley of Big K

January 7, 2014, the coldest day in recorded history, train breaks down at 39°59'36.33"N 75°45'31.83"W, east of Coatesville  offering an intimate view of the valley of Big K.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Walking to Lancaster

Ben Leech has a habit of putting wild ideas in my head. Most recently, he suggested walking from Lancaster to Philadelphia. The distance of about 60 miles travels along one of the oldest roads in North America, the King's Highway. The year 2014 seems like a good year to walk the walk.

On the left you see my little study of King's Highway (in black) along the Pennsylvania Main Railroad line (in red) as mapped in 1855. I commute from Philadelphia to Lancaster, while Ben commutes from Lancaster to Philadelphia, sharing a common view along the red line. I have blogged before about this amazing Trainscape, that presents the most succinct navigation of America's social history in one hour. In a British context, Patrick Keiller entitled his collection of essays, The View from the Train: Cities and other Landscapes (2013), which gets to the heart of this vantage point.

Is a walking journey realistic? In my estimation, it would take 20 hours. Before committing to the whole stretch, I hope to complete it in seven pieces, by riding the train between stations. The segments would look something like this.


1.  Philadelphia-Ardmore, 2:00 hrs
2.  Ardmore-Paoli, 3:45 hours
3.  Paoli-Exton, 2:40 hours
4.  Exton-Downingtown, 1:45 hours
5.  Downingtown-Coatesville, 1:10 hours
6.  Coatesville-Parkesburg, 2:10 hours
7.  Parkesburg-Lancaster, 7:10 hours

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Man Who Put Me Next to Camels Was Some Friend of Mine


Next time I teach Lancaster Architecture, the syllabus will contain only the following text:

THE MAN WHO PUT ME NEXT TO CAMELS WAS SOME FRIEND OF MINE. OF COURSE IT'S MARROW'S QUALITY ICE CREAM. S CIGARS. FOR RENT. THE FULTON NATIONAL BANK. FURNISHERS.

All texts readable in a 1923 photograph of Penn Square to be studied at greater detail in a reproduction along the north wall of Prince Street Cafe.

The seminar will naturally start at the cafe. The final exam will have a single question. What are the architectural implications of the Sailor at Penn Square?


Saturday, December 07, 2013

Overbrook Station

After open house at the International French School, I found myself at Overbrook Station, along the Pennsylvania Main Line. I usually see the station at 40 miles per hours, zipping along my train to Lancaster. With 15 mins of waiting, I had the treat to look closely at the beautiful carpentry of its shed. Constructed around 1860 it contains the hallmarks of its period, turning, tapering, picturesque compositions.


Monday, November 25, 2013

Podcasting Architecture

This week marks the anniversary of Swann's Way, the first installment of Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time. Ira Glass, creator of This American Life, begins a marathon reading of the novel from a hotel room in Brooklyn. After constructing a replica of Proust's own room (left), Yale's French Department embarks on a similar marathon. With Proust, the modern self encountered a subjective re-awakening through architectural memory. Recent experiments in the medium of Podcasts genealogically connect with Proust's narrative stream, where, “I was more destitute than a cave dweller; but then the memory—not yet of the place where I was, but of several of those where I had lived and where I might have been—would come to me like help from on high to pull me out of the void from which I could not have got out on my own.”

The soothing voices of radio theater have long disappeared from the airwaves, but a new medium, radio podcasts, have taken their place. The discipline of architectural history seems to have finally exerted some creative real estate in this medium. Radio nonfiction has became a dominant form of narrative, beginning with WBEZ's This American Life in 1995. Its creator, Ira Glass, went as far as to herald a new era when in 2007 he published The New Kings of Nonfiction. “We're living in an age of great nonfiction writing,” writes Glass, “in the same way that the 1920s and '30s were a golden age of American popular song. Giants walk among us. Cole Porters and George Gershwins and Duke Ellingtons of nonfiction storytelling. They're trying new things and doing pirouettes with the form. But nobody talks about it that way.” The success of such alternative voices morphed further into podcast radio shows, seriated online rather than the syndicated radio waves. July 2013 seems to have marked a watershed moment for podcasts, when Welcome to the NIght Vale became the most downloadable podcast from iTunes. Another marker of success came, when 99% Invisible, the premier architectural podcast, raised double the amounts it had pledged on Kickstarter for Season Four. With Proust and the podcast in mind, I review the podcasts that I have found to be most relevant to architectural history.

