• Cuba: Day 7 - Las Terrazas and Soroa

    by User Not Found | Jan 30, 2013

    Today we headed west out of Havana about an hour and a half to the province of Pinar del Rio. We stopped first at Soroa, an interesting example of the Revolutionary government’s new approach to tourism—“Cuba for Cubans.” The emphasis was on creating affordable vacation spots, largely focused on nature, for everyday Cubans, rather than catering to foreigners. The Soroa Tourist Complex (1960) was one such effort. A modest workers’ vacation village, Soroa is composed of small, connected cabins with steeply pitched roofs. In the center is a ranchon, an open, thatched structure that functions as a social space where people can have drinks and listen to music and dance. 

    For me, the highlight of the day was visiting the built community of Las Terrazas. The Sierra del Rosario was an area that had been devastated by subsistence farming and deforestation for lumber and charcoal. In the early 1960s the government initiated a program to restore the environment and attract tourism. To house the community members working in this area the government sponsored the construction of a settlement using the Novoa prefabrication system. The system is composed of pieces small enough to be carried by two or four men, allowing it to be a community built by its inhabitants.

    Adjacent to the residential area of the community is Hotel Moka, built to accommodate ecotourism. The hotel was designed to accommodate a giant tree that grows up through various floors of the hotel.

    We enjoyed lunch at
    Cafetal Buena Vista (1801), the main building of a coffee plantation that has been restored and now functions as a restaurant. It was established by a French family who fled Haiti during the Revolution and was a working plantation until the 1940s. We visited areas that have been recently cleared to reveal the coffee bean drying platforms and slave barracks. 

    We hurried back to Havana with the hopes of getting to visit a few places that we couldn’t fit in our itinerary in previous days. First we stopped at the House of José Gomez Mena (1927), which has housed the Museum of Decorative Arts since it opened in the 1960s. Yosvanis Fornaris, who works at the museum and is also pursuing a graduate degree in Art History at the University of Havana, gave us a tour of the collection. The collection underscored how committed the Cuban elite were to collecting fine things from around the work.

    We finished the day at the House of Juan Pedro Baró (1927), where we were impressed by the Lalique interiors we found when we passed beyond the Italian Renaissance style exterior designed by Govantes y Cabarrocas. The house is complemented by gardens designed by J.C.N. Forestier.   

    Erica N. Morawski, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Illinois - Chicago 
    Erica N. Morawski is a Ph.D. candidate in art History at the University of Illinois – Chicago. She received a BA in art history at Tulane University and MA in Art History at the University of Texas at Austin. She is currently completing a dissertation entitled, “Designing Destinations: Hotel Architecture, Urbanism, and American Tourism in Puerto Rico and Cuba.” This work investigates the role of hotels in shaping understandings of national identity, which in turn shaped international relationships, through an approach that systematically ties object and image analysis with social, political, and economic histories. Her work argues that these hotels functioned, and continue to function, like diplomatic cultural attachés—their design shaped politics on the islands, and played a decisive role in shaping past and current international relations.
  • Cuba: Day 8 - Last Day in Havana

    by User Not Found | Jan 29, 2013

    Today we toured Cemeterio de Colon (Colon Cemetery) in Vedado. Built between 1871-1886, the cemetery followed the plan devised by Spaniard Calixto de Loire. Designed with two main streets on a central axis, the cemetery is a gridded mini-city of the dead.

    We saw some familiar names, such as the Baró-Lasa Mausoleum. Besides hiring Lalique to do the interiors of his house he also commissioned the atelier to design a mausoleum for his wife, Catalina Lasa, who was reportedly the most beautiful women in Cuba. Theirs was a scandalous relationship—they had an adulterous relationship before they divorced their respective spouses.

    We then moved on the Tropicana cabaret in the neighborhood of Marianao. Owner Martín Fox decided that he needed an indoor stage, so he wouldn’t have to cancel the show every time it rained. He commissioned architect Max Borges Jr., who designed what came to be known as the Arcos de Cristal (Crystal Arches). Awarded a Gold Medal by the Institute of Architects after its completion in 1951 the structure is evidence of Borges’s fascination with concrete vaults (he was influenced by time spent with Felix Candela). The series of vaults decrease in size as they approach the stage and are all slightly offset from one another. These gaps were glazed and at night outdoor lights illuminated the palms and other vegetation for visitors to see from the inside. In addition, the vaults were painted black, with tiny pinpoint lights that created the illusion that perhaps the audience was seated outdoors. Fox also commissioned Borges to create an outdoor sage, Bajo las Estrellas (Under the Stars), the following year, and a casino a few years later. Unfortunately, we were prohibited from taking photography inside the cabaret.

    Fountain of the Muses, by Italian artist Aldo Gamba, was originally located outside of the Casino Nacional. When it closed in 1952, Martín Fox bought the fountain and had it installed outside of the Tropicana. 

    Erica N. Morawski, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Illinois - Chicago 
    Erica N. Morawski is a Ph.D. candidate in art History at the University of Illinois – Chicago. She received a BA in art history at Tulane University and MA in Art History at the University of Texas at Austin. She is currently completing a dissertation entitled, “Designing Destinations: Hotel Architecture, Urbanism, and American Tourism in Puerto Rico and Cuba.” This work investigates the role of hotels in shaping understandings of national identity, which in turn shaped international relationships, through an approach that systematically ties object and image analysis with social, political, and economic histories. Her work argues that these hotels functioned, and continue to function, like diplomatic cultural attachés—their design shaped politics on the islands, and played a decisive role in shaping past and current international relations.
  • Cuba: Day 9 - Cienfuegos

    by User Not Found | Jan 28, 2013

    This morning we bid farewell to our headquarters in Havana, the Hotel Nacional, and embarked on the segment of the trip that would take us more than 500 miles through the eastern part of the island to Santiago de Cuba. We headed southeast on the National Highway, passing through predominantly non-urban areas. Along the way we were able to see various types of housing. As we moved further from the city we saw less apartment buildings and more single-family dwellings. Most of these were basic designs, though always suited to the climate. Almost all houses had some or many aspects that would maximize shade and ventilation in order the keep the interiors cool.

    We were headed first to Cienfuegos, the third largest port in Cuba, and of these the only one located on the Caribbean side of the island. Because of its location it has always been an important port, which helped promote the development of the city. Access to the national railroad system in the mid-nineteenth century only encouraged its growth. The present city is a grid design and we entered the city via a main avenue. Like Havana, this avenue was lined with structures with porticoes, creating shaded walkways for city inhabitants.

    First we stopped at Parque Martí (Martí Park), the main square in the city. Though the park now exhibits an early Republican design, the importance of this spot dates much further back as it is the spot where the first settlement was pronounced and used to be the Plaza de Armas. After awhile I have come to find a sort of harmonious relationship between the colonial architecture and the prolific amount of political propaganda throughout the country.

    We first visited the Teatro Tomás Terry (Tomás Terry Theater), built in 1895. Inside we encountered an amazing performance space, and were fortuitous enough to arrive in time to hear the end of a group of students practicing. The design ingeniously incorporated a moving auditorium floor, which can be raised to the same level of the stage to transform the theater into an expansive ballroom. It’s easy to see the relationship between Terry, the namesake of the theater, and the history of Cienfuegos. Terry made his fortune off of the goods coming into this port city—the slave trade in his case. He then imported steam engines into the country (he was one of the first to do this) in order to power his mills on his sugar estates. In addition, he also worked to develop the region via the implementation of a railroad.

    On the adjacent side of the square we visited the Palacio Ferrer (c. 1900), though we only had a quick peak inside as the building is undergoing renovations. This structure, now a cultural center, was originally built as the mansion of José Ferrer Sirés, a powerful sugar magnate. Note the spiral staircase leading to the top of the cupola, which provides a panoramic view of the city and which we unfortunately could not climb.

    We then traveled on to the area known as Punta Gorda (Fat Point), a district developed by the wealthy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. One such building was where we had lunch, Palacio del Valle (1912), which now functions as a restaurant. As Monty pointed out, the house is actually more Mughal than Moorish, despite the owner’s wishes for an Islamic-style mansion, with Venetian, Gothic, and French Baroque details incorporated as well. The design is truly visually over-stimulating, everywhere you look there is some sort of decoration, perhaps two incongruous designs juxtaposed. Though very eccentric, and surely not to everyone’s taste, none could complain about the view from the terrace on the top of the palace.

    After lunch we took a leisurely walk through part of the Punta Gorda district. Though the sun was hot, it was worth it to see some of the summer homes built by Cienfuegos’ wealthy that still line the coast. Many were built predominantly of wood and were painted in a wide array of colors. These houses made me think of the inter-Caribbean architectural dialogue that must have existed. Various details of these houses reminded me of what I have also seen in other Caribbean islands, such as Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and the Bahamas, and I’m sure connections could be made to other islands I have not yet visited.

    Erica N. Morawski, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Illinois - Chicago 
    Erica N. Morawski is a Ph.D. candidate in art History at the University of Illinois – Chicago. She received a BA in art history at Tulane University and MA in Art History at the University of Texas at Austin. She is currently completing a dissertation entitled, “Designing Destinations: Hotel Architecture, Urbanism, and American Tourism in Puerto Rico and Cuba.” This work investigates the role of hotels in shaping understandings of national identity, which in turn shaped international relationships, through an approach that systematically ties object and image analysis with social, political, and economic histories. Her work argues that these hotels functioned, and continue to function, like diplomatic cultural attachés—their design shaped politics on the islands, and played a decisive role in shaping past and current international relations.
  • Cuba: Day 10 - Trinidad, Valle de los Ingenios, Sancti Spiritus

    by User Not Found | Jan 27, 2013

    We woke up this morning in Playa Ancon (Ancon Beach), located a short ride to the center of Trinidad. One of the seven settlements established by Diego Velázquez, the town initially thrived off of gold and although this quickly dried up, Trinidad enjoyed a prosperous past as a port city. Like many other cities in Cuba, Trinidad enjoyed a surge in prosperity with the development of sugar cultivation in the surrounding area.

    On our morning walking tour of the city we first passed through a landscaped square. You could feel the city waking up as people bustled through the square to work, or met up with friends to converse. 

    In the early 20th century nobody thought much of Trinidad and since the port had silted up in the mid-19th century poverty had ensured that the urban landscape did not change. With the neo-colonial movement in the 1930s people started paying attention to Trinidad as an architecturally important site and its preservation history is as old and robust as that of Old Havana. In fact, Trinidad is celebrated as Cuba’s most fully preserved early colonial town.

