Category Archives: architectural history

Documenting the Rise of Toronto

Image Credit: CityLab

Arthur Goss’s career began at age 11, working for the city government to support his family after his father died. It was the 1890s and Toronto, Ontario was beginning to expand and enter the period that saw government public works projects bringing urban areas out of the Industrial era and into more sanitary, livable conditions.

Around this same time, city officials began to understand the documenting prowess that photography yielded. Thus Goss, whose skill with a camera was awarded when he was as young as 15, came to be the first official photographer for the city in 1911. He recorded new roads, sewers, transit lines and bridges as Toronto swelled.

His career ended with his death in 1940, at which point he had produced 35,000 images for the city, each negative of which was labelled and filed away for future reference. Today, they are housed at the City of Toronto Archives.

Read the full article chronicling Goss’s prolific career at CityLab/Life.

Source: CityLab

Works of an Architect of the State

Not all architects enjoy the quiet, unfashionable life of a government employee, but Alfred Eichler, a state architect for California from 1925-1963, had a prolific career. His works encompass a broad range of programs necessitated by American westward expansion and the rise of Depression-era societal needs. He designed and conceptualized state-sponsored building projects, from prisons and state hospitals, to educational facilities and more during his tenure.

His many paintings, concept sketches and renderings are on record at the California State Archives, but can also be accessed through the Google Arts & Culture platform: a browsable selection of museum exhibitions, photography collections, masters paintings and other curated works from around the world.

Source: Google Arts & Culture

New York School of Interior Design Debuts New Online Catalog

Taken from the NYSID online archive, the page of Vogue in 1953 features an article on Major Tom Lee, who had an apprenticeship at “R.H. Macy of New York” before handling the display of a Christmas show at Rockefeller Center and an interwoven display at the New York World Fair.

The New York School of Interior Design recently expanded their online database to include a finding tool for users to search through their centennial collection. The “Archives & Special Collections” online archives catalog  allows users to identify the material they wish to consult before setting up an appointment to see the collection in person. The historic archive is composed of decades-old photographs, architectural sketches, news articles and memorabilia that date back to the early 1900s. The school first launched their image collection back in 2013, in expectation of the centennial debut of the archive; finally, it has arrived.

The purpose of creating the NYSID Institutional Archives was to document the history and evolution of the interior design profession. Similarly, Interior Design Special Collections material showcases the interior design work of designers, design firms and publications over the years. The stories these photos capture range from local historic preservation to hospitality projects.

Because the school was founded in 1916, the institution has access to photos that document not only the historical value of interior design but also related to the disciplines of business, fashion, urban studies, and anthropology. The New York School of Design special collections are open to the public by appointment.

Sources: The New York School of Interior Design

The Narrative of New York’s Police Architecture

Image Credit: Kris Graves.

Photographer Kris Graves has documented all of New York City’s 77 police precinct buildings. The architectural styles used evolved over the years, reflecting trends in architectural design as well as the police force’s evolving needs. During the 19th century, most precincts were built in the Romanesque or Classical Revival styles, By the 1960s, the buildings were largely un-ornamented.

Now, New York City’s police force is considering how their precinct buildings’ architecture impacts their relation to the community. While Brutalism may have its merits in the history of design and architecture, there is little doubt that a monolithic concrete building may fail to appear like anything other than a fortress. In a time when the tension between police and the communities they aim to serve has perhaps never been higher, precincts hope to convey an openness through the design of their buildings. The most recent proposals feature interior public spaces to allow community meetings and engagement.

This documentation was undertaken as part of an ongoing examination by Urban Omnibus and the Architectural League of New York entitled The Location of Justice. The project seeks to examine “the pervasive and often overlooked infrastructure of criminal justice in New York and the spaces that could serve a more just city.”

Source: Urban Omnibus

An Untold Story of American Public Housing

In 2011, Ben Austen—a journalist working for Harper’s Magazine—found himself watching the demolition of one of Cabrini-Green’s towering buildings. Beyond the building’s physical mass, he viewed the complex as a looming monolith that represented the story of public housing and its occupants not just in Chicago but elsewhere.

In an interview with CityLab, Austen points out that many of the arguments for the destruction of public housing projects like Cabrini-Green, and the infamous Pruitt-Igoe in St. Louis, echoed the arguments made in favor of their construction in the first place: to create safer, better accommodations. He argues that the failings of these projects gets disproportionally blamed on the architecture when in fact these large public housing complexes were an improvement over what they replaced. Since these public housing complexes have been demolished, poverty is less centralized and, Austen suggests, less visible but no less urgent. Read more about lessons learned and stories told in his book High-Risers: Cabrini-Green and the Fate of American Public Housing.

Source: Citylab and Chicago Tribune.

