• 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.”
  • Delhi: Day 8

    by User Not Found | Jan 05, 2012
    Today our group was light in number as several of us had fallen sick to some bug that moved its way through our group with a vengeance! Our morning began at the bottom of Raisina Hill between India Gate to our east and the Secretariats immediately to our west. Again, the fog prevented us from seeing the disappearing and reappearing Viceroy’s Palace (Rashtrapati Bhavan) behind the rise of Raisina Hill along the axis of Rajpath (formerly Kingsway) — a wonderful contentious story of competitiveness between Edwin Lutyens (master planner of New Delhi and architect of the Viceroy’s Palace and India Gate) and Herbert Baker (architect of the Secretariats). It is worth a read in Robert Irving’s Indian Summer: Lutyens, Baker, and Imperial Delhi (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981). We walked up the hill to see the Secretariats closer, and though we were not allowed to tour them, we could walk into the entrance to stand under the main dome of the North Block.

    Raisina Hill and Secretariat

    Herbert Baker: Secretariat North Block (1928)

    After a lovely outdoor lunch at the Lodhi Gardens, we drove to the diplomatic area to visit the United States Embassy and Ambassador’s House (1959-62) designed by Edward Durell Stone. We could not photograph the buildings, leaving our cameras on the bus. The buildings were beautifully maintained. We toured the Ambassador’s house finding that the interior had been modified to enclose the dining room and side rooms, previously open across the double-height interior hall. The Embassy’s interior was a wonderful surprise with a large courtyard pool surrounded by offices on all sides. It had a playful feel with the stepping stones across the pool and the wooden doors to the offices. In fact, it gave me more of a sense of a resort than an office building.

    We departed the Embassy for the train station. Our group of forty must have been quite a difficult task for our Delhi administrator, Piyush, to move us through the massive crowds of people meeting arriving passengers and departing for all parts of India. The train station was immense, or so it felt. And, we thought we wouldn’t have to wait long for our train, but again, the fog descended onto Delhi. Our train and every other train moving through the capital was delayed by hours. We finally reached Chandigarh after midnight.

    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.”
  • Delhi: Day 7

    by User Not Found | Jan 04, 2012
    Our morning started in New Delhi at the India Gate, the prominent monumental arch that stands on the great axis of the Rajpath (known as Kingsway in Lutyen’s master plan) with the Rashtrapati Bhavan (the President’s House, previously called the Viceroy’s Palace) at the opposite end.

    Edwin Lutyens: Rajpath and India Gate (1931)

    Anubha explained that the monument was built to commemorate the 90,000 Indian Army soldiers that died in World War I and the Third Angl0-Afghan War, and as we moved closer, the names that are inscribed on the bricks became apparent.

    It is an interesting monument, more so than I realized in studying it in photographs, as it is much thicker than I had imagined it to be. In fact, it seems also cubic in form as we moved around it. Anubha also pointed out the large sculpture motifs on either side of the gate, which I had not seen in photographs or noticed. At first glance, they appeared to be similar to the ancient Roman bronze pinecone in the Cortile del Belvedere in the Vatican. However, Anubha explained that from an Indian cultural standpoint, this elongated object in a short vase was reminiscent of the Purna Kalasha, a short vase with an arrangement of mango leaves and a coconut on top. At Qutb Minar yesterday, Tapan pointed out the recurring motif of the pot at the base of several of the columns, noting that it is often used as a decorative motif in South Asian architecture. On the India Gate, it was, as Anubha observed, a meeting of two cultures where recognizable motifs overlap in layers of meanings and references.

    We could not walk through the arch because it now serves as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier for the Indian Army and is guarded and roped off. Also on axis and very near the India Gate is the chattri (or small canopy) that once held a statue of King George V. The statue was removed following independence (now in Coronation Park), and the chattri remains empty. It now serves as only a visual marker along the axis to the Rashtrapati Bhavan which we couldn’t see for the early morning fog from India Gate but was our next stop.