    Houses in Trinidad have two common characteristics: tall windows protected by wooden rejas, or grills, and decoratively carved roof rafters that appear on the outside of the structure under the eaves.

    We made our way to the Plaza Mayor, which used to be the Plaza de Armas but now boasts 20th century landscaping. There we viewed the exterior of many buildings, including the 1894 Iglesia Parroquial de la Santisima Trinidad (Church of the Holy Trinity). Built on the site of an earlier church that was destroyed in a storm, the current church has a rather austere façade.

    On an adjacent side of the square is Casa Sánchez Iznaga (House of Sánche Iznaga), which was home to families of the same name who were sugar barons in the area. The Sánchez Iznaga family owned the nearby Manaca Iznaga sugar estates. Built in 1710, but with additions made as late as the 19th century, the structure now houses the Museum of Architecture, which is part a museum of detailed explanation of architectural history in Cuba and part house museum. The central room one enters into in the house shows how the house may have appeared in the 19th century. It contains a chandelier from France, flooring and a center table made from Italian marble, and Meissen porcelain, but the ceiling is undeniably Cuban. Beautifully carved roof trusses such as these are a characteristic of colonial architecture throughout the island, some of which were painted. Other parts of the house contained the modern amenities the family enjoyed in the 19th century, such as a gas lighting system, flush toilet, and shower.

    After lunch in Trinidad we set off for Valle de los Ingenios (Valley of the Sugar Mills). This was one of the first in Cuba to be cultivated for sugar in the late 17th century, partly due to the very rich soil and easy access to slaves because of Trinidad’s trade connections to Jamaica. Sugar production was later industrialized and the Valley is now scattered with the remains of sugar plantations, some in better shape than others. We first tried to visit Hacienda Buena Vista, which Monty had visited in the past. It has suffered so much deterioration that we had a hard time even locating it, and then could not visit due to an impossible road for our bus. However, Monty shared good news that this site is slated for restoration. We did visit Manaca Iznaga, the sugar plantation run by the same family who owned the home that now houses the Museum of Architecture. One of the most architecturally interesting features of this estate was the large tower that was used to oversee the activities on the estate. In this way, overseers could keep track of slaves and their labor and better coordinate the movement of cut cane, and movement of goods to and from the railroad. 

    In the afternoon we made a quick stop in Sancti Spiritus, another of the seven settlements of Diego Velázquez. On the way in to the town we passed fields of garlic and onions, and Osmin informed us that Sancti Spiritus is famous throughout the island for its onions of incomparable flavor. We admired Parroquial Mayor del Espiritu Santo (High Church of the Holy Spirit), a 17th century church, and then moved on to Plaza Central (Central Square), though the aspect of our visit to Sancti Spiritus that left the strongest impression on me was our walk up the main commercial street. Although the vegetable market was closed (we all wanted to see one), it was great experience to move through the streets with all of the locals who were out shopping, conducting business, or hanging out with friends.

    Erica N. Morawski, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Illinois - Chicago 
    Erica N. Morawski is a Ph.D. candidate in art History at the University of Illinois – Chicago. She received a BA in art history at Tulane University and MA in Art History at the University of Texas at Austin. She is currently completing a dissertation entitled, “Designing Destinations: Hotel Architecture, Urbanism, and American Tourism in Puerto Rico and Cuba.” This work investigates the role of hotels in shaping understandings of national identity, which in turn shaped international relationships, through an approach that systematically ties object and image analysis with social, political, and economic histories. Her work argues that these hotels functioned, and continue to function, like diplomatic cultural attachés—their design shaped politics on the islands, and played a decisive role in shaping past and current international relations.
  • Cuba: Day 11 - Camagüey, Bayamo and Santiago de Cuba

    by User Not Found | Jan 26, 2013

    Many people have asked me what cities I found to be the highlights of the trip. Although I enjoyed every one of them, it was not hard for me to come up with a “Top 3” list. Without a doubt, Havana is at the top of this list for me and Camagüey also holds another spot. I think I loved Camagëy so much for a number of reasons. The first is the friendliness of everyone I met there. I had read that Camagüey is considered by many to be “the most Cuban of Cuban cities.” Not quite sure what this meant, I asked the driver of a bicycle taxi and after thinking for a moment he confirmed my observations, that perhaps it is because camagueyanos are friendlier and enjoy life more than people in any other city. The second reason is that we just came from Trinidad, a city that, while beautifully preserved, is now very touristy and lots of inhabitants work their hardest to make some money off of the tourists that pass through. In Camagüey it was easy to just enjoy the city, and a very clean city at that! And finally, and this has little to do with the city itself, my experience of the city was enhanced by how we saw it, by taking a bicycle taxi tour of the city! A horde of bicycle taxis gathered around the corner of our hotel, and two by two we mounted our transportation. We whizzed through the streets, the drivers joking and laughing with one another and jockeying for position in a playful manner, even when they were battling an incline.

    Our taxis took us to many stops, one of which was the Parque Agramonte (named after a local hero of the wars of independence) where we entered the Catedral de Nuestra Senora de Candelaria Santa Iglesia (Cathedral of Our Lady of Holy Candelmas). Older church structures existed in this space and over time parts have been added and subtracted to result in the church that stands today. Its current form is heavily indebted to an enlargement in 1864. The interior of the church was breathtaking, with ceilings painted in a beautiful Art Nouveau pattern.

    Like Trinidad, many of the colonial houses in Camagüey have tall windows with grills and decoratively carved roof rafters.

    After we left Trinidad we made a short stop in Bayamo, yet another of the seven settlements of Diego Velázquez. Our visit was focused on the main town square and the next square over, which contains the Catedral del Santisima Salvador (Cathedral of the Holy Savior). Constructed in 1869, this church also contains a chapel from 1630. One of the most interesting features of the church is its painted decoration. The church contains a series of paintings that show the importance of the church in the wars of independence. One depicts a historical scene of the father of the church blessing the first Cuban flag during the wars of independence.

    Our last stop of the day was quite an adventure, and surely no other group except an SAH Study Tour puts this on their itinerary! We drove slowly through small towns and climbed higher into the mountains. The looks from the people on the street confirmed that we were definitely off of the normal tourist path. Our destination was the Forestry Research Station, designed by Walter Betancourt and built 1969-1971. Monty talked about Betancourt before we arrived and told us how this Cuban-born architect studied in the U.S. and turned down a position at Taliesin West to return to Cuba to build for the Revolution. We were prepared for some Frank Lloyd Wright influence, but I think were all surprised by the extent of it when we reached the site. 

    After this we traveled on to Santiago de Cuba, arriving under the cover of darkness and wondering what sort of city would be reveled to us in daylight.

    Erica N. Morawski, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Illinois - Chicago 
    Erica N. Morawski is a Ph.D. candidate in art History at the University of Illinois – Chicago. She received a BA in art history at Tulane University and MA in Art History at the University of Texas at Austin. She is currently completing a dissertation entitled, “Designing Destinations: Hotel Architecture, Urbanism, and American Tourism in Puerto Rico and Cuba.” This work investigates the role of hotels in shaping understandings of national identity, which in turn shaped international relationships, through an approach that systematically ties object and image analysis with social, political, and economic histories. Her work argues that these hotels functioned, and continue to function, like diplomatic cultural attachés—their design shaped politics on the islands, and played a decisive role in shaping past and current international relations.
  • Cuba: Day 12 - Santiago de Cuba

    by User Not Found | Jan 25, 2013

    They say there is a big rivalry between Santiago and Havana, and habaneros would most likely dismiss Santiago as the second city, the second to Havana in population, and second in everything else, including baseball! It didn’t take long for me determine that Santiago was one of the three in my “Top 3” list, and I wouldn’t say that Santiago is second to anything. A vibrant, beautiful city, Santiago is often characterized as the most Caribbean of Cuba’s cities, partly due to its size and location, which over time have attracted immigrants from other Caribbean islands. We had now visited all of seven settlements of Diego Velázquez!

    We started our day at the Office of the City Conservator where the City Conservator, Omar López Rodríguez, gave us an introductory presentation of the history of Santiago and current efforts of the Conservator’s Office. With the new knowledge we were well equipped to head out and experience the city.

    Our first stop was Parque Céspedes (Céspedes Park), formerly the Plaza de Armas. This has to be one of the most intriguing squares I have ever visited in my life. Within the four sides of the square one can find architecture from all periods and in various styles. Likewise, the square is interesting in that it is the seat of religious power and civil power in the city as it houses the main church and city hall. We first visited the Casa de Don Diego de Velázquez, which makes the claim of being the oldest house in Cuba and now functions as a museum of living. Though the house has surely undergone many renovations and additions, colonial characteristics of the structure still predominate, from 16th century details to the 19th century mediopuntos (stained glass arched windows found above windows or doors). Here Omar expounded upon some of the traditional building techniques used in Santiago to deal with the seismic activity as the city is located on the same tectonic plates as Haiti (though this system of building is not used exclusively throughout the Velázquez house). A system of woven sticks of various sizes, packed with hay, rocks, clay, and other material, is then plastered, which creates strong walls that are flexible enough to give with seismic activity, rather than collapse. 

    Within the square we also admired el Ayuntamiento (City Hall), which despite its appearance, dates to the 1950s. Its older appearance is due to the fact that though built in the 20th century, the designs for this building date to the 18th century.

    The City Hall is an interesting counterpoint to the Banco Nacional de Cuba (National Bank), as the two were built contemporaneously. Designed by Enrique Luis Varela, this bank represents Santiago’s position as Cuba’s second major financial center.

    As we walked up one of the streets that leads out of the square we stopped for a moment in an 18th century building that now serves as headquarters for Santiago’s branch of the Unión Nacional de Escritores y Artistas Cubanos (National Union of Cuban Writers and Artists). We rested for a moment in the courtyard while Omar explained traditional systems of water collection in Santiago. Unlike other cities, like Camagüey, where water is collected and stored in large tinajones, or jugs, it was more common in Santiago for water to be collected from the roof and run through a series of pipes to el aljibe, the cistern. This house had a large cistern, the size of the patio in fact, that was 8 meters deep. Because most of the yearly rain comes all at once in Santiago, large containers are needed to hold the water that must last throughout the year.

