Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Grey Villet, photographer. North Dakota Farmers Randy and Lois Oster Speak with Lawyer Activist Sarah Vogel on Their Farm, Which Faces Foreclosure. Outside Wing (Burleigh County) North Dakota. October 1982. LIFE on Google. [The Osters were later evicted from their property and pursued legal proceedings against their bank and then the federal government].

In 1986, Frank and Deborah Popper postulated a Buffalo Commons for rethinking land use in the Great Plains. They suggested that the federal governent's intervention could save the declining region by recasting it as an enormous park, the nation's largest historic preservation project. They have recently enlarged on their original ideas as Buffalo Commons Two, emphasizing that "sustainable land use must support a wider mosaic, spanning a continuum from wilderness to agriculture to urban, of land uses ecologically well-grounded"(Popper and Popper, 2008). Stressing sufficiency and flexibility over excess and uniformity, the Poppers have adopted concepts from economists Ernst Schumacher and Herman Daly and agriculturalists Wendell Barry and Wes Jackson to emphasize ecological restoration and non-market-driven social services. They are currently working on Buffalo Commons Three.

Recently, the New York Times reported that the state of North Dakota, unlike the rest of the country, is experiencing an embarrassment of riches, contemplating what to do with a $1.2 billion budget surplus. The state currently has 13,000 unfilled jobs and not enough job seekers to fill them. One lifelong resident was quoted as saying, “prudence is important at this point . . . North Dakota never gets as good as the rest of the country or as bad as the rest of the country, and that’s fine with us.” To read more, click here.

Want to read more?

Popper, Deborah and Frank Popper. "The Great Plains: From Dust to Dust" Planning Magazine (1987).

_________. "The Buffalo Commons: Metaphor as Method" Geographical Review 89:4 (1999): 491-521.

_________. "The Onset of the Buffalo Commons" Journal of the West 45:2 (2006): 29-34.

_________. "Looking Forward: Adding the Buffalo Commons to the Grasslands Mix." 31 October 2008.

Preservation Today

The New York Times has begun a series of articles --  based on a six-month investigation -- exploring the operations of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. The evaluating body consists of 11 commissioners, whose composition  must include at least three architects, one historian, one city planner or landscape architect, one real estate agent and one resident of each of the five boroughs.  The Chairman, Robert B. Tierney, holds ultimate authority over the process.  The commission does not document the resolution of each nomination, nor does it develop statistics related to how many nominations it rejects or defers.  To read Robin Pogrebin's first piece, click here.

In New Orleans, many Mid-City residents are lamenting a recent decision to appropriate a sizable portion of the neighborhood for a new VA-LSU medical corridor.  The Department of Veterans Affairs announced yesterday that the area bounded by South Galvez Street, Tulane Avenue, South Rocheblave Street and Canal Street would be the site of the new VA Medical Center.  The State of Louisiana announced that the area bounded by South Galvez Street, Tulane Avenue, South Claiborne Avenue and Canal Street would be the site of the new LSU Academic Medical Center.  

In response to the announcements, activist Karen Gadbois, writing on her Squandered Heritage blog, addressed the related FEMA Section 106 process and contrasted it with her experience in Mexico.  Richard Moe, President of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, commented:

"In selecting these sites, the VA and LSU have made a serious error. They chose alternatives that will not only be the most time-consuming, costly, and complex, to implement, but will needlessly destroy a historic neighborhood where residents are struggling to rebuild their community in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. . . We strongly urge the VA and LSU to reconsider, and take a look at other less harmful alternatives."

For those interested in the latest preservation news, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the online news forum Preservation Today are excellent sources.  

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Cold War Modern

Two months ago, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London launched its Cold War Modern exhibition:  Last weekend, the V & A hosted a conference focused on Cold War culture; this Friday (28 November), the museum is sponsoring a symposium that brings together architects, critics and curators to discuss experimental architecture in the 1960s.   If you can't visit London before the exhibition's closing 11 January 2009, at least check out the website, which features an interactive timeline riddled with architectural drawings, photographs and models. 

Above:  Kenneth Adam, Design for the War Room in Dr. Strangelove (1962). Felt-tip pen on card.  Additional section added to drawing, 1999.  Collection Sir Kenneth Adam, London.  Didactic from exhibition.  