Architectural Effects of a Divide

09 Image credit: Jürgen Ritter

The Berlin Wall stood for 28 years, bifurcating the city into West and East Berlin respectively. Demolition of the wall began in 1990, and 28 years later, an exhibition at the Venice Biennale of Architecture 2018 will be exploring the question of what happens to the built environment when physical divides are torn down. The exhibition, titled “Unbuilding Walls,” will showcase 28 examples—one example for each year the Berlin Wall divided Berlin—of historic and contemporary walls, barriers and fences and their effect on or reaction to the landscape.

In 2012, astronaut André Kuipers documented one example of the wall’s divide still evident from space: the color difference in the street lights of and west and east sides of the city is clearly perceptible.

Source: Topos Magazine and the Washington Post.

Nihon Noir: The Metabolism Movement in Photos

Image Credit: Tom Blachford

Photographer Tom Blachford’s series ‘Nihon Noir’ calls to mind futurism, science-fiction, film noir and yes, the 1982 cult classic film Blade Runner. Blachford was inspired by the Metabolism movement era architecture in Japan, and his images showcase its unique intersection of architecture and infrastructure.

Metabolism was a post-war movement brought to the international stage during the 1960 Tokyo World Design Conference. The designers behind the movement organized their vision into a manifesto entitled Metabolism: The Proposals for New Urbanism, which described a design ethos focused on meshing mega-structures with organic shapes. The most prolific member of the movement, Kenzo Tange, worked as a designer, architect, and urban planner until his death in 2005.

The images Blachford created were designed to showcase a neon futurism, and the buildings he featured were chosen because they combined brutalism and the principles of organic growth—the essence of this post war architectural movement.  “Though these buildings are from the past,” he said, “they appear as if they have appeared from the distant future.  My intention is for the viewer to ask not ‘where’ they were taken but ‘when.”

Source: Dezeen

Colorful Vault Ceilings

Photo Credit: Deyemi Akande

Gothic cathedrals are generally discussed in the context of structure, yet the Gothic cathedrals of Britain are equally spectacular in ornamentation. The cathedrals’ vaulted ceilings were often decorated with religions iconography and heraldry. The ornamentation in St Albans Cathedral was refurbished in 1951-52 by Jane Lenton, replicating a 15th century shield. The red and white roses are associated with the Houses of Lancaster and York. Heraldry is prominent in Gothic churches, found on stained-glass windows, floor tiles, doors, and vaulted ceilings. The presence of theses shield often tells a story of patronage.

Source: Society of Architectural Historians

Domino Sugar Refinery: Ruin or Building?

When is a building considered a ruin? That’s the question currently being discussed between design firm PAU and the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). The Domino Sugar Refinery was built in the 1880s on the riverfront in Brooklyn, and has been vacant for more than a decade. When the Practice for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU) revealed its plans for the Domino Sugar Refinery, their proposal planned to use the masonry facade to mask a new glass office building. They argued that the building was in fact a ruin, or “a doughnut awaiting filling.”

Users of the building would experience the historic facade from a series of metal decks between the two. The LPC instead contends that the proposal transforms an adaptable building into a ruin.

Source: Arch Daily

 

Façade Controversy

Photo Credit: Dezeen

Several campaigns and protests have rallied against Snøhetta’s proposed changes to the Philip Johnson-designed AT&T Building at 550 Madison Avenue in New York; this building, with a Chippendale-inspired roof line and marble and brass finishes, played a large role in bringing Postmodern architecture to America. Unveiled in late October, Snøhetta’s plans for 550 Madison include a curved glass curtain wall over the lower portion of the skyscraper. Protesters argue that the Postmodern building should be preserved in its original state, and that New York is losing its historic masonry buildings.

Source: Dezeen

Historic LGBT Sites

 

Photo Credit: Christopher D. Brazee/NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission

The NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project is working on documenting underrepresented historically significant LGBT sites to ensure they receive the recognition they deserve. The NYC Historic Sites Project website provides tools for those who want to gain awareness and appreciation of the impact LBGT individuals have made on American culture throughout history. One example of a notable site in LGBT history is the Little Red School House in Manhattan—one of the city’s first progressive schools—founded by Elisabeth Irwin in 1912.

Source: National Trust for Historic Preservation

Documenting Glass

Founded in 1951 by Corning Glass Works, the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, New York has donated 2,784 images documenting its unique glass collection to the Artstor Digital Library. The non-profit museum is dedicated to telling the story of glass, from its ancient origins to today, spanning 3,500 years of glass history. With support from the Rakow Research Museum, the museum is a center for glass scholarship, housing the world’s foremost archive and reference collection on the history of glass making.

Source: The Artstor Blog