    We hopped on the bus to another part of town to see the Moncada Barracks. Built in the 1930s there is an Art Deco feel to this structure, though this structure is more famous for the attack upon it made by Fidel Castro and 72 rebels on July 26, 1953. The bullet holes are still apparent, maintained in this state so that all can remember the first actions of the revolution.

    Equally interesting are the surrounding structures, officers’ housing made out of wood, which Monty states were reportedly prefabricated in Mississippi and exported to Santiago. Though we often noted similarities between Cuban architecture and that of the Gulf States, particularly New Orleans, it was often in reference to pre-20th century structures. This was an interesting example of how this relationship continued into the 20th century.

    Our day continued in the neighborhood of Vista Alegre, a neighborhood developed for the well-to-do of Santiago. The architect of this urban planning created 15 by 45 meter plots, though many families bought all of the lots within one block to have more space. The original owner of the first house we visited, Casa de Don Pepe Bosch, was an immigrant from Catalan who worked with an engineer to create the company that was responsible for electrifying the neighborhood and for laying the tracks for the trolley in the city.

    We then visited the University of Oriente Rectorate (1956) by Eduardo Cañas and Nujim Nepomeche. This huge structure is split into two sections of room by an impressive winding staircase that has beautiful terrazzo floors on the ground level. The left side of the stairwell supports more public functions, and contains the cafeteria and theater. The right side of the stairwell in composed of offices.

    One of our last visits of the day was to the José Martí Housing Complex (1964-1967). The Soviet Union donated a factory, located in Santiago, to produce prefabricated building components to Cuba in 1964. The factory produced pieces for the “Gran Panel” system, which has been used throughout the country, though the Martí Housing Complex is an impressive example and considered to be one of the more successful examples of the “Gran Panel” system. Omar explained how the components were brought to the site, and how they have grooves that are used to fit the pieces together. Many of the types of component pieces are very transparent, essentially walls that are decorative screens. It was particularly interesting to see how the inhabitants have transformed these screens over time, many filling in the openings for more privacy and security, but probably at the price of letting in cooling breezes. 

    I should also note that during out visit to Santiago we became very aware of the devastating effects Hurricane Sandy had on the city. Already faced with many challenges in restoring and preserving a city full of so many historical buildings, the Office of the City Conservator is now presented with even more projects in the wake of the storm. Omar provided us with some numbers to give us an idea of what the city had to recover from: more than 15,000 structural collapses and more that 30% of the city’s trees were lost. We witnessed this as we traveled throughout the city as well as seeing many positive images of the cleanup and rebuilding efforts that are already in action.

    Erica N. Morawski, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Illinois - Chicago 
    Erica N. Morawski is a Ph.D. candidate in art History at the University of Illinois – Chicago. She received a BA in art history at Tulane University and MA in Art History at the University of Texas at Austin. She is currently completing a dissertation entitled, “Designing Destinations: Hotel Architecture, Urbanism, and American Tourism in Puerto Rico and Cuba.” This work investigates the role of hotels in shaping understandings of national identity, which in turn shaped international relationships, through an approach that systematically ties object and image analysis with social, political, and economic histories. Her work argues that these hotels functioned, and continue to function, like diplomatic cultural attachés—their design shaped politics on the islands, and played a decisive role in shaping past and current international relations.

  • Cuba: Day 13 - Birán and Holguín

    by User Not Found | Jan 24, 2013

    Today was our departure day, and we left Santiago for the airport in Holguín. We first stopped at a cemetery in town to see the Mausolem of José Martí. This visit could not have been planned better as we coincidentally arrived at the moment when the changing of the guard was taking place.

    Along the way we stopped at Finca Manacas, the birthplace of Fidel Castro, which is located just outside of Birán. The house, a bit startling with its bright yellow paint and blue accents, has a layout typical of many Caribbean manors. Large double doors open wide into a central hall that runs to the back of the building, which also opens up, allowing for maximum cross ventilation. Two rooms are located off of each side of the central room. Like other Caribbean and Southern U.S. dwellings, the main living quarters are raised above the ground.

    Out near the front of the complex are bohíos, traditional Cuban thatched huts. The walls are made of supports with strips woven through and the structure is capped with a pitched roof made of thatch from the royal palm. This is where the workers of the farm, who were often immigrants, lived. 

    Sadly, our next stop was the airport in Holguín. Though we had said our thanks and made some toasts at the farewell dinner the night before, some things deserve to be repeated in this blog. All of us on the trip are indebted to Monty for organizing this trip and sharing his knowledge with us. He took us places that no other trip would ever go, evidence of his longstanding love for discovering the architectural treasures of this island. Likewise, we are thankful to SAH for sponsoring this trip. We were told that this trip sold out in only 6 or 7 minutes and there were no problems filling the second trip as well. All of us who were lucky enough to secure a spot on the trip and experience this adventure now see that the demand for this trip was well deserved. On a personal note, I am very grateful to have had the honor of participating on this trip as the student fellowship participant. I met intelligent, wonderful people on the trip with whom I had the privilege of sharing these experiences and exchanging thoughts about what we encountered. I visited sites and buildings that I would not be able to gain access to were I traveling on my own, and the cost of a trip of this scope is something a graduate student like myself could only dream of undertaking sometime in the distant future. As I look forward to finishing my degree in the near future I know that this trip—the experiences, the new friends, the knowledge gained—will be a highlight of my graduate student experience and will help me define myself in as I look toward my personal and professional future.


    Erica N. Morawski, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Illinois - Chicago 
    Erica N. Morawski is a Ph.D. candidate in art History at the University of Illinois – Chicago. She received a BA in art history at Tulane University and MA in Art History at the University of Texas at Austin. She is currently completing a dissertation entitled, “Designing Destinations: Hotel Architecture, Urbanism, and American Tourism in Puerto Rico and Cuba.” This work investigates the role of hotels in shaping understandings of national identity, which in turn shaped international relationships, through an approach that systematically ties object and image analysis with social, political, and economic histories. Her work argues that these hotels functioned, and continue to function, like diplomatic cultural attachés—their design shaped politics on the islands, and played a decisive role in shaping past and current international relations.
  • Adjunct Project Reveals Wide Range in Pay

    by User Not Found | Jan 10, 2013

    Five years ago, Margaret Hanzimanolis was fed up with working as an adjunct professor in Vermont, teaching six courses for about $24,000 a year, without health insurance. So she moved across the country to Northern California, where at least 20 colleges were within a 90-minute drive, to begin her life as an adjunct anew.

    Within days of her arrival, Ms. Hanzimanolis was hired to teach basic writing courses at De Anza College. Then she landed adjunct positions at Cañada College, City College of San Francisco, and Evergreen Valley College. She taught 13 classes year-round and earned $88,000 a year, she says. More important, after 18 months of teaching she was eligible for health benefits. The California wages are higher in part because the cost of living is greater there than in Vermont, but her new income still goes much further now.

    "Here I was toiling away in Vermont for almost nothing for 17 years," she says. "When I moved here, I thought, 'This is another world.' How come I didn't know this?"

    It's not uncommon for adjuncts to make decisions on where to work just as Ms. Hanzimanolis did: with little concrete information about key factors such as pay, benefits, and what the climate on the job is like for those who work off the tenure track. For adjuncts, reliable information about potential workplaces has always been hard to come by. Many colleges don't collect the data, and higher-education groups, such as the American Association of University Professors, haven't been able to find a way to systematically track the pay that adjuncts earn.

    Over the past year, however, adjuncts across the nation have been turning to the Adjunct Project, a crowdsourcing effort that started last February when Joshua A. Boldt, a writing instructor in Georgia, put online a publicly editable spreadsheet. Nearly 2,000 entries have already been made on adjuncts' pay and working conditions, and a clearer national picture is emerging.

    Now, to increase participation and collect ever-more-comprehensive information, Mr. Boldt and The Chronicle are expanding the project.

    The new Web site, http://adjunct.chronicle.com, started this month, allows data to be sorted and compared by department, college, and region of the country. It displays information that adjuncts have reported about working conditions, such as whether they participate in shared governance, are part of a union, and receive health insurance and retirement benefits.

    Read full article on The Chronicle of Higher Education
  • Chicago's Pullman Neighborhood

    by User Not Found | Nov 14, 2012

    This summer, SAH had two interns from the University of Chicago, Hannah Loftus and Kevin Robinson, who worked on SAHARA. Hannah and Kevin uploaded more than 900 images to SAHARA and worked on individual research projects documenting new Chicago parks and vernacular Chicago architecture, respectively. Read about Kevin's research below:

    Chicago’s Pullman neighborhood raises many of the issues frequently associated with contemporary urban living: gentrification, economic inequality, and preservation to name a few. The community, established in 1880 to house workers of the Pullman Company, is about twelve miles south of downtown Chicago. The residential area is roughly bounded by 111th and 115th streets at the north and south, and by railroad tracks and Cottage Grove Avenue at the east and west. The actual Pullman factory is directly north of this area. The town was the brainchild of George Pullman and architect Solon Spencer Beman. Beman’s design for Pullman fits into no discrete architectural style but creates a distinct visual identity for the town. Above all he sought “to design attractive and functional buildings,” resulting in a jumble of architectural-historical references.[1] There are clear American Queen Anne influences in many of the larger homes, while Rees points out Gothic details in the Hotel Florence, which is one of the most striking buildings in the neighborhood. The hotel, which sits on Arcade Park and is named after Pullman’s daughter, was off-limits to workers, as it was the one exception to the town’s ban on the sale of alcohol. Despite the lack of stylistic uniformity in Pullman, Berman created visual unity by using brick made of clay dredged from Lake Calumet, adjacent to the town. This unity is preserved in large part today as there are few recently-constructed buildings. A significant portion of the original late-nineteenth century buildings still stand today. What particularly interested me about Pullman was how, if at all, its architecture dating back 130 years structures the present community.

    Arriving to the neighborhood by train I was reminded of a phrase coined by a Russian author, Yury Olesha, who referred to artists as ‘engineers of the human soul.’ Although it might have been the industrial landscape that reminded me of engineering, I think that the expression came to mind because, bluntly put, the planned community seemed somewhat soulless. Despite the fact that the buildings all looked occupied, the streets were empty and none of the civic buildings seemed to be open on a weekday afternoon. The well-used recreational areas are at the peripheries of the neighborhood, while the more central town square and Arcade Park are empty and uninviting. At first I suspected that the buildings and spaces themselves fostered this disconnect: they seem to insist that they are at once historical and new. They want to remain connected to the good old days, but are also retrofitted for modern living. The ‘for sale’ signs that dot the streets signal new bricks and windows that replicate and replace the old. Pullman’s renovators and real estate agents seem to say that the past can be easily substituted with something that looks just like it, and more importantly that it can still be sold as ‘historic.’