    Raisina Hill and Secretariat

    Photography was not allowed inside the President’s house, so here I can only post my exterior images. Our guided tour led us through mostly the central part of the building where we saw the Marble Hall, once the primary reception area of the palace but now housing statues and paintings formerly in the British Raj collection. Next, we saw the gift room where gifts received by the President from various distinguished visitors were displayed. Also on exhibit were some wonderful etchings by Thomas and William Daniel, images that once served as the lens for most Britons onto this distant country. My favorite room of the visit was unfailingly Durbar Hall, an enormous ceremonial space that served as the British Throne Room during the colonial period. On the way to the gardens, we visited Ashoka Hall (State Ball Room), the dining room, and the west courtyard. (To see a glimpse of these rooms on the tour at theRashtrapati Bhavan website)

    Edwin Lutyens: Viceroy's Palace (1912-31)

    In the afternoon, we visited the Parliament Building (1921-26), designed by Herbert Baker some years after the Viceroy’s Palace and the Secretariats were completed but continuing some of the same motifs as seen on the earlier buildings such as the bell and chain on the columns (a motif that can also be found on columns at the 16th-century site of Fatehpur Sikri built by Mughal emperor Akbar).

    After lunch we visited the British Council designed by Charles Correa and completed in 1993. Leading a tour through the courtyard and ground level spaces of the building, Anubha explained that Correa had designed it as a journey through Indian civilization. Beginning at the back of the courtyard at the fountain, we moved from early civilizations through the pergola into the “char bagh” (literally “four garden” — the Persian garden layout used by the Mughals prominently in their tomb designs) of the courtyard’s tiles and fountain. Moving to the interior, we saw the floor patterning that recalled the pattern of the piazza of the Campidoglio in Rome (read as the era of European influence) to the exterior front facade representing contemporary India in a mural designed by Howard Hodgkin.

    Charles Correa: British Council (1993)

    In the evening we gathered at the India International Centre (designed by Joseph Allen Stein) for a presentation on the efforts to establish Delhi as a Heritage City through UNESCO. There was an interesting discussion following the presentation where questions of whether the guidelines for world heritage sites were too Euro-centric to apply to Delhi. For instance, many people would have to be displaced in order for the sites to have the amount of area around them required. Also, the presenter noted that there is a different perception of time that does not align with notions of linearity but rather time as cyclical.

    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.”
  • Delhi: Day 5 & 6

    by User Not Found | Jan 03, 2012
    We arrived in Delhi after the longest two hour flight! Northern India is notorious for fog in the winter, and yesterday was only exceptional in that it was foggy enough to make our plane’s pilot circle for an hour before landing briefly in Lucknow to refuel and try to re-land in Delhi. Eventually, though, we arrived, loaded our new tour bus, and joined Piyush, our local tour administrator. In a race against sunset, we rushed to Humayun’s Tomb (1570).

    Humayun's Tomb Gate

    It was a most ethereal experience to walk through the gateway into the garden. The light in the foggy sunset glowed orange almost, and it seemed like a magical introduction to Delhi. Here, we were visiting the beginning of the Mughal tomb garden, the model for the Taj Mahal.

    We were privileged to have Ratish Nanda (the Projects Director for the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and the preservationist at both Humayun’s Tomb as well as Babur’s tomb in Kabul) join us to discuss the site and the conservation philosophy followed in its restoration/preservation. The idea is to replicate what was there before employing craftsmen of traditional techniques of building. For instance, the lower level surround had been covered in concrete, but it was now restored using materials such as lime mortar mixed with egg whites to give the whitewashed surface.

    We began this morning driving through Lutyen’s New Delhi, seeing India Gate and the princely or maharaja palaces nearby. We continued driving north toward Shahjahanabad — now considered to be Old Delhi, though this was in fact only the most recent “Old Delhi” of six others before the British colonial New Delhi of the twentieth century. Driving through one of the thirteen original gates of Shahjahanabad, we reached the Jama Masjid, built by Shah Jahan between 1644-58. It remains the largest mosque in India. Again, we had a lovely foggy morning so that the tips of the minarets sometimes disappeared, and the building had a pleasant quietness about it.

    Jama Masjid (1656)

    From the mosque we descended the large staircase to wind our way through the narrow streets of Shahjahanabad that smelled pleasantly of incense and cooking food. Much of this area had been rebuilt since the first Indian War of Independence in 1857 after which the British cleared much of this area surrounding the Red Fort. Along the way through this area, we visited an alley that appeared to be separated and more quiet than the more commercial narrow streets, learning that it was known as jeweler’s row with nine households of jewelers and a Jain temple at the end of these street.

