Context and Evidence

For the next assignments, we'll turn to matters of context and evidence.

A. As we discussed earlier in the term, each building lives in many contexts, from the client's trajectory in accommodating a given function, to the evolution of the local setting, to changes in building technology, among many others. College and university buildings, as representational and somewhat public buildings that participate demonstratively in a species of public culture, usually participate in a national and even international conversation about architectural form.

This conversation is implicit in the sequence of well-known buildings within specific building types, where we can be confident that the design of building X and building Y influenced building Z shortly afterward, or that X, Y, and Z all reflected the new importance of certain values embodied in them but generally less important in buildings ten or twenty years older. The conversation is also tracked in period publications, especially once the first national architectural journals begin in the mid-1870s, sometimes in explicit critical discussion there or in more popular journals of their time, or even in the choice of published designs where there is less incisive commentary.

Our goal in this assignment is to contextualize some targetted BMC buildings into the generative dialogue about their specific building type, tracking this dialogue resourcefully as best we can. Using the Avery Index, Poole's Index to 19th-century periodicals, and any other tool that works, we'll try to follow the discussion and the published examples, or where lacking those, simply coeval examples, to place our subject building tightly amid the dialogue of forms at the time.

(Using Penn's Fine Arts Library will probably be required for its rich collection of journals, but remember that you'll probably have to use the on-line indexes here before you go.)

We'll break into four teams of two, each adopting a chronological period, to

The periods will be:

A: 1865-1890
start with Taylor Hall (1879-84)

B: 1891-1920
start with Pembroke Hall (1892-94)

C: 1921-1950
start with Goodhart Hall (1926-28)

D: 1951-1975
start with Erdman Hall (1960-65)

Each team will look at a selected BMC building of their period and place it amid the context of the architectural dialogue of their time, specifically amid prominent examples or discussions that date within a few years of the design of the BMC building, or up to a couple years later. The team should be able to find some good published comparanda or discussion from that five-year period, or good examples that were started then, placing the BMC building amid at least a handful of comparabe designs. Discuss the BMC building realtive to the others in terms such issues as its disposition of functions in plan, its stylistic imagery, its relation to the larger arrangement of structures and the landscape, or other isasues that seem important regarding the design.

Collect images and especially revealing contemporary quotes and write this up in two pages, and we'll later weave these into a webpage.

Next week, we'll look closely at these BMC buildings' plans and evolution, and will start to catalogue the surviving drawings of each building. We'll meet at the Ward building at BMC next Thursday at our usual time.