99% INVISIBLE
This is the most exciting podcast on architecture and design. It was created by Roman Mars in San Francisco and produced by KALW and the San Francisco American Institute of Architects. Roman Mars has been called the Ira Glass of architecture. Although he commands an increasing presence in the podcast universe, Mars is interested in the deflated, the historical detail and its traction daily life. In a recent interview in Mother Jones, he noted,  “I really wanted to focus on the everyday, even the mundane, and not the things that were shiny and new and exciting.” This month's fundraising success on Kickstarter means that the fourth season of 99% Invisible will be aired daily.

STUDIO 360Kurt Andersen's Studio 360, produced by WNYC in New York, is the oldest and most respected podcast on arts and culture with a Peabody Award under its belt. Although not devoted exclusively to architectural history, it often addresses issues of history and design. Its series, Design for the Real World and Redesigns, focus on issues of design, but the most useful series for architectural historians is the award-winning American Icons. So far, five episodes focus on architectural monuments: the Lincoln MemorialMonticelloFalling Water, the Vietnam Memorial andDisneyland. Typically about 45 minutes long, these episodes have been excellent for teaching.

DnA: DESIGN AND ARCHITECTURE
Hosted by Frances Anderton, this KCRW production centers on architecture and design with a focus on the Los Angeles area. Anderton is a seasoned architectural journalist (The Architectural ReviewL.A. Architect) who has become the voice of design in southern California. (See an Anderton interview here.) DnA's perspective balances the other geographic anchors (New York, Chicago, and San Francisco).

BUILDING MUSEUM
The National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., produces a different kind of podcast that distributes audio recordings of its programming. Typically based on lectures given at the museum, this podcast is exclusively dedicated to architectural history and is a MUST in the cadre of architecture listening. Two recent episodes by historian Elizabeth Hope Cushing and landscape architect Laurie Olin, for example, bring to the general audience the museum's symposium on Frederic Law Olmstead that took place on October 10.

ARCHITECTURAL LEAGUE OF NEW YORK
Like the National Building Museum, the Architectural League of New York podcasts all of its events and makes them available to general readers.

AIA PODNETSimilarly, the American Institute of Architects aggregates podcasts that relate to practicing architecture. "Architecture Knowledge Review is a podcast series for design professionals, featuring interviews, discussions, and best practices by architects and other design professionals who are at the forefront of the profession."

BBC - ARTS AND IDEAS
One way to remain adrift with what Britain's cultural conversation is to listen to Arts and Ideas, a podcast that weekly aggregates the best interviews by BBC Radio 3's Night Waves. Literature, fine arts, theater, and music predominate, but there is a strong architectural presence. New buildings are discussed and old buildings are reconsidered. A recent favorite is the discussion of zoo architecture. Here one can also learn about new buildings, such as Zaha Hadid's Aquatics Centre. Based entirely on interviews and conversations, this is one of the most intellectually charged podcasts. What makes British journalism interesting is the tradition of correspondents pushing their interviewers critically, rather than simply asking polite questions. Night Wave's correspondents (Matthew Sweet, Philip Dodd, Rana Mitter, and Anne McElvoy) press their interviewers with a critical edge.

BBC - IN OUR TIMES
Hosted by Melvyn Bragg, In Our Times is another highlight of British cultural journalism. The podcast's premise is simple. Bragg chooses a topic every week and invites three notable academics to discuss it. The topics are broad and rarely target individual monuments. As in other programs on arts and culture, architectural coverage is episodic. Programs include Architecture and Power (with architectural historians Adrian Tinniswood, Gavin Stamp, and Gillian Darley),Archaeology and Imperialism, the Gothic, Architecture in the 20th Century, Modernist Utopias, John Ruskin, and the Baroque.  

