December 8, 2010
From Beaux-Arts to Bauhaus: Old student architectural drawings displayed at Allen Library
Some of the best examples of UW architecture student drawings from 1914 to 1947 are on display in two Allen Library locations until March 12.
The drawings come from a 1,100-item collection that includes works by students who became famous practitioners:
- Paul Thiry, one of the earliest modern architects in the Pacific Northwest;
- Minoru Yamasaki, who designed the World Trade Center and the Pacific Science Center;
- Victor Steinbrueck, whose commitment to historic preservation protected Seattle places such as Pioneer Square and Pike Place Market.
There’s also work by George Nakashima, who became an internationally known woodworker; and Ken Andersen, who as an art director for Walt Disney was a key player in films such as Pinocchio, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and 101 Dalmatians.
Begun as a teaching tool and a way to document the architecture curriculum, the collection starts with the School of Architecture founding and continues to the beginning of Bauhaus pedagogy in the late 1940s. (The complete archive includes more than 2,500 drawings, but most created after 1947 are on sturdy illustration board rather than watercolor paper so have not been transferred to Special Collections.) Individual pieces range from tiny sketches to full, 40-by-60-inch renderings.
The drawings came to UW Special Collections in 2006, shortly before renovation of Architecture Hall. They had been stored in the basement of the building and would not have been properly preserved if not moved to Special Collections, said Jeffrey Ochsner, who facilitated the move and helped raise money for preservation.
“This collection includes some of the most important architects in this region. It shows their roots, and how the Beaux Arts mode changed into Modernism,” he said.
If you visit, start in Allen Library South, where some of the earliest drawings are in the glass cases outside Special Collections.
When the UW School of Architecture began, students were first taught to draw three-dimensional objects on two-dimensional surfaces, rendering them in water colors. Thereafter, students were assigned architectural problems that helped them learn neoclassical design as exemplified by Beaux-Arts buildings.
Completed assignments had to include certain elevations, sections of the design and specific details. In the case on the west side of the Special Collections anteroom, note an example of this kind of assignment: a grand dining room executed by Elizabeth Ayer, who became the first woman graduate of the UW architecture program and the first woman registered as an architect in Washington.
Later on, as Modernism took hold, more pragmatic and realistic problems replaced the Beaux- Arts style of teaching and drawing. Among other things, it meant students often used pen and ink to create their drawings.
On the balcony of the Allen Library North lobby, along with the work of five other well-known architects, theres Roland Terry’s drawing of a modern lighthouse. Sharp, high-contrast lines and cantilevering over water make the structure both intriguing and utilitarian.
Repairing, cleaning and cataloging the collection has taken almost five years, led by Kate Leonard, whos in charge of the UW Special Collections Mendery. Nicolette Bromberg, curator of visual materials in Special Collections, has been in charge of a guide which will eventually be online.