    Jeweler's Alley, Old Delhi

    Exiting the denser areas, we arrived at Chandni Chowk or “Moonlight Square,” the central street of Shahjahanabad that leads to the main gateway of the Red Fort. Before reaching the fort, we stopped briefly to see the courtyard of an abandonedhaveli or urban palace, such as those discussed by Jyoti Hosagrahar in her book Indigenous Modernities: Negotiating Architecture and Urbanism (London: Routledge, 2005).

    Chandni Chowk

    19th-century Haveli, Chandni Chowk

    We continued along Chandni Chowk to the Lahori Gate of the Red Fort, built by Shah Jahan after he returned to Delhi from Agra in the mid-seventeenth century. Anubha led us through the various buildings of the fort, discussing each building’s function and significance in courtly life.

    Red Fort, Lahori Gate (1639-48)

    Departing Old Delhi, we ended our tours for the day at Qutb Minar, the oldest city in Delhi, established during the late twelfth century by some of the first Muslim conquerers in India. Led by Mahmud Ghurid from central Asia, this ruler established the area but did not stay in Delhi, leaving his “slaves” to rule these new territories. Joining us at this site, Tapan Chakravarty (Professor of Interior Architecture and Design at Pearl Academy of Fashion in Delhi) led us through the ruins from the Quwwat-al-Islam (Might of Islam) mosque to the enormous Qutb Minar and the madrasa on the edges of the complex. It was a site that I had been looking forward to enormously, and I was not disappointed in seeing the semi-erased faces on the re-used Hindu-temple capitals in the mosque. It was the epitome of intersection of cultures that draws my interest so intently.

    Qutb Minar and Quwwat al-Islam Mosque (begun 1199)

    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.”
  • Dhaka: Day 4

    by User Not Found | Jan 01, 2012
    What an extraordinary way to spend the first day of a new year: at the Parliament Building designed by Louis I. Kahn. We began the tour at the bottom of the grand, expansive stair that extends southward toward the old city, looking up to that singular iconic form that each of us already knew well from photographs.

    Louis I. Kahn: Parliament Building (1962-84)

    However, its austerity belies the tumultuous history that both marks and forms its making over the more than twenty years of construction (1962-84). In fact, there is little in Bangladesh that isn’t both marked and formed by the same circumstances and consequences of Partition in 1947. Before we ascended toward the building, Adnan discussed the beginning of this complex and the imbalance of power between West Pakistan (where the new nation’s capital was located) and East Pakistan. In attempting to placate brewing nationalist sentiment in Bengal, the government, located in West Pakistan, the provincial capital complex was proposed for Dhaka. Of course, within the next decade, East Pakistan did gain independence and the complex became the center of the new democracy and an emblem of the region’s struggle to nationhood. Adnan also discussed the choice of Louis Khan as architect, noting the earlier invitations to both Le Corbusier and Aalto.

    Looking south toward the city from the Parliament Building

    Front entrance, public basement entrance below

    Professor Shamsul Wares joined us on the tour as we entered the building from the basement since the front doors of the building remained closed. We began the tour of the interior in the library, a space that is supported by a single column reminiscent of the Diwan-i-Khas at Fatehpur Sikri.


    As we moved through the ambulatory spaces around the assembly chamber, the walls continued to animate with the formal plays of shapes and light. Throughout the building, we were surprisingly allowed to photograph — a treat none of us really expected (I think) and an allowance made only very rarely if ever in the past twenty years! (To our ambassador, Dan Mozena, and Adnan we have to thank for their requests and charm!)

    The only space we could not photograph was the assembly chamber. The height of the room was certainly impressive, and only made more so by the dramatic winter sun that came through the hidden windows under the umbrella concrete canopy. Professor Zainab Faruquin Ali who had given a presentation on the climatic efficiency of the building two nights earlier joined us on the tour as well and, also a praised singer, sang the national anthem demonstrating the clarity of the acoustics in the room. After a visiting the prayer room, we were treated to a quick snack and chai in the canteen area of the building.