    After some consideration I realized that even if I were to see Pullman in the 1880s that I would likely find the experience just as unsettling as I find it presently. I think on the one hand this is because Pullman is geographically sectioned off from surrounding areas by railroad tracks and Lake Calumet. These barriers are not only physical but gave me a definite psychological impression of the neighborhood as somehow existing in a vacuum or a museum display case. On the other hand, Pullman was a curated residential experience: its communal spaces were created for an imagined community rather than one that had already formed beyond the fact that it was meant for workers of one company. Amanda Rees notes that “Pullman’s singular innovation was the application of aesthetics, however, the visual ideology of the communities were not merely there to produce productive workers... it is clear that the Pullman community was to be a central element of the company brand.
    [2] Like advertising that tries to make us aware of a need that we may not have, George Pullman and the town’s architect Solon Spencer Beman not only found the idea of community necessary but something that could be enforced and controlled through designed space. That is not to say that community is a bad thing, but that this community was meant to be George Pullman’s, not the residents’. As a result, many aspects of the residents’ collective identity were given to them ready-made, denying them significant power to form a community that truly reflected them.

    On the one hand, there is no one way to use a home or neighborhood. The simple fact of living in Pullman does not require one to use the spaces in a particular way. George Pullman could only expect the residents of his town to use the town square; it would be much more difficult to force them to actually use it. On the other hand, living in Pullman does bring certain limitations. Some, such as its distance from downtown, cannot be changed while others, such as the stigma of being on the South Side, are socially mediated. I believe that this tension between what can and cannot be planned prohibits one person or one vision from completely structuring a community. Inevitably some aspect of the community must be planned. There is, however, always room for residents of a neighborhood to build a community ‘of the people,’ though how much room they have varies by place and time.

    My reaction to Pullman forced me to look back on a previous trip to Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood in a new light. There I noticed rehabbed nineteenth century worker’s cottages alongside post-modern homes that borrowed from the neighborhood vernacular style generously. A notable example of the latter is 1336 North Leavitt Street (ca. 1998-2002), which copies the basic size and shape of neighboring homes but adds a bright blue trim. I wonder what motivated the architect or owner to design the house this way at all, whether it was out of a notional deference to the vernacular or if this quasi-historicism simply sells better. Certainly this home in particular is not one of the most attractive in the neighborhood—for example, the brick noticeably differs in appearance and quality compared to its older counterparts—but it raises questions about the identities of neighborhoods. In contrast to Pullman, Wicker Park has many modern homes that pay no deference to the ‘look’ of the neighborhood. The architect or homeowner’s stamp on the neighborhood seems much more forceful here. Obviously one modern home in Wicker Park cannot completely change its character, but I also cannot tell how much these homes exist in relation to the rest of the neighborhood. Is their purpose defeated when they no longer stand out, or are they conceived as monoliths? The modernist ‘make it new’ mentality is not only disconcerting here but somehow feels belated, as if we never stopped to think about what impact ‘new’ can have. Despite whatever misgivings I have about 1336 Leavitt, I know that it at least plays with and very intentionally departs from the neighborhood style. In a way, this home is less troubling than some of the more attractive and interesting modern homes. It doesn’t quite let us forget about the past, but it also lets us know that we can’t rely on it to understand the past.

    I wonder if some of Pullman’s residents ever stop to ask why they’re remodeling their 1880s homes. Do they want to replicate the original kitchen surfaces or do they install granite countertops? It seems to me that Pullman can go one of two directions. The first is the one we see most frequently with gentrifying neighborhoods, with a desire for new ‘modern-looking’ homes and rehabilitated ‘historic’ homes. This would make Pullman visually similar to Wicker Park. The second direction is one in which the residents don’t commit to either idea but play with them both (think Norman Foster’s Reichstag restoration). This play can be somewhat muddled, as with 1337 Leavitt, or it can give the residents room to deliberately and clearly articulate their own views on Pullman’s preservation, past, and future.

    Looking back on my visit, I felt that the model town begged to remind me of something. I think it asks us to remember both that it is there and that it has an important history. Certainly this history can inform how we preserve, restore, and develop Pullman as well as other neighborhoods. In the end, however, this plea to remember fell flat with me because it was so difficult to connect with the buildings. I wonder if this feeling fosters a sense of privacy that the residents enjoy. With the voices of Pullman and Beman drowned out by time, I believe that in time the residents can and will surprise us with their own solutions.

    About Kevin:
    Kevin Robinson is a 2012 Jeff Metcalf Fellow at the Society of Architectural Historians and a fourth-year undergraduate at the University of Chicago studying art history. He recently completed research on Kazimir Malevich’s painting techniques and is currently studying the sculpture of Anthony Caro. In his free time he pursues interests in Russian literature, competitive napping, and aviation.


    Crawford, M., 1991. Designing the company town 1910-1930. Thesis (PhD). University of
    California, Los Angeles.

    Crawford, M., 1995. Building the workingman’s paradise: the design of American company towns. New
    York: Verso.

    Buder, S., 1967. Pullman: an experiment in industrial order and community planning 1880-1930. New York: Oxford University Press.

    [1] Rees, Amanda. "Nineteenth-century planned industrial communities and the role of aesthetics in spatial practices: the visual ideologies of Pullman and Port Sunlight." (2012): 185-214.

    [2] Ibid., 186.

  • Chicago’s Modern Park: a Trend of Purpose

    by User Not Found | Nov 14, 2012

    This summer, SAH had two interns from the University of Chicago, Hannah Loftus and Kevin Robinson, who worked on SAHARA. Hannah and Kevin uploaded more than 900 images to SAHARA and worked on individual research projects documenting new Chicago parks and vernacular Chicago architecture, respectively. Read about Hannah's research below:

    Chicago has a rich relationship between leisurely space and the city as a whole. Make no mistake, the city of big shoulders is a city of many people and many buildings; however approximately 8.2% of total land in Chicago is dedicated to parkland. There are over 570 parks throughout the city, which each offer a wide array of amenities and design features. Notable parks include Grant Park, Lincoln Park, and Jackson Park; however, there are an abundance of smaller parks that add to the strength of the Chicago Park District as well. I was tasked with photographing four contemporary parks in Chicago to add to the SAHARA Database; I chose Ping Tom Memorial Park, Mary Bartelme Park, Henry C. Palmisano Park, and the Nature Boardwalk at the Lincoln Park Zoo.

    What I found most helpful in examining Chicago parks came from an unrelated event; throughout our time at SAH, Kevin and I were fortunate enough to attend a lecture at the nearby Newberry Library in a partnership between the internship programs of the two organizations. This particular lecture, entitled “The Book as Object,” considered the physicality of books, and significantly focused on books published by architects or about architecture. Somewhat fittingly, a first edition of Daniel Burnham’s Plan of Chicago was included in the lecture. Although I was already familiar with his plan, I now considered the influential design in terms of contemporary implementation of urban leisurely space. Daniel Burnham envisioned Chicago’s parklands to be places for the people, especially considering the shoreline of Lake Michigan. Burnham also called to preserve parks on the outer limits of Chicago as nature preserves. What became evident here, that I considered as I visited the following parks, was what their relationship and purpose was to the City of Chicago. Exactly what does a design, both architectural and landscape, convey about its meaning in an overall context? What meaning can be assigned based on extraneous factors? I examined five parks in the City of Chicago, the oldest completed in 1999, and the most recent in 2010. I went in with some background of each park, and aimed to determine how the overall design is indicative of a purpose, intended or not.

    Ping Tom Memorial Park (1999) most carefully considers its surrounding neighborhood and cultural environment in its design; it is a clear union of park and community. The creation of Ping Tom clearly set out to address a missing element in Chinatown: a park. Construction for the Dan Ryan Expressway had previously demolished the only two parks in the surrounding area. Following the development of the adjacent area into Chinatown Square along the river by the park’s namesake, real estate developer Ping Tom, the Chicago Park District began to transform the six acres below 18th Street into spacious parkland, at the helm of Ernest C. Wong of Site Design Group. “Spacious” was apparent upon first entering Ping Tom; its six grassy acres were divided by a series of walkways, occasionally interspersed with boulders, ginko trees, and bamboo which encouraged tranquility. What was even more apparent, however, was the infrastructure. In the northern section of the park was a Chinese style pagoda next to a children’s playground. These made me evaluate the purpose of distinct elements of Ping Tom; it was an urban oasis, but also a vital part of the community, both symbolically through the surface design and practically through the green space and gathering points it provides. Unlike parks I later visited, Ernest Wong designs for the visitor and cultural environment. However, perhaps a mistranslation of his intent, Wong’s design is unfortunately a separate entity from the central business district of Chinatown. What I found particularly confusing was the fact that, despite on a Thursday afternoon at about four o’clock, it was largely empty; only the playground was being used, as well as the pagoda as a stop for Chicago’s “water taxi.” Perhaps this is a result of the obscure entrance, an opening in a chain link fence nestled in a residential subdivision. I am not sure how to reconcile these truths: Ping Tom is a representation and community space of Chinatown, yet isolated. This is one case, perhaps, where intended and actual use do not converge.

    Wong’s later design, Mary Bartelme Park (2010), further builds off the relationship between park and community, but in a noticeably different way. It does not necessarily focus on a cultural environment that Chinatown so readily offered, but perhaps a lifestyle-environment. The West Loop of Chicago is becoming trendier and wealthier; more and more young professionals and families with children are moving to the area. Mary Bartleme Park is situated on a single city block, surrounded by rehabbed industrial buildings turned condos and new construction. Before development, the site was a vacant lot; given the recent rise of the West Loop in residential popularity it was necessary to create an urban oasis. It is largely angular, with straight, crisscrossing pathwards, angled planter-walls, and most notably, square metal sprinklers (modern art, perhaps, when not in use). More importantly, it featured a dog park, children’s playground, and a wide array of seating, in addition to clean, grassy fields: Bartelme is a perfectly manicured park, meant to serve the urban community with the amenities it features for the surrounding apartments. I felt it was certainly beautiful, but lacked any sort of aim rather than being a small oasis. This park was the busiest of all the parks I visited; unlike Ping Tom, the main focus was on how the space would actually be used, and form appropriately followed.