WELCOME TO NIGHT VALE
Although most tangentially related to architectural history, Welcome to Night Vale is by far the most ambitious podcast. Narrated as a series of community announcements, Welcome to Night Vale transports the listener to an imaginary American town in the southwest. In its indeterminate subject, it touches on some fundamental issues of architecture and meaning. This podcast is impossible to describe, it must be experienced. In July 2013, it became the most downloaded podcast, surpassing the pioneering This American Life.

Given the rising number of podcasts and radio shows targeting architectural issues, it becomes increasingly apparent that certain other culture shows shy away from architecture. One of my favorite podcasts, Slate's CULTURE GABFEST, for instance, is pathetically poor on design. Similarly, the best Canadian culture show, Q,with Jian Ghomeshi, rarely tackles the built environment. Different productions have different strengths, and it makes no sense to DEMAND for venues greater architectural coverage. But it is disconcerting how certain articulations of cultural journalism do not see architecture in the same level as text or media creations. A different podcast genre is dedicated to traditional histories, such as Mike Duncan's THoR (The History of Rome) or Robin Pierson's HISTORY OF BYZANTIUM. These, too, spare little audio space for architecture. 

To conclude, architectural podcasts fit into four categories that, for convenience, we might categorize as: 1. Story Driven, 2. Interview Driven, 3. Lecture Driven, and 4. Fantastical. The Story-Driven podcasts (99% Invisible) experiment with the journalistic voice by pursuing a story or a theme from the ground (replicating the experimental journalism of This American Life). The Interview-Driven podcasts take their cue from the radio interview show (Fresh Air, Radio Times, etc.) but target architectural guests. Lecture-Driven podcasts are simple translations of a live event that is recorded and made available on the internet. These proliferate across museums and organizations and are typically the least interesting in form. Finally, the Fantastical podcasts (Welcome to Night Vale) open new grounds to speak about architectural experience in unexpected ways.


In an era of digital uncertainties, architectural historians worry that their subject matter resists the digital translation. Its very physicality and three-dimensionality precluded the digital flatness. Podcasts offer one avenue of dreamy materialization.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Athos and Gothic Beams

Lecture on early monasticism at Athos under Tudor ceiling at Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona Auditorium

















Monday, November 18, 2013

Education (1890)

Busily thematizing Modernity and Byzantium, we missed Byzantium surrounding us.

Conference held in Simeon Baldwin Chittenden Memorial Room with "Education" window by Louis Comfort Tiffany, Yale University.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Lefkaditi


Why would you know of Leukaditi, a quite village in the remote mountains of Greece? You might know of Delphi, a world-famous ancient site nearby, but Leukaditi is just another dot in a sea of toponyms. At Delphi, the omphalos of the universe, even the most staunch materialist cannot help but succumb to the mysteries of place. My own revelation took place in the modest neighboring village, where I encountered four crumbling houses from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I revisit my field notes from June 27, 2012, as I plan two undergraduate research collaborations to take place next summer. The houses of Leukaditi are important because they encapsulate an eternal struggle between organic and inorganic matter, in this case, between stone and wood. As in Delphi, the site is located at the nexus of two amply available building material: beautiful limestone from the mountain outcroppings and beautiful cedar from the forests that cover those mountains. Unlike vernacular architecture in other parts of the Mediterranean where wood and stone are clearly separated in the structure of the house (typically masonry walls; wooden openings and roof system), the vernacular of Phokis (as the region was known in antiquity) blends wood and stone on the exterior surface. Our research was first presented in Athens a few weeks ago in a conference on Mediterranean cultural heritage.