    Prayer Space

    We spent most of the early afternoon exploring the remainder of the building’s spaces, moving to the exterior at the rear and at the water level looking onto the red-brick Parliament Hostels.

    We ended the tour at the entrance hall which is soon to become the museum and gift shop, once the building is reopened for public tours, and we were especially surprised when our hosts offered to open the front doors for us to exit — another allowance that I believe is extraordinarily rare!

    After lunch we toured the hospital designed by Kahn and within the master plan of the capital complex. Like the Parliament building, the exterior is composed of layers of walls with geometric openings that change as you move by and through them. The interior spaces were organized around courtyards that offered respite from the traffic and noise of the streets.

    Louis I. Kahn: Suhrawardi Hospital, Sher-e-Bangla Nagar

    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.”
  • Dhaka: Day 3

    by User Not Found | Dec 31, 2011
    by Gretta Tritch Roman on December 31, 2011

    Today we left the city to drive north. Our destination was about 75 miles from Dhaka, and as we drove through the diplomatic zone toward the edges, the landscape continuously changed. We moved from the density of north-central Dhaka to the more open but also walled compounds of embassies and diplomat residences. It was difficult to determine when we actually left Dhaka (as it is in most cities). The height of buildings certainly decreased, and the shops, packed closely together, were noticeably directed at the construction industry that was booming on the edges. The focus of building appeared to be mostly garment factories that rose anywhere from four to ten stories. As buildings gave way to fields, I began to get a sense of the agricultural backbone of Bangladesh that I had heard about but could hardly experience within Dhaka. Interspersed among the fisheries and the rice fields were brick kilns with massive amounts of bricks set out on the flat plain to dry before firing. We passed through several small villages along the way narrowly dodging both cycle and auto rickshaws, carts, other tour busses, and tractors.

    Upon arriving in Mymensingh, we disembarked the bus on the Bangladesh Agricultural University campus at the Academic Building designed by Paul Rudolph between 1965-75. After meeting several faculty members in the atrium of the building, Adnan discussed the history of the university and its role in the development of higher education in Bangladesh after Partition in 1947. The building of the university campus interestingly occurred just before, during, and after the independence of Bangladesh from Pakistan in 1971. In the context of a what Adnan described as the “diplomatic theatrics of the Cold War” the Bangladesh Agricultural University at Mymensingh was one among many institutional projects in East Pakistan that received aid from the United States (mostly to counter any potential influence from the USSR). In Bangladesh, such institutions were seen more as a part of a nationalist project that promoted education in the region.

    Paul Rudolph: Academic Building, Bangladesh Agricultural University (1965-75)

    The Academic Building demonstrated Rudolph’s sense of modernism translated to tropical climates. Organized around a large central courtyard, the building’s classrooms and offices all opened to this space. The stairs served as circulation and connection across the courtyard as well as sculptural bookends of sorts to the long outdoor space.

    Academic Building, Atrium

    The faculty we met discussed the building in terms of its climatic considerations, noting that many of the devices designed by Rudolph worked well such as the orientation of the building to the prevailing north/south breezes for continuous airflow and the louvres on the classroom windows that allowed cross-ventilation. But, they also noted that it was nearly uninhabitable during the monsoon season when the courtyard’s central circulation offered little protection from the heavy rains. Additionally, the salinity in this rain water tended to cause the exposed bricks of the building to disintegrate and break apart. (The interior of the courtyard had obviously been painted a bright yellow to counter this problem as well as to promote more light.)

    Academic Building

    We walked from the Academic Building to the nearby Library Building, designed by Richard Neutra a couple of years before Rudolph was invited to design the larger master plan of the campus and some of the more prominent buildings.

    Richard Neutra: Library, Bangladesh Agricultural University (1965-75)

    The building was a more orthodox modernism, and in discussing the facility with some of the library patrons we learned that many people preferred this building, especially in the monsoon season. Since we were there at the most pleasurable time of the year with neither extensive heat or rain, all of these observations seemed hard to imagine. Nonetheless, it became apparent that Rudolph’s sense of tropical adaptation was suited best for only a short time of the year.

    Library, Central Stair

    After a very interesting meeting with the vice-chancellor of the university with whom members of our group discussed preservation and significance of the campus buildings, we visited a student dormitory, also designed by Rudolph. The primary organizational feature of these buildings were, too, the courtyard.