    It was with Henry C. Palmisano Park (2009, previously and still synonymously known as Stearns Quarry) that I began to see a clear relationship between the park and land, as well as park and education, further encouraged by Jeanne Gang’s Nature Boardwalk at the Lincoln Park Zoo. The land Palmisano sits on was previously used as a quarry from 1830-1969, and later a landfill for Chicago; the park’s design (again by Ernest C. Wong) feature both, in its large mound to the east of the park, and water filled quarry in the north, interspersed by metal and concrete walkways. Palmisano encourages sustainability, and recreates ecosystems native to the land: prairie plants, wetlands, a two-acre pond, as well as the birds and fish brought or attracted to the site. Rainwater and drainage is even directed to the pond instead of sewers. Drawing residents and non-residents of the Bridgeport community, Palmisano aimed to return to its ecological roots, and stress nature rather than a human imposition of what is important to the composition of a park. There was no playlot (although one was found in the adjacent McGuane Park) or any other significant infrastructure, the design of the park was dictated by the existing alterations to the land (the quarry and landfill), and native flora. Although perhaps unintentional, it commented on the permanent effect humans have on the natural environment, leading to its intentional effect: the role Chicagoans can play in encouraging sustainability.

    Jeanne Gang’s Nature Boardwalk (2010) falls in the same category as Palmisano; it aims to show off the natural environment and serve as a tool through which to educate its audience. It is less a community gem, as in the case with Palmisano. Situated directly south of Lincoln Park Zoo, it attracts a wide array of visitors, although largely on the youthful side. The Nature Boardwalk features pathways marked by metal railings surrounding the pond; the entire design is meant to exemplify the coexistence of urban and natural environments; it also meant to educate on the various plant and animal ecosystems found surrounding the pond. The most striking architectural feature is a honeycomb shaped, arched pavilion, which serves as a shelter for an outdoor classroom. The pathway, similar to Palmisano, is simple; however, the contrasting materials allows for a stark contrast between manmade creation and nature. Although I initially thought there could be a definite trend moving away from parks as community staples and parks acting as miniature nature preserves, this was not the case, as I saw with Mary Bartelme as community driven park and the most recently completed. The only trend was physical, in that modern materials and design components (walkways, structures) were futuristic and were clear impositions of man upon the environment.

    In comparing these four parks, I realized that while all were attractive in their own right, they were all for different reasons: Ping Tom as an extension of Chinatown, Mary Bartelme as a collection of amenities, Palmisano as a reminder of the importance of sustainability, and the Nature Boardwalk as a place of education. All were tranquil, relaxing, fun, an escape, whatever the park-goer wanted; this was inherent in being an urban park. Each fulfilled Burnham’s vision of being “places for the people.” However, a closer look at the design suggests specific reasons for the park. A park is the final product; it is shaped by a variety of factors that influence its design and intended use. For example, the audience of each dictates the form; each park had a similar audience (urban dweller), but was shaped differently to accommodate different aspects of the audience (urban dwellers in search of an urban oasis, or eager to learn about natural ecosystems). Other factors include the location of the park (Ping Tom, situated in an awkward proximity to Chinatown business distract, or Palmisano, on the site of an old quarry and landfill), space availability (Bartelme’s many amenities but single city-block), and surrounding culture (Ping Tom in Chinatown, Bartelme in the West Loop). It will be fascinating to return to the parks when they are no longer “modern” and see how they have served the City of Chicago.

    About Hannah:
    Hannah Loftus is a 2012 Jeff Metcalf Fellow at the Society of Architectural Historians, and fourth year undergraduate at the University of Chicago. She is pursuing a degree in Anthropology, but has academic interests in architecture, archaeology, and geography as well, and has previously worked at both the Oriental Institute and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House. In her spare time, Hannah pursues her love of rock music and getting lost in the city of Chicago.

    Parks Documented:

    • Ping Tom Memorial Park- Ernest C. Wong, Site Design Group (1999), 300 W. 19th St., Chicago, IL
    • Mary Bartelme Park - Ernest C. Wong, Site Design Group (2010), 115 S. Sangamon, Chicago, IL
    • Henry C. Palmisano (Stearns Quarry) Park - Ernest C. Wong, Site Design Group (2009), 2700 S. Halsted St., Chicago IL
    • Nature Boardwalk (LPZ) - Jeanne Gang, Studio Gang (2010), South Pond, Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago, IL


    History of Ping Tom Memorial Park. Ping Tom Park Advisory Board. http://www.pingtompark.org/History.html.

    Kamin, Blair. "West Side Story: A New Park, with Dynamic Geometry and Bold Interactivity, Creates an Urban Oasis amid Wall-to-wall Condos." Chicago Tribune. N.p., 27 Aug. 2010. Web. 30 Aug. 2012. <http://featuresblogs.chicagotribune.com/theskyline/2010/08/west-side-story-a-new-park-with-dynamic-geometry-and-bold-interactivity-creates-an-urban-oasis-amid-.html>.

    "Mary Bartelme Park." Landscape Urbanism. http://landscapeurbanism.com/strategy/mary-bartelme-park-2.

    "Nature Boardwalk." Lincoln Park Zoo. http://www.lpzoo.org/nature-boardwalk.

    "Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo." Studio Gang Architects. http://www.studiogang.net/work/2005/lincolnparkzoo.

    "Palmisano Park." Landscape Urbanism. http://landscapeurbanism.com/strategy/palmisano/Parks & Facilities.

    Chicago Park District, 2012. http://www.chicagoparkdistrict.com/.

    Smith, Carl. "The Plan of Chicago." Encyclopedia of Chicago. Chicago: Newberry Library, 2004. Web. 30 Aug. 2012. <http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/ pages/10537.html>.

  • Interview with James Caulfield and Patrick Cannon

    by User Not Found | Oct 16, 2012
    Interview by Alexandra Markiewicz

    1. James, what led to your interest in photographing architecture? Have you done commercial architectural photography, or is architectural photography more of personal interest? 
    JC: My father was very interested in Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture and his enthusiasm was infectious. I always enjoyed bicycle rides around the Chicago area, particularly the North Shore, where I saw many notable buildings. At the U of I, I took a course in art and architecture. I have done the photographs for four books on buildings by Chicago architects with my colleague Patrick Cannon and would like to do more work for contemporary architects. 

    2. Patrick, how did you get involved in contributing these photos to SAHARA? How does it relate to your research and interests?
    PC: While at Northwestern as an English major and art history minor, I took a course in Chicago architecture taught by Professor Carl Condit, which included several tours of notable Chicago buildings. Even though I ultimately pursued a career in communications, I never lost my interest in architecture. When I moved to Oak Park in 1974, I became involved in what is now the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust. When I retired, I proposed to the Trust that we produce a survey of Wright’s work in Oak Park and River Forest, which was published in 2006 as Hometown Architect: The Complete Buildings of Frank Lloyd Wright in Oak Park and River Forest, Illinois. This led to subsequent books on the Prairie architects generally, Unity Temple, and Louis Sullivan. I joined SAH to gain access to its archives, and have used them extensively. When I became aware of SAHARA, I thought it would be an ideal way of sharing the book’s images with SAH members around the world.

    3. James, describe your methodology or artistic practice when it comes to taking architectural photographs.
    JC: I use only the latest and most sophisticated professional digital equipment. In documenting historic buildings, I shoot using available light, to insure that the architect’s vision is fully realized. The only artificial lights are those the architect included in the design. I combine exposures to include information that might be hidden in single exposures.

    4. What is your favorite photograph or series of photographs that you’ve shared on SAHARA and why? 
    JC: Of the many Frank Lloyd Wright buildings I have photographed, my favorite images include the exterior of the Heurtley House, the Winslow House dining room, the entry vestibule of the William Martin House, and the view of the auditorium of Unity Temple, taken from the pulpit. I was in awe when I took the photograph of the corner exterior of Louis Sullivan’s Guaranty Building in Buffalo, as I was when I stood on the stage of the Auditorium Theatre to photograph the immensity of that great space. 
    PC: While it’s difficult to single out any single image, I do think the photographs that Jim Caulfield took of Sullivan’s Guaranty Building are extraordinary. 

    5. You have contributed 512 photos to SAHARA! How do you envision your photos being used on SAHARA? More broadly, in what ways does architectural photography serve architectural historians?
    JC: My colleague Patrick Cannon and I were fortunate to be able to gain access and photograph buildings that most students and scholars would find it difficult to visit. Now they can, through our work. Also, we were able to photograph interiors that had not heretofore been documented. And, although we hope all these buildings survive, if some are eventually lost, at least this record will survive, thanks to SAH. 
    PC: Jim Caulfield and I hope that scholars and students will take advantage of our images in both their teaching and research or any non-commercial purpose.

    James Caulfield and Patrick Cannon have written four books together: Hometown Architect: The Complete Buildings of Frank Lloyd Wright in Oak Park and River Forest, Illinois, Louis Sullivan: Creating a New American Architecture, Prairie Metropolis: Chicago and the Birth of a New American Home, and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple: A Good Time Place.

    To view the images contributed by James Caulfield and Patrick Cannon, search for “Caulfield” or “Patrick Cannon” in SAHARA. When using the images for any non-commercial purpose, please credit James Caulfield. For commercial use, please contact James Caulfield to arrange use of the images. 
  • Innovation and Institutional Memory at Dunbar High School

    by User Not Found | Jun 22, 2012

    In December 2010 Adrian Fenty, then mayor of Washington, D.C., announced the highly anticipated plans for the re-design of Paul Laurence Dunbar High School. The Office of Public Education Facilities Management (OPEFM), a city agency created in 2007 to fulfill campaign promises for a complete overhaul of the school system, had conducted two design competitions in two years with the hopes of selecting a winning design for the Dunbar building. During the course of the two competitions firms the caliber of Foster + Partners, Adjaye Associates, and Pei Cobb Freed & Partners submitted designs for the twenty-first century manifestation of the high school.

    How did this design competition for a public high school become such a high profile event? Was it Washington politics as usual, showboating on the part of the mayor and city government, which had grappled with bad press on the state of the education system in the nation’s capital? What was at stake here?

    Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, the first municipally funded public high school in the nation for blacks, was founded in 1870 as the Preparatory High School for Colored Youth. [1] The school moved numerous times during the next twenty-one years, housed in makeshift locations until finally settling at M Street between First Street and New Jersey Avenue, N.W., where the first substantial building for the school was constructed. It was rededicated as the M Street School and remained there for twenty-five years.

    In 1916 a new building was erected in response to the growing student body – the design of the school building by municipal architect Snowden Ashford was a testament to the hopes and wishes of its community. Ashford was credited with more experience building and maintaining schools than any other architect of the early twentieth century. [2] One critic later noted that because Ashford did not discriminate in design “Washington's black schools were separate but truly equal to their white counterparts.” [3] The three-story building employed Tudor references with a running parapet along the roof and a central fortified tower on the facade, and contained large windows and a ventilation system. On January 17, 1916 the new M Street High School was renamed Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in honor of the deceased poet.

    Throughout segregation, and despite overcrowding over the years, Dunbar High School flourished, upholding the high tradition of its predecessor the M Street School. Dunbar’s academic success was born out of racial discrimination during the era of segregation – its concentration of highly educated black teachers, some of whom held doctorates, were denied employment at other educational institutions. This misfortune turned out to be a blessing for students who were guaranteed a first-rate education at Dunbar.

    As a result of the commanding faculty, combined with a rigorous college preparatory curriculum, Dunbar sent many of its graduates to a number of prominent colleges, including Howard, Amherst, Williams, Oberlin, Radcliffe, Smith, Harvard, Vassar, and Yale. [4] Some of the better-known graduates of Dunbar include  Benjamin O. Davis, the first black general in the United States Army, and innovator in blood plasma research Dr. Charles Drew. Suffragist Mary Church Terrell and educator Anna Julia Cooper, one of the first black women to receive a Ph.D., both taught at the school. Cooper also served as principal of the M Street High School for the school from 1902 to 1906.

    Desegregation and a population shift stemming from the Second Great Migration played a major role in the perceived decline of Dunbar as a leading educational institution. While the process of desegregation did not change the racial demographic of Dunbar’s students, due in part to a Board of Education clause that stated students were prohibited from attending schools outside their neighborhood residential boundaries, it did dramatically change the socioeconomic status of the students. The academic change within Dunbar High School was more drastic than its physical transformation as the school’s prestige began to diminish. The school slipped from high rankings and association with Washington’s African American upper-middle-class in the 1950s to ultimately being characterized as "a failing ghetto school" by conservative economist Thomas Sowell in 2002. [5]

    After the 1968 riots that followed the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the District of Columbia Redevelopment Land Agency collaborated with the Model Inner City Community Organization (led by Walter Fauntroy) in an effort to revitalize the school’s neighborhood while combatting the increasingly negative reputation of the school and its facilities. The new $17 million Dunbar High School constructed in 1977 by Bryant & Bryant was both a high-rise and open-plan school. The success of open-plan schools was particularly dependent on the correct implementation of their design with new teaching methods that worked to complement the specially configured spaces, innovative furnishings, and carpeting. Teaching methods included team teaching, modular teaching, and non-graded levels of instruction that emphasized the individuality of each student’s learning processes.

    Washington Post  architecture critic Wolf Von Eckardt praised the new design noting “its brick and mortar arrangement does away with the confining, authoritarian rigidity of the old egg crate classrooms and recognizes that the constant in our time is change, that education is a fluid process.” [6] The design was the most ambitious, avant-garde, and expensive for a public school in the metropolitan area, costing more than four times the amount estimated to bring the 1916 building it replaced up to code. [7] The ahistorical approach to the new design signified a rejection of the past and a focus on contemporary and future needs, revealing the strong disconnect between past accomplishments and the state of the institution in the 1970s.

    The competition-winning design announced by Mayor Fenty in December is by the team Ehrenkrantz, Eckstut & Kuhn and Moody-Nolan. In many ways, it resembles the 1977 building it replaces: it is at the forefront of contemporary design practices for educational facilities, it incorporates flexible learning spaces, and it intends to re-define monumentality in a modern context.

    The new school differs in its embrace of the past and historical figures associated with the institution. Yet in the 120 years since the erection of the M Street School facilities, the institution has been housed in three different buildings, and by 2014 the number will be increased to four. The constant reincarnation of Dunbar every thirty years strikes at the heart of the institutional memory of the school, creating a fractured narrative of the nation’s first high school for blacks. Additionally, the tradition of politicians and activists using Washington public schools as experimentation grounds for policy and architecture leads to a repetitive cycle of high design, incompetent maintenance, and destruction.

    Dunbar is a particularly worthwhile case study because of the historical association of great accomplishment that continuously pushes its innovative designs. Here, the grand posturing of the school’s architecture reveals an insecurity about the academic and cultural climate of the institution today, and the belief that architecture does have the power to redirect the course of a school that has depleted and fractured institutional memory.

    -- Amber N. Wiley


    1  U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places Inventory – Nomination Form for M Street High School  2.

    2  See Kimberly Prothro Williams, “Schools for All: A History of DC Public School Buildings 1804 – 1960,” District of Columbia Historic Preservation Office (2008).

    3  S. J. Ackerman,  “Architect of the Everyday,”     Washington Post  , November 6, 2005.

    4  Jervis Anderson, “A Very Special Monument,”  New Yorker  (March 20, 1978): 93, 100.

    5  Thomas Sowell, “The Education of Minority Children,” in  Education in the Twenty-First Century  , ed. Edward P. Lazear (Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 2002), 79-92.

    6  Von Eckardt as quoted in Jervis Anderson, “A Very Special Monument,”  New Yorker  (March 20, 1978): 111.

    7   Michael Kiernan, “Razing Fight Begins Anew,”  Washington Star  , February 28, 1975, B  1.

  • Brooklyn Breweries, by Bike

    by User Not Found | Jun 22, 2012


    You drink it. I drink it. Wikipedia proclaims it the world’s most widely consumed alcoholic beverage and suggests that it follows only water and tea in our collective liquid intake.

    But what about breweries? They hardly appear in architectural histories. Participating recently in the Bike Brooklyn Beer Blitz got me thinking not only about this building type but also about the many modes and sites of historical research beyond the academy—the work of those amateur historians, enthusiasts, and other unpedigreed experts whose work intersects with that of professional historians to generate knowledge about architecture’s past.

    Breweries have been in the news a lot lately, as they are now the frequent sites of adaptive reuse in cities throughout the industrialized world. Among the most prominent are London’s Truman Brewery, Copenhagen’s Carlsberg Town, Perth’s Swan Brewery, Shanghai’s Union Brewery, and Zurich’s Löwenbräu complex. Mostly, these disused industrial complexes have been turned into venues for the exhibition of art, though some contain art production spaces, housing, retail, office, or other programs.

    There isn’t much when it comes to the history of breweries, however, beyond a few isolated accounts coming out of industrial archeology. The best sources turn out be home brewers, local history researchers, and tour guides--or at least one exemplary tour guide: Matt Levy , of Levys’ Unique New York. On a mild Sunday earlier this month I joined fifteen other cyclists for Matt’s four-hour bike tour of former breweries in the north Brooklyn neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Bushwick.

    From the mid-19th-century to the mid-20th, these onetime Dutch townships hosted a dense concentration of breweries run largely by German immigrants, along with no small number of bars, beer halls, and beer gardens. We biked around the city, visiting empty, reprogrammed, and redeveloped sites once occupied by Schaefer, Rheingold, Fallert, Huber, Ulmer, and other brands. We also stopped at some of the churches these beermakers built. The tour culminated at the avenue of crisp granite mausoleums that constitutes “Brewer’s Row” at Evergreen Cemetery. And while the focus was historical, we didn’t fail to stop and sample the output of Sixpoint Craft Ales Brooklyn Brewery , and other borough enterprises.

    It was a fine time.

    Some of the pleasure lay in finding historical insight infused with the affective charges that come from the physical activity of pedaling, the sensations of bicycle perception, and the metabolic enhancements of alcohol. Some came from the easy sociability of an ad-hoc cycling crew that mixed in different ways as we moved through different neighborhoods and tour stages. Some derived from the interactions the Blitz afforded me with architectural historians and history venues outside the nexus of universities and museums.

    The Bike Brooklyn Beer Blitz was a work of passion and enterprise on the part of a Bushwick resident whose family business offers custom tours of New York City. It started at the City Reliquary , a storefront community museum that features oddball collections and offbeat events. Much of Matt’s information came from a 1976 volume self-published by Will Anderson, author of “From Beer to Eternity” among other titles. We were joined at the end by Donato Daddario , the Evergreen Cemetery gravedigger who has become the chief keeper of its history. And a television crew tracked us for a local cable show on Brooklyn businesses.

    It was a pleasure to join this network of enthusiasts, entrepreneurs, and institutions brought together by their commitments to place and to its history. And, of course, to beer.

  • Digital Research Tools: A response by Dianne Harris

    by User Not Found | Jun 22, 2012

    I would like to thank Morgan Ng for his thoughtful comments about the ways in which developments in the digital humanities intersect with the work and interests of historians of the built environment. I share his enthusiasm for the many new tools that are available to us and that enhance our ability to effectively teach and conduct research on a wide range of topics. As the Editor-in-Chief for SAHARA, I would like to respond to Mr. Ng’s commentary with the hope of clarifying a few key points.

    First, SAHARA now contains close to 25,000 member-contributed images. About half of those have been shared with ARTstor as “Editor’s Choice” contributions to their digital library. Although that remains a relatively small number, SAHARA will grow substantially in the coming year through the bulk uploading of numerous significant collections contributed by our members. We hope to have closer to 100,000 images in SAHARA within the next 12 months. Moreover, SAHARA will become larger if our members contribute to it. I encourage Mr. Ng to help grow this important digital image archive  by adding his own images to the SAHARA collection and by encouraging his colleagues to do the same.

    Second, SAHARA is a complicated project, the product of the hard work and countless volunteered hours of many of our SAH colleagues. It has been an exciting experiment, one that has established a new model of collaborative partnership between librarians and scholars. Perhaps this facet of SAHARA remains invisible to some members, which is unfortunate, since it is one of the project’s greatest accomplishments and one for which it has gained much attention and acclaim across the humanities. It also sought to establish a new form of scholarly publishing since the images that are contributed to SAHARA are peer-reviewed and then “published” to the Editor’s Choice collection in ARTstor. Again, this facet is less visible, but it is an important aspect that distinguishes SAHARA from other digital image collections. It is true, therefore, that SAHARA is growing slowly. But unlike images in other collections, you can be certain that images you find in SAHARA are of a high quality and that they are accompanied by authoritative metadata. This may not matter to some scholars, but it does matter to many of us.