Last week, I posted some UPhO images of raised southwest Louisiana coastal houses, and this early twentieth-century Key West, Florida, photograph reminded me of them. It is one of nearly 5,000 images that comprise the Dale McDonald Collection that is available online via the Florida Memory/State Archives portal. McDonald (1949-2007), was a firefigher and photographer born in Key West, who amassed an extensive collection of photographs and slides.

Last year, architect Alison Brooks received the Manser Medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) for her Essex Salt House, an elevated structure built on the floodplain of the North Sea. Brooks based her design -- which the RIBA judges praised as "breathtaking" -- on modernist post-War beach houses in the United States. To read/see more, click here.

Photograph: unidentified photographer. The House on Stilts, End of the NW Channel, undated. Florida Memory/State Archives of Florida. Viewed 25.11.2008. [URL:]

Monday, November 24, 2008

Tableaux Vivants: Street with a View

I am enamored of Robin Hewlett and Ben Kinsley's Street with a View, filmed in May 2008 along Sampsonia Way in Pittsburgh's Northside.  Its reinterpretation with Google Street View just appeared this month.  

For a fuller description of the project, click here.

Urban Tapestries is a similar project that was conceived and developed by Proboscis with collaborators the London School of Economics, Birbeck College, Orange, HP Research Labs, France Telecom R& D United Kingdom, and the British Ordnance Survey.   The platform allowed people to build relationships between places and associated narratives, pictures, recordings, and videos.  The projects are documented in a variety of media, connected by spatial memories.   

The University of Massachusetts in Lowell recently applied for a new patent that will help individuals create two- and three-dimensional maps of information searches.  Digital results may be superimposed in an interactive visual interface designed to harness human spatial memory. 

A former colleague once told me the story of a highly regarded professor, who, knowing he was going blind, began to construct a building in his mind, an expansive multi-storied structure with many rooms.  In certain rooms, he stored certain types of knowledge. The pathways he took from one space to another were traceable, years of accumulated knowledge that once had occupied thousands of individual notecards were now retrievable by accessing these mental spaces.  To read more about historic "Memory Palaces" click here.

Read more in the TSA Library:  

Donlyn Lyndon and Charles Moore.  Chambers for a Memory Palace.  Cambridge, MA:  MIT Press, 1994.  NA 737.L96 A3 1994

Photograph:  tENTATIVELY a cONVENIENCE is a Mad Scientist / d-composer / Sound Thinker / Thought Collector. Whenever he has the energy he devotes himself to "undermining 'reality' maintenance traps"— which naturally made him an ideal contributor for Street With A View! Also a maker of costumes, tENT made an appearance in his Bird Brain persona.  Street with a View URL:  Viewed 24.11.2008.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Citywide Master Planning for New Orleans

Herbert Gehr, photographer. Seven members of the Omaha City Planning Commission holding a meeting in front of an aerial map of the city showing the Missouri River as they plot the position of 17 major projects to improve their city. LIFE July 1947 on Google []

The Times-Picayune reported on Saturday that New Orleans is a shrinking city, one that needs to develop "smart decline" strategies for its future.   To read more, click here.  Master plans certainly abound in post-Katrina New Orleans:  Citywide Master Plan, Orleans Parish School Board Master Plan, Archdiocese Master Plan, Public Libraries Master Plan.  To find the data for the planning, here are the main links:

New Orleans Master Plan []

Orleans Parish School Board Master Plan []

New Orleans Public Libraries Master Plan []

The next citywide meeting for the New Orleans Master Plan/Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance (CZO) has been announced for 13 December 2008, to be conducted at the Behrman Gym, 2529 General Meyer Avenue.  This will be the fourth in a series of such meetings, and is intended to focus on the theme "How We Prosper."

Keep checking the New Orleans Master Plan website for future updates.

ARCHITEXT Exhibition

The Southeastern Architectural Archive has recently installed a new exhibition, Architext: The Unity of Architecture and Typography, co-curated by Keli Rylance and Kevin Williams.

This exhibition covers a wide range of architectural letter forms, from the Renaissance and its introduction of classically-derived alphabets in the service of architecture and typography to the mid-twentieth century's attempts at a universal alphabet. Letters devised by Albrecht Durer, Geoffroy Tory, Johann-David Steingruber and Berthold Wolpe are included, as are the lettering designs of New Orleans architects Moise Goldstein, William Nolan, Douglass Freret, Albert Wolf, Herbert Benson and George Riehl.