    Paul Rudolph: Dormitory, Bangladesh Agricultural University

    Dormitory Courtyard

    The last building we visited before leaving Mymensingh was the Auditorium (designed by Rudolph) which was designed to hold around 1700 people, making it one of the largest in Bangladesh.

    Paul Rudolph: Auditorium, Bangladesh Agricultural University (1965-75)

    The drive back to Dhaka began very pleasant as we watched the sun set over the fields and Marc Goldstein shared some of his personal experiences as a student and friend of Louis Kahn in New Haven. Tomorrow is our day to see the Parliament building, but that seemed to be nearly unattainable as we sat in the notorious traffic outside Dhaka for hours. Finally reaching the hotel, we (somewhat exhausted but nevertheless in good spirits) toasted in the new year over a much anticipated and tasty dinner.

  • Dhaka: Day 2

    by User Not Found | Dec 30, 2011
    We began the morning on a bridge crossing the Buriganga River, the birthplace of Dhaka. The city, once a small Mughal trade outpost in the seventeenth century, expanded dramatically as Adnan explained, when the Mughal governor, Islam Khan Chishti, made Dhaka the new provincial capital of Bengal in 1610.

    Buriganga River

    The subahdar, Chishti, came to the area likely to establish landholdings in the richly fertile region and, following Richard Eaton’s thesis, the establishment of Islam as the predominant religion flourished on this frontier of the Mughal empire. Without becoming too mired in the debate, Eaton dismisses many of the reasons put forward to explain the phenomenon of a largely Muslim population that is surrounded on all sides by Hindu and Buddhist regions. Suffice it to say, according to Eaton, Islam grew in the region as an integral part of an agriculturally developing Bengal rather than a product of forced conversion or mass migration. [See Richard Eaton, The Rise of Islam and the Bengal Frontier, 1204-1760 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996)]

    Old Dhaka

    Throughout the following centuries the city grew northward from the river, a trend that continues, but remnants of Old Dhaka remain in the narrow, twisted corridors of buildings near the river. As it was a Friday in a predominantly Muslim city, most of the shops had not opened, and the streets were quiet with only a few people moving about on early morning errands. It was most likely a false impression of the normal weekday in old Dhaka, but nonetheless we could gain a sense of the layers of residential living, commercial activities, and religious shrines, temples and mosques that are so common. Although the capital of the Bengal province shifted to Murshidabad in the early eighteenth century, trade continued to be a vital part of Dhaka’s economy. Evidence of its global nature remains in some of the French and Portuguese street names spotting the old city as well as monuments such as the Armenian Church we visited. Begun in 1791, the church remains in use behind the low walls that separate the cemetery from the street.

    Armenian Church (begun 1781)

    Armenian Church Cemetery and Gate

    Next, we walked back toward the river to Ahsan Manzil, built by Nawab Khwaja Abdul Goni in 1872 and named after his son. Though the building was closed because it was Friday, we were allowed to enter the grounds and see the exterior of the palace complex. Most striking was the sprawling staircase that extended toward the river from the main building.

    Nawab Khwaja Abdul Goni: Ahsan Manzil (1872)

    After some difficulty but with an enormous amount of skill, our bus driver wove through the old streets, taking us farther north in the city to Dhaka University. Our first stop was Curzon Hall (1904), an interesting comparison to Ahsan Manzil. Built by the British as a town hall for the Viceroy (though this is debated by some who claim the building was originally the library for Dhaka University), the building of Curzon Hall marks the reaction to the growing nationalist sentiments in Bengal at the turn of the twentieth century.

    Curzon Hall, Dhaka University (1904)

    Adnan explained that the decision to partition Bengal into West Bengal and East Bengal/Assam (1905-11) was a strategic administrative tool both to divide the region and to monitor such growing nationalism. He pointed out the symmetry of the plan combined with the popular Indo-Saracenic aesthetic that culled from various Mughal elements. And, here again, we see the Bengali elements, such as the verandah, once imported by Mughal emperors to North India, now returned to Bengal translated and overlaid with political and cultural subtexts.