    Third, no one working in the digital image world imagines that scholars will ever perform “one stop shopping” for the images they use for teaching and research. The internet is full of amazing and useful websites that contain a vast array of primary source images from museum collections, archives, and the photographs that are uploaded by members of the public. SAHARA does not aim to fulfill the needs of every scholar. But it does, again, aim to provide high-quality, authoritative images contributed by SAH members who wish to share their images, their research, and their particular visual and scholarly perspectives, on architectural, landscape, and urban history.

    Fourth, SAHARA currently rests on a business model that is determined, in part, by parameters that are set by our technology host and partner and by the foundation that provided the funds for its creation.  We, too, hope to experiment with alternative business models that may allow some or all of SAHARA to become available to a wider audience in the future. At the moment, however, the project is bound by contracts that specify access policies. So the limitation of access is not determined by a desire for restricted access, but instead by complicated contracts that must be honored for the time being.

    Finally, I’m pleased to report that SAHARA is attracting considerable traffic, and seems to be a useful tool for many SAH members. The 2011 report from ARTstor indicates that  there were 119,671 image requests from SAHARA for this past year.  Like any new, innovative tool, it is a work-in-progress; it is imperfect. But with the support of members like Mr. Ng, I hope it will become a resource that serves SAH members for many years to come.

    -- Dianne Harris

    Editor-in-Chief, SAHARA
    President, Society of Architectural Historians 

  • Photographer David Schalliol Documents Detroit

    by User Not Found | Apr 27, 2012
    During the SAH Annual Conference in Detroit last week, photographer/sociologist David Schalliol documented Detroit.
    Click here to view the photos on his blog

    The Guardian Building Interior by David Schalliol.
  • Banham's America

    by User Not Found | Mar 27, 2012
    Reyner Banham may have died in 1988, but he is active on Facebook, with a fan group, an author page, and, at last count, 1,048 friends. This is far fewer than the average teenager, to say nothing of Lady Gaga, and there are certainly more sober ways to gauge the influence of the British historian and critic of modern architecture and design: two collections of his writings, a hefty intellectual biography, and a volume of essays by distinguished scholars inspired by his work. In addition, a number of his books remain in print decades after their original publication, including Theory and Design in the First Machine Age (1960) and Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies (1971). Most recently, Ice Cube's video for Pacific Standard Time is as reverent an homage to Banham's style of casual but informed analysis as one might imagine. Clearly, Banham still matters in all the ways that count for a traditional intellectual - but Banham still matters in ways that count for an intellectual in the age of social media, too. And the man whose work happily vacillated between the academic and the popular would have appreciated the giddy enthusiasm that's prompted hundreds of people, from dozens of countries, to like and friend him posthumously.

    Banham had plenty of giddy enthusiasm himself, especially for the United States - its culture and technology, its cars and its buildings. After years of observing America from afar in movies and magazines, Banham visited for the first time in 1961. Taken at the age of 39, this trip was, according to his wife, "the realisation of a longheld dream." [1] He returned to the U.S. regularly thereafter, notably to Los Angeles on a Graham Foundation Travel Grant in 1965, before moving to Buffalo in 1976 to teach at the State University of New York. (This was after having taught at the University College London for over a decade.) Four years later, he settled in Santa Cruz to teach at the University of California. At the time of his death, Banham was about to move across the country again, having accepted a professorship at New York University's Institute of Fine Arts.

    In addition to teaching, Banham produced a dozen scholarly books and a steady stream of criticism in publications ranging from Architectural Review and Design Book Review to the Times Literary Supplement and New Society, as well as a handful of radio and television broadcasts for the BBC (Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles, available on YouTube, is the best known). As a critic, Banham is sometimes seen as a more learned (though less glib) practitioner of Tom Wolfe's pop New Journalism; as a scholar, he is viewed as a less staid (though more snarky) heir to Nikolaus Pevsner's partisan history of architecture's recent past. These assessments are on the mark: they usefully characterize Banham's approach to the full spectrum of design in his immediate present. Yet they overlook the relationship of Banham's work to another body of literature that elucidates not only his methodology but also his enduring value and relevance today: travel accounts of Europeans abroad in America.

    Read the rest of the article as it appears on Places - The Design Observer

    Gabrielle Esperdy is associate professor of architecture at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

    Esperdy focuses on the intersection of architecture, consumerism and modernism in the urban and suburban landscape, especially in the U.S. in the 20th and 21st centuries. She is particularly interested in minor or everyday buildings and how social, economic and political issues shape the built environment. Her books include Modernizing Main Street, published in 2008, and the forthcoming Architecture's American Road Trip, which examines how architectural discourse absorbed the ideals and concerns of commercial sphere after World War II.

    Esperdy's work has appeared in the Journal of Architectural Education, the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Perspecta, Architectural Design, and Design Observer, among others. She is an associate editor of multi-volume series The Buildings of the United States, and the editor of the SAH Archipedia, an online resource scheduled to go live in 2012. She is a board member of DesignInquiry and a regular contributor to the DesignInquiry Journal.

  • Housing Questions

    by User Not Found | Mar 12, 2012
    Fill the streets of New Jersey with a logjam of four-story bar buildings owned via portable mortgages. Suspend apartments and municipal offices within a shared tensegrity framework financed by a Florida real estate investment trust. Stack a former Illinois factory with modular bungalows to form a limited equity cooperative of multigenerational immigrant families. In Oregon, populate every other square in a superblock grid with a bestiary of idiosyncratic housing types. Overwrite the boundary between private and public in a California subdivision by misregistering the lines that separate inside from out, yard from street, yours from mine.

    These are the strategies through which five multidisciplinary teams reimagine United States suburbs in projects featured at the Museum of Modern Art exhibition “Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream.” Addressing the foreclosure crisis along with some of the other challenges facing suburbs and their residents, the proposals combine ideas from architecture, urbanism, ownership, and financing to model new scenarios for living, working, and investment.

    This investigation treats housing not only as a design problem but also as a medium of sociability, consumption, and governance—a biopolitical infrastructure. And just as they eschew modernist housing typologies, the teams avoid the model of direct public ownership and financing used for many of the housing projects constructed from the 1930s to the 1970s.

    One prompt for the work was a counterfactual scenario in which, after decades of subsidizing homeownership and affordable housing through market mechanisms and tax incentives, the federal government directed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds toward the construction of public housing. But none of the participating teams took up this invitation to imagine a reinvigorated welfare state. Instead, they crafted public-private development and financing strategies allowing residents to build equity through ownership of one kind or another.

    “Foreclosed” addresses some of the questions preoccupying policymakers and critics today. How to make housing more affordable? More sustainable? More broadly accessible? Can we still count on the thirty-year self-amortizing mortage to expand the middle class? Are there other ways that our structures of housing and finance can mitigate income inequality? Should we count on housing equity to provide social security? Or, following Friedrich Engels, should we reject public housing as a palliative that blocks more fundamental transformation?

    This conversation coincides with a new cycle of scholarship on housing and its history, evident in urban renewal sessions at the 2007 SAH annual meeting and recent JSAH articles on public housing, Jane Jacobs, Robert Moses, and other topics. What are some of the insights from this work? What models could we use to imagine new ways of housing ourselves and one another? What models from other times and places, or overlooked in U.S. history, suggest strategies that move beyond both LBJ liberalism and contemporary neoliberalism?

  • Rise and Shine, Detroit by Andrew Nelson (National Geographic Traveler)

    by User Not Found | Mar 01, 2012
    It's not called a "tug" of memory for nothing: I'm outside Detroit's railroad station, and I instantly recall my mother's gloved hand pulling mine as we rushed through the vast atrium that was inspired by the imperial baths of ancient Rome. We are in a hurry to get somewhere, and Detroit is, too. Even a little boy in the mid-1960s notices the tempo. The Motor City is in motion. We build America's cars. Thanks to Berry Gordy's Motown, the world hums our songs. The city, fifth largest in the U.S. by population, is at the top of its game.

    Today, Michigan Central Station still looks Roman, but it's a Roman ruin. Closed since 1988 and stripped of valuables by vandals, or "scrappers," the empty hulk symbolizes my old hometown's decline, buckling beneath crime, corruption, and events such as the 1967 riots, the 1970s gas shortages, and the rise of Asian auto imports. My family, like others, moved away. A city of almost two million residents in 1950 shrank to 713,777 in 2010.

    To visitors, Detroit's attractions verged on the desperate: Three new casinos corralled gamblers inside windowless rooms; a desultory monorail circled downtown. The city's collapse actually created a new business in "ruin porn," as locals escorted tourists eager to experience the postapocalyptic atmosphere of decaying factories and abandoned offices.

    But Detroit has been down so long, any change would be up. And "up" is why I've returned. Something's happening in Michigan's southeast corner. Call it a rising, a revival, a new dawn-there's undeniable energy emanating from Detroit. America noticed it first at the 2011 Super Bowl. Chrysler debuted a TV commercial with rapper Eminem, star of the film 8 Mile (named after the road that serves as Detroit's northern border). The ad crystallized the city's spiky, muscular pride and won an Emmy, but Detroit was the real winner.

    Read the full story on travel.nationalgeographic.com for a great description of Detroit's architecture, including the Guardian Building where the SAH Benefit will be held on April 21. Story includes a great review of Roast, a popular restaurant in the SAH Conference Hotel.

  • Delhi: Day 11

    by User Not Found | Jan 08, 2012
    Our last morning in Delhi was free, and I took the opportunity to visit some of the older sites in the city. Beginning at the Claridges Hotel, I walked to Safdar Jung’s Tomb, the resting place of a Lucknow nawab who moved to Delhi in his later years. The model of Humayun’s Tomb was certainly evident in the complex, but the more interesting factors were definitely the Lucknow ornamental touches. The site, not attracting the numbers of people that many of the Mughal sites attract, was a nice reprieve from masses of people we had seen at Qutb Minar or even Humayun’s Tomb in the late evening.

    Safdar Jung's Tomb

    I next walked just down the road to the Lodhi Gardens, a complex of tombs, mosques, and gardens that proved to be more popular with early morning walkers. I wandered through much of complex, seeing the major monuments and noticing what Anubha had described to us the day before. The British colonials had cleared all of the fabric around the monuments so that they sat in these gardens, something like follies in an English garden.