Exhibition closes 8 May 2009.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

LIFE Photograph Archive on Google

LIFE and Google have collaborated to make millions of digitized photographs available online. Many of these images were never selected for print publication, but they record nearly 150 years of historical figures, events, and places. To search the archive, click here. The metadata is pretty sparse to non-existent but it is great to have the images publicly available. Caution: broad subject searches will cap out at 200, but hopefully this is something they will improve.

Image above: John Dominis, photographer. Cathy Curtis Stirring a Pot in the Kitchen of Her Home, Designed by Her Father, Nathaniel Curtis. New Orleans, LA. LIFE 1965.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Charity Hospital Redux II

George Riehl, Rendering of Weiss Dreyfous Seiferth Design for Charity Hospital, as photographed by F.A. McDaniels of New Orleans, n.d. Weiss, Dreyfous Seiferth Collection (Gift of George Riehl), Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

The Foundation for Historical Louisiana, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the Louisiana Landmarks Society have identified Charity Hospital as an endangered building.

As reported in two August posts, the Foundation for Historical Louisiana as charged by House Concurrent Resolution 89 of the 2006 Legislative Session, commissioned an extensive analysis of the viability of Charity Hospital to provide 21st-century medical care to the region. International architectural firm RMJM Hillier conducted the feasibility study and reported its fervent belief that Weiss Dreyfous and Seiferth's Charity Hospital could be renovated more quickly and more economically than a new LSU/VA Medical campus could be constructed on the Regional Planning Commission (RPC) site.

Where is the RPC site? It is an extensive 71-acre area of Mid-City New Orleans -- bounded by South Claiborne and Rocheblave, and Canal Street and Tulane Avenue -- and includes 250 homes and small businesses. The National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Preservation Resource Center have put together a flickr set of affected properties. To see them, click here. The site includes important modernist buildings SOM's Pan-American Life Insurance (1951) and Charles Colbert's Olivetti Showroom (1966). Where buildings are concerned, people are concerned: The story of the Mid-City homeowners reminds me of the historic Wimawalas reported earlier this year.

The New Orleans Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the New Orleans Committee to Reopen Charity Hospital, Louisiana ACORN, United Teachers of New Orleans, and C/3 Hands Off Iberville are sponsoring A Call to Action on Friday, November 21st at 12:30 pm in front of City Hall, at Perdido Street and Loyola Avenue.

Garden Library Gift

Detail of Woodrow Ogden, photographer. Ante-Bellum Louisiana Home, Afton Villa, St. Francisville, Louisiana. n.d. Printed by H.N. Conray, Inc., New Orleans.

The Southeastern Architectural Archive is home to the Garden Library of the New Orleans Town Gardeners, a local garden club affiliated with the Garden Club of America and the Smithsonian Institution.

Last week, through the efforts of New Orleans Town Gardener Ruthie Frierson, the Library was the recipient of an important gift from Genevieve Munson Trimble, who has spent nearly the last forty years preserving the gardens of Afton Villa Plantation. Ms. Munson Trimble has generously donated her gardening journals, both the originals and copies, as well as landscape architect Neil Odenwald's related reports, to the Garden Library.

Although the plantation home, shown above, was destroyed by fire in 1963, Trimble's vigorous preservation efforts have resulted in a revitalized series of terraced gardens and a romantic garden amidst the ruins, the latter inspired by Vita Sackville-West's Sissinghurst Castle Garden, Kent. Trimble's journals provide a wealth of information, from records of hardy (and not-so-hardy) plant varieties to accounts of personally significant events, wedding together her landscaping and her life.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Blight in the Atomic Age

National Paint, Varnish and Lacquer Association. Film still from The House in the Middle (1954). Full film available from the Prelinger Archives:

The subject of Cold War Architecture has come up on this blog before, in part prompted by a childhood spent in North Dakota, home at one point to an estimated 1700 nuclear weapons. Children statewide were still doing "duck and cover" drills into the 1980s. In 1999, the Brookings Institution identified the five states with the largest nuclear arsenals; North Dakota came in fifth behind New Mexico, Georgia, Washington and Nevada. Since disarmament, historic preservationists have been able to save North Dakota's last Minuteman missile launch complex, which will open summer 2009 outside of Cooperstown as the Ronald Reagan Peace Through Strength Missile Silo Historic Site.