    We continued on to the Teacher-Student Center (1962) by Constantinos Doxiadis to find an alumni reception that spilled into the wonderful interior green mall of the complex. Surrounded by a cafeteria and guest house, an auditorium, and multi-storied student union, this mall was a welcomed relaxing space in the bustling city outside its walls. Most impressive about the complex was how Doxiadis responded to the climatic conditions of the region within the aesthetics of modernism.

    Teacher Student Center, Dhaka University

    The relationship between interior and exterior, however, was even more pronounced and fluid in Muzaharul Islam’s College of Arts and Crafts (1953-55). The language of modernism here was certainly more poignant after learning Islam’s expectations of it. Islam went to the University of Oregon only a few years after the India/Pakistan Partition in 1947. Like Gandhi, he did not agree that religion should be the basis of separation and promoted the austerity of modernism as an architectural language free of any such associations. The underlying assumption, as Adnan so rightly pointed out, is the belief that architecture can influence society. Islam is a powerful figure in Bengali modern architecture whose buildings and influence are everywhere in the city.

    Muzaharul Islam: College of Arts and Crafts, Dhaka University (1953-55)

    After lunch, we visited the National Museum, which was packed on this Friday afternoon with families and teenagers. In the evening, we were treated to a variety of presentations at BRAC University. The President of the Institute of Architects Bangladesh, Mobasher Hussein, welcomed us both to the reception and more largely to the country of Bangladesh. SAH Representative, Ken Breisch, responded with gratitude and kind words. The US Ambassador, Dan Mozena, talked about the magic of Bangladesh and why the country is important to the US. Vice-Chancellor of BRAC University, Anin Shah, spoke about water issues the country faces. Professor Abu Sayeed M. Ahmed (who had joined us earlier in the day) gave an overview of Bengal architectural history, and Professor Parween Hassan followed with a discussion of the architectural language that has developed in Bengal. Professor Shamsul Wares (recognizable to our audience from the movie, My Architect) discussed contemporary architecture in Bangladesh. Professor Zainab Faruquin Ali ended the presentations with her discussion of the environmental point of view of Louis Kahn’s Assembly Building, which we are to visit the day after tomorrow.

    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.”
  • Study Tour: Three Capitals: New Delhi, Chandigarh & Dhaka - Day 1

    by User Not Found | Dec 29, 2011
    I arrived in Dhaka in the early evening welcomed by hearty mosquitoes and a beautifully foggy purple and orange sky. On the short (distance-wise) ride from the airport to the hotel, I immediately had a sense of the density that composed the city. Dhaka’s population, stated officially to be around 15 million people within 618 square miles (that is roughly 24,272 people per square mile), is nearly unfathomable, and the traffic that is an inevitable result was a succinct introduction to the city. Superficially, the street seemed like madness, chaos, a planner’s nightmare. But, as we inched along beside every imaginable mode of transport, I realized: I was experiencing a sort of order that was entirely unfamiliar. Vehicles were within centimeters of one another, and yet drivers and pedestrians seemed to trust one another that nothing would touch. There were no scrapes or dents near us (though I am sure that can’t be too uncommon of a circumstance in such traffic), and I witnessed no road-rage. Perhaps this sort of traffic is so common, it isn’t worth the energy expended to yell or slam fists on the steering wheel.

    We arrived at the hotel a few hours later, missing the welcome dinner. Introductions among the group would have to wait until tomorrow. But, to quickly introduce myself here, I am a second-year Ph.D. student in Art History at the Pennsylvania State University. With the generous award of the Scott Opler Travel Fellowship by the SAH, I was able to join this incredible tour to Bangladesh and India organized and masterfully led by Adnan Morshed (Associate Professor, School of Architecture and Planning at The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC) and Anubha Kakroo (Architect and Design Consultant, New Delhi). My research interests have focused on issues surrounding eclecticism in architecture, from commercial buildings in nineteenth-century America to imperial palaces of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century South Asia. Most intriguing about this research has been exploring the cultural exchanges demonstrated in such design choices, and it was this factor that prompted my interest in this particular study tour. The designs of the three capitals — Dhaka, New Delhi, and Chandigarh — all point to often delicate and contentious issues evident in the intersections of culture. Though I have had the fortune to study these cities as a part of my graduate education, little will compare to actually visiting them, walking the streets and boulevards, and standing inside these iconic buildings.

    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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