    Lodhi Gardens

    From here, what I thought would be a short walk to Purana Qila turned out to be quite a long distance. Nevertheless, I made it to the site and found it and the adjacent zoo packed with people.

    Purana Qila

    Sher Mandal, Purana Qila

    In the afternoon, our group rejoined to go to the Delhi Haat, a designed bazaar that provides a wonderful venue for various craftsmen and craftswomen to sell their products. The variety and quality of crafts was amazing, and I noticed that people had traveled from quite a distance (even Tamil Nadu in the south of India) to sell items here.

    Delhi Haat

    We returned to the hotel for a farewell dinner. The conversations and speeches were full of reminiscences of the past two weeks: we had shared in such incredible adventures, had survived a mini-”plague,” had endured hours on various transportation vehicles, had seen and been inside buildings many of us never thought we would see. And through it all, as Adnan pointed out in his toast, the group remained cheerful and easy-going. It was an experience that I wouldn’t dare condense in just a few short adjectives. I met some of the most incredible people on this trip who shared their thoughts and observations of the things we saw and were graciously interested in mine, too. I felt extraordinarily fortunate every minute of the trip to be with so many thoughtful intellectuals and to share in the experiences and sights. Many toasts were made this evening, all deserving. Two, in particular, deserve to be repeated here. Cheers and many, many thanks to Adnan and Anubha for organizing the trip, for spending such generous amounts of their time, expertise, and efforts in planning, and for their patience and enthusiasm in guiding us through the tight streets and expansive complexes. And, an incomparable thank you to SAH and those who have contributed to the Scott Opler Foundation for making this tour possible for a graduate student and providing an opportunity that I wouldn’t have had for many more years if ever, I am sure.

    Gretta Tritch Roman, Ph.D. Candidate, Penn State University 
    Gretta Tritch Roman is a Ph.D. candidate in art and architectural history at the Pennsylvania State University. She earned a Bachelor of Architecture at the University of Arkansas and her Master’s degree in art and architectural history at the Pennsylvania State University where she completed a thesis titled, “La mise en scène icarienne:  The Construal of Utopian Space in Nauvoo, Illinois, 1849-58.” Recently her research has focused on strategies of eclectic designs and the ways in which varying audiences respond to such buildings, opening discussions that have ranged from Lucknow, India, to Chicago, Illinois. Currently she is working on her dissertation under the working title, “Rivalry, Revivalism, and Ritual: Building the Grain Exchanges of the American Midwest, 1875-1930.”
  • Chandigarh Day: 9 & 10

    by User Not Found | Jan 07, 2012
    by Gretta Tritch Roman on January 7, 2012

    Our morning began with a short walk into the capitol complex of Chandigarh. Though we reached the Secretariat fairly quickly after passing through the guarded gate, we had to wait quite a long time to get permission to enter the building. By the end of the day, we all became fairly accustomed to such waits as we soon found out that security in the capitol complex was tightly restrictive and for good reason it seemed. A decade (or more) earlier, a bomb was detonated in the plaza between the Assembly and High Court. Now the plaza was closed to pedestrian access and a large fence had been erected between the two across the immense distance.

    Le Corbusier: Secretariat (1951-56)

    The complex demonstrates the intensity of the intersection of cultures as it now serves as the capital for two states: both Haryana and Punjab. Though the representation of two provincial states was a more recent development, the city of Chandigarh had always, it seemed, been premised on the difficulty of differences and the negotiation of those differences. From its post-independence conception as a new capital of Punjab (after Partition and Lahore, the capital of the region, was then a part of Pakistan) to the formation of Haryana in the mid-1960s and the division of the buildings into two halves to serve both of the states, the capitol complex illustrates those negotiations. Interestingly, Chandigarh was conceived of by the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, as a nation building tool for the new country. (I won’t go into the long history of the choice of Le Corbusier for the complex’s architect here. To read more about this choice, see Vikramaditya Prakash, Chandigarh’s Le Corbusier: The Struggle for Modernity in Postcolonial India [Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2002].)

    Standing at the front of the Secretariat, the building felt massive and overpowering, but the facade was nicely broken up by the balcony railings and the brise soleil, especially looking at it obliquely. Functioning as the seat of bureaucracy for both states, the Secretariat is divided with the Punjab Secretariat on the left and Haryana’s Secretariat to the right of the entrance.

    The entire complex was conceived by Le Corbusier in his master plan of the city as the head of the new capital. Looking behind us, though, I could not see any of the city. In fact, we seemed to be surrounded on all sides by lush trees and extensive landscape with no buildings. This was confirmed to me as we ascended the large interior ramp that forms a sculptural appendage on the exterior of the building. In fact, I could even begin to see the sculptural hill that Le Corbusier designed at the southern most part of the complex that divides the city from the capitol complex. The ramp was an experience of color and movement that allowed the landscape of the complex to unfold in small pieces through the square punctures of the wall until we reached the roof and the whole of Chandigarh stretched out, never really revealing its gridded plan interestingly (perhaps because the trees had matured).

    Next we visited the Assembly building. (We could not photograph the interior.) Entering through the basement (since the glazed enamel doors at the plaza level are reserved for ceremonial occasions only), we ascended within the vast interior up the ramps to reach the central cone of the assembly chamber. I was unsure of what to expect in this room since photographs are almost always deceptive in conveying scale and size. It was certainly a narrowing space, but the height of the room was most impressive, made so by the skylight; nonetheless, it was an incredibly dark room, making it difficult to understand the space very well. Regardless, there was no doubt that the space itself felt unique, unlike any other I had experienced, and I felt extraordinarily honored to be allowed there. This larger chamber was reserved for the Punjab Assemblies (both High and Low), while the smaller pyramidal chamber was used by the Haryana High and Low Assemblies. We visited this room as well, which proved to be lighter (though admittedly it is difficult to remember from our short time in the room whether this is because the sun came out or the space was easier to light naturally).

    Le Corbusier: Assembly Building (1951-56)

    Moving to the exterior, the parasol canopy was stunning in the golden light. (The sun finally broke through the fog and clouds!) We were free to move around in the portico space, and I found the changing views through cut-outs in the concrete piers animated the modernist concrete box. In fact, it felt almost playful; strange considering the solemness that we had just experienced being inside. Turning around, I could see the Open Hand Monument across the plaza, but we had to get back on the bus and drive to it. The center of the plaza had a large barbed-wire fence across it that prevented any use of the space.

    After visiting the Open Hand Monument and the pit of contemplation that surrounds it, we walked to the High Court hopeful that we could see the interior. Following long conversations and requests (which I can’t even imagine what they had to endure!), Adnan and Anubha returned to our group waiting outside. Turned out that the High Court was actually in session, so we could either enter two at a time (with nearly 40 people that could have been forever) or come back tomorrow. We chose the latter, and departed the capitol complex for other sites in Chandigarh.

    Le Corbusier: Open Hand Monument

    We visited the Le Corbusier Center, which, as the site office for the architects of Chandigarh, it was the first building in the new city. Meeting us at the site, Sangeet Sharma gave us a tour through the building designed by Pierre Jeanneret. Mr. Sharma, an architect practicing in Chandigarh, offered an interesting perspective as he is the son of one of the architects on the project with Corb, M. N. Sharma (and who also became the first chief architect of the city).

    Pierre Jeanneret: Old Architect Site Building

    We finished yesterday visiting Nek Chand’s wonderful, whimsical rock garden. Wandering through alone, I was quite lost for some time. The narrow paths and various follies were packed with people visiting the sculpture garden. Started by Nek Chand, a government worker, in the late 1950s, the garden was kept secret for 18 years.  It was only discovered by authorities in 1975, after it had grown to cover nearly a dozen acres. Public outcry to save the complex prevented its destruction, and it was obvious how significant it has become as a public space just by the extensive use we witnessed on this Friday.

    Nek Chand's Rock Garden

    This morning, on our way back to the High Court we drove through various sectors (15 and 16), noticing that the houses face away from the street, “inward” toward more pedestrian-friendly paths — the modernist mega-block. Taking our turns in groups of ten or so, we were allowed to see several of the courtrooms along the front of the building. We also walked up the ramp behind the large pillars to reach the roof garden. Though it was a windy, rainy day, I could imagine that the thick canopy of the roof would make a nice space in the summer. Also more evident when on the roof, I could see how the shape of the roof canopy funneled the wind, even if it wasn’t entirely pleasant on this particular day! As we moved up the ramp, the Assembly building came into view, and we noticed that the colors of the large pillars on the High Court were in dialogue with the colors of the enamel doors on the Assembly.

    Le Corbusier: High Court (1951-56)

    Next, we visited the College of Art, a building designed by Le Corbusier in the early 1960s. It serves now as the only art school in Punjab. Within walking distance was the City Museum, housing much of the history of the planning and building of the new capital city.

    Le Corbusier: College of Arts

    City Museum

    Our last stop in Chandigarh was the College of Architecture where we were met by Vikramaditya Prakash, who was in Chandigarh with his students from University of Washington for the Chandigarh Urban Lab. He gave a presentation on Chandigarh and some of the work that he and the students had been working on. The focus of his discussion centered on the unbuilt Governor’s House, its proposed replacement with the Museum of Knowledge, and options for other kinds of buildings that might be more suited to Chandigarh in the age of globalization. We were joined later by Sumit Kaur, the current chief architect of Chandigarh, who shared her views of the direction of growth and preservation in Chandigarh. It was a lively discussion cut only too short by our tight schedule and an early evening flight back to Delhi.

    College of Architecture

    Sumit Kaur and Vikramaditya Prakash

    Gretta Tritch Roman, Ph.D. Candidate, Penn State University 
    Gretta Tritch Roman is a Ph.D. candidate in art and architectural history at the Pennsylvania State University. She earned a Bachelor of Architecture at the University of Arkansas and her Master’s degree in art and architectural history at the Pennsylvania State University where she completed a thesis titled, “La mise en scène icarienne:  The Construal of Utopian Space in Nauvoo, Illinois, 1849-58.” Recently her research has focused on strategies of eclectic designs and the ways in which varying audiences respond to such buildings, opening discussions that have ranged from Lucknow, India, to Chicago, Illinois. Currently she is working on her dissertation under the working title, “Rivalry, Revivalism, and Ritual: Building the Grain Exchanges of the American Midwest, 1875-1930.”

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