1950's-1960's concrete and asbestos advertisements housed in the Southeastern Architectural Archive evidence the Cold War preoccupation
with blast-proof architecture. Paint manufacturers also emphasized the atomic-prophylactic benefits of their products: The National Paint, Varnish and Lacquer Association produced The House in the Middle (1954) to demonstrate that the unkempt unpainted house was more susceptible to nuclear annihilation.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

UPhOs #4-5

Unidentified photographer, Louisiana Views: Southwest Coast, undated. Miscellaneous Photographs Collection, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

I mentioned in earlier posts that the Southeastern Architectural Archive is home to an extensive collection of partially identified or fully unidentified photographs that document the Louisiana built environment. These two photographs are from a series of views of the state's southwest coast, all black-and-white, all square-format images mounted to embossed cardstock.

A year ago, the New York Times published Robin Pogrebin's article on the post-Katrina architecture of New Orleans, referring to it as "posthurricane vernacular" and naming individual styles: The Defensive; The Defiant; The Do-Good.

More recently and more expansively, Chicago-based Alexander Trevi has posted a series of essays and/or pictures addressing coastal building on his landscape architecture-focused Pruned blog. To read more, click here.

Any help in obtaining more information about our photographs would be much appreciated!

Allegory of a City (1939)

Film credit: American Documentary Films, Inc. The City, Part I (1939). Prelinger Archives, Moving Image Archive.

Sound familiar?

"Year by year our cities grow more complex and less fit for living. The age of rebuilding is here. We must remould our cities and build new communities better suited to our needs."

Lewis Mumford, writing for The City (1939)

The Prelinger Archives is an extensive collection of ephemeral films that was established in 1983 by Rick Prelinger. 2,000 of its 60,000 films have been made available online via the Internet Archive. For those interested in geography, cartography, architecture and design, it is a wonderful resource.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Utopian Theory/Utopian Practice: Call for Papers


Utopian theory/Utopian practice
Confluence, tension, intersection, incommensurability

34th Annual Meeting
Blockade Runner Hotel
Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina
October 29-November 1 2009

The Society for Utopian Studies invites you to submit abstracts for any of the following:

• a paper (between 15-20 minutes)
• a panel (usually of 3 papers)
• an informal panel on a topic (e.g., 3 presenters, or a presenter and 2 or 3 respondents)
• a presentation or performance of creative work on any topic related to utopia

Scholars and artists from all disciplines are encouraged to present on difficulties and opportunities afforded by the theme “utopian theory/utopian practice.” How do we understand the relationship between theory and practice in a field where the practice might seem improbable and the theory “merely theoretical.” How utopian can theory be if it cannot be put into practice? How utopian can practice be if it continually strays from theory? We also welcome papers on other aspects of the utopian tradition -- from the earliest utopian visions to the utopian speculations and yearnings of the 21st century, including art, architecture, urban and rural planning, literary utopias, dystopian writings, utopian political activism, theories of utopian spaces and ontologies, music, new media, or intentional communities.

Please send a 100-250 word abstract by May 10, 2009 to:

Claire P. Curtis
Department of Political Science
66 George St.
College of Charleston
Charleston SC 29424

Or e-mail submissions to (please put “sus submission” in the subject line)

As you submit your abstract, please indicate if you have:
A. any scheduling restrictions
B. audiovisual needs (overhead projector; DVD/VHS player)
C. a need for a written letter of acceptance of your proposal, or whether an e-mail acceptance will suffice. Changes in the time and date of your panel will not be possible after panels are scheduled; requests for AV will not be honored unless you submit them with your original abstract.

For inquiries about the program e-mail Claire Curtis at

For information about registration, travel or accommodations, please contact the Conference Coordinator, Peter Stillman at

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Allegory of a City (1921)

In 1927, the American painter Charles Sheeler (1883-1965) was first commissioned to visually document the Ford Motor Company's River Rouge plant, and thereby established his reputation as an architectural photographer. Seven years earlier, Sheeler had collaborated with photographer Paul Strand (1890-1976) to develop an homage to New York City, a short film called Manhatta. Their work, considered the first American avant-garde film, has recently been digitally restored with a new score by Donald Sosin. To watch the pre-restored film via the Metropolitan Museum of Art's portal, click here. To see the new restoration, you need to go to the Museum of Modern Art November 14th or 15th.