“The Lidoriki Project: A Historical Topography,” by Miltiadis Katsaros , Kostis Kourelis and Todd Brenningmeyer, Sixth Annual Congress, Science and Technology for the Safeguard of Cultural Heritage in the Mediterranean Basin, Athens, Greece, Oct. 25, 2013.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Ellsworth Kelly Charter 1959

Charter, I realize, is one of my favorite paintings, which I discovered half a decade ago when living in Connecticut and teaching at an SOM-designed art building with bright orange chairs. I was reunited with the orange mass last weekend at the Yale Art Gallery. Contemplating the neighboring Lichtenstein (BLAM!) and Albers (squares), I found myself reminiscing of Fred Cooper, who came of age in Albers classroom and the tutelage of Marcel Proust. Incidentally, In Search of Lost Time is celebrating its centennial, and the Yale French Department has reconstructed Proust's claustrophobic room to host a reading marathon (see here). Two days before the Proust marathon, Vanity Fair published a list of the six greatest living artists, including Ellsworth Kelly (see here). Five years ago (almost exactly since I was last united with Charter), I was asked to defend the value of Ellsworth Kelly in a liberal arts curriculum. It's difficult to explain the elation this work solicits.

Friday, September 27, 2013

F&M's Gothic Revival Chair

Franklin and Marshall's Gothic Revival heritage has been eclipsed by its 1920s Georgian makeover. A chair from the 1840s in the vaults of the Phillips Museum, thus, becomes increasingly interesting. It came to my attention at the beginning of the semester, while going through the museum vaults to pick three exceptional chairs to use for an interpretive exercise in my Methods in Art History (461) capstone seminar. Marissa Sobel (Art History alumna and Mellon Education Assistant Fellow) gave me a generous tour of the Phillips' furniture collection from which I picked three representative chairs (Chippendale, Gothic Revival, Rococo Revival). The task of the assignment was 1) to draw a measured elevation of the chair, 2) formally analyze the design of the chair, based on the elevation drawing, and 3) to think broadly about construction, decoration, and the role of furniture in constructing domestic identity.

When I give my students an assignment, I feel the responsibility to execute it myself, and show my students how I did  it. On Monday, I went down to the Phillips Museum to do a quick drawing of the Gothic Revival chair, which fits well into my research interests and my ongoing survey of the college's Gothic treasures (here), while also thinking about other Gothic Revival museum pieces (here). The drawing above is what I circulated to the students. I should also note that the students' drawings were very good, as well. An introductory drawing class is mandatory for our Art History majors, which is rare in most undergraduate programs. If we require our studio majors to take history, we should also require our history majors take studio. The drawing exercise proved to me the wisdom of that institutional requirement.

After pulling the chairs from the vault, Marissa also gave me all the information from the Phillips Museum's database (eHive), which I quote below. I am not sure of the chair's provenance. It may have come to us from the North Museum, or other collections in Lancaster.

EC1057: Gothic Armchair

The turned rear leg and posts have pairs of rings interrupted by ball turnings where other chair parts are joined. The posts terminate in ball and steeple finials. The upholstered back panel is arched at the top and scalloped along the bottom. An elaborately pierced crest rail has trefoil tracery and three finials, some of which are missing. The front legs and integral arm supports are turned like the rear posts. The turned arms have upholstered sections. Handholds are large balls. New York or Philadelphia.

Maker:  Unknown
Date Made:  1840s
Place Made:  U.S.A.
Medium and Materials:  Walnut/unidentified hardwood
Measurements:  53 x 35 x 21 inches




Thursday, September 26, 2013

Pugin on Hinges


On the structural advantages of medieval door hinges (fig. 3) over modern door hinges (fig. 2)
A. W. Pugin, The True Principles of Pointed or Christian Architecture (London, 1841)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Pugin on Weathering Slopes


A. W. Pugin, The True Principles of Pointed or Christian Architecture (London, 1841), 17-18.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Pugin on Pinnacles


A. W. Pugin, The True Principles of Pointed or Christian Architecture (London, 1841), 10.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Two Gelato Episodes





... for Kalliope and father at Capogiro, Summer 2013

Kostis Kourelis

Philadelphia, PA, United States

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