The creation of the restored version -- conducted by Lowry Digital Images of Burbank, California -- was dependent upon the use of the earliest extant copy, a 35-mm duplicate made in England in 1949. According to the Library of Congress, nearly 80% of the American silent era films have either been permanently lost or the extant copy is in unrestorable condition.

Image above: Charles Sheeler and Paul Strand. Film still from Manhatta (1921).

Friday, November 7, 2008

Cisterns Fantasia

A few months ago, I posted an unidentified photograph of a New Orleans cistern. Here is a suite of New Orleans cisterns with fanciful caps, an image from the Keystone-Mast Collection at the University of California-Riverside Museum of Photography, available through the Online Archive of California (OAC). The photographer, subjects, date and exact location are unknown. The stereograph was manufactured by the Keystone View Company, which became one of the largest commerical stereograph producers in the country by the early twentieth century.

B.L. Singley of Meadville, Pennsylvania founded Keystone in 1892 to market photographs he had taken of the French Creek flood. The company continued to manufacture educational photographs and slides until 1963, when it was purchased by the Mast Development Company. The Southeastern Architectural Archive has an extensive collection of architectural lantern slides, many manufactured by Chicago's McIntosh Stereopticon Company.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

New Orleans in 1950

A view into the crystal ball, authorized by the Krewe of Rex in 1899:

"New Orleans is now the most healthful city in the entire Mississippi Valley. The mild winters exclude those maladies known only to the rigorous climates further north. Yellow fever and kindred plagues have long since ceased to exist. The perfect drainage, perfect water supply and perfect sewerage have relegated those dreadful maladies to the oblivion which so well becomes them.
Since the building of the Nicaragua canal in the early part of this century, the commerce of this port has arisen yearly in the most rapid manner. The first year after the canal was built the imports and exports of New Orleans increased over 20 per cent. The building of the canal, together with the perfect sanitary condition that the city had been placed in, made it the principal port in the country.
[. . .]
One of the most important cities of the United States, in point of the business it carries on, is Havana. Although Cuba has not been a part of the union quite fifty years, yet it is in every sense of the word an American city. Even the Spanish language, spoken there exclusively fifty years ago, has become almost a forgotten tongue. The great volume of commerce carried on between the states situated on the continent and Cuba, goes through New Orleans.
Porto Rico has also become thoroughly American. The great resources of that now powerful state lay dormant after the island had been acquired by the United States through the Spanish American war. The importance of the island may be shown best when it is known that Porto Rico is represented in the Congress at Washington by thirteen congressmen.
The states last admitted into the union, those along the northern portion of South America, have also grown and developed most marvelously within the last few years. Mexico, that is, the territory known during the last century by that name, but now comprising eleven states of the union, has also become one of the most enterprising sections of this great nation. All this development in the gulf region of the two continents has added to the greatness of the city of New Orleans." [pp. 60-63]

Want to read more?

Whyte, J.H. New Orleans in 1950, being a story of the carnival city, from the pen of a descendant of Herodotus, possessing the gift of prescience. New Orleans: A.W. Hyatt, Co., 407 Camp Street, 1899. Louisiana Collection, Special Collections Division, 976.31 W 629

Whyte also addresses modern homes, office buildings, and hotels.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Master Plan for New Orleans

From Bruce Eggler's piece in today's Times Picayune:

"New Orleans voters narrowly agreed Tuesday to amend the City Charter to give the city's forthcoming master plan the force of law, meaning that all zoning and land-use decisions will have to conform to the plan.

The master plan is supposed to guide the city's development for the next 20 years, creating a framework to promote goals such as economic development, better housing, improved infrastructure and environmental quality.

The City Planning Commission has hired a team of consultants to create the plan, which is expected to be finished by late 2009."

Public meetings are planned for November 8-13th. For more information, click here.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day 2008

William M. Vander Weyde. Uncle Sam. c. 1900. negative, gelatin on glass. George Eastman House Collection on flickr.