"From Stonehenge to Bryn Mawr: Exploring Architecture"


Mary S. Leahy and James Tanis

From Tutte l'Opere d'Architettura et Prospetiva, by Sebastiano Serlio, 1619.

The opening of Rhys Carpenter Library, the future home of the Archaeology, Growth and Structure of Cities, and History of Art Collections, inspired us to review our holdings of architectural materials and plan a celebratory exhibition in conjunction with the fall opening of the new library. The work of campus architects, from Taylor Hall to the Rhys Carpenter Library, will be highlighted: Addison Hutton, Cope and Stewardson, Mellor and Meigs, Louis Kahn, I.W. Colburn, Philip Chu, Edward Larrabee Barnes, and Henry Myerberg.

The College Archives, a rich wellspring of blueprints, original drawings, photographs, and prints of college buildings, provided enough research and exhibition materials to do several shows. These holdings combined with other rare books, prints, drawings and manuscripts have given us splendid material from which to build the exhibition.

The Barbara Miller Lane correspondence housed in the Archives consists of letters written to her by a number of German architects from the Bauhaus movement, from whom she sought pertinent information on politics and architecture in Germany between the World Wars. Her book Architecture and Politics in Germany 1918-1945 was published by Harvard University Press in 1968. Of special importance are the "Notes on Mrs. Lane's Manuscript" enclosed with Walter Gropius's letter of 19 July 1966.

The exhibition begins on Salisbury plain where Stonehenge, among the most ancient of structures, has roused recorded speculation since an early mention in the 9th century. In 1655 architect Inigo Jones (1573-1652) published an account in which he endeavored to show that the stones had formed part of a Roman temple. Jones' work, and an attack on his proposal by Dr. William Charleton, physician to Charles II, will be among the Stonehenge volumes on display.

The background development of modern architecture will bring together works of the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries. Beginning with the first printed book on architecture, Leon Battista Alberti's 1485 De re aedificatoria, the exhibition will include the first illustrated pocket edition of Vitruvius, the only surviving classical text on architecture. An early facsimile of the first edition of Palladio's seminal work (1570) will join those of other 16th century architects Serlio, Scamozzi, Vignola, and Vredeman de Vries.

A down-to-earth section will focus on Anglo-American domestic architecture, an area of study well represented in the collection. Among many other works, the exhibition will include mid-18th century English work by "practical architect" William Halfpenny and mid-19th century American manuals by Andrew Jackson Downing and Calvert Vaux, concluding with Gustav Stickley's Craftsman Homes and Frank Lloyd Wright's Drawings for a Living Architecture. In 1953, Wright wrote: "Poetry of form is as necessary to great architecture as foliage is to the tree, blossoms to the plant or flesh to the body."

A timely first for us, the architecture exhibition promises to touch on some of the approved and controversial buildings of this and other times. We hope you will be able to visit the show when you are at the College. "From Stonehenge to Bryn Mawr" opens September 26, 1997 and will continue through May 31, 1998 in the Class of 1912 Rare Book Room of Mariam Coffin Canaday Library. The Rare Book Room is open Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 4:45 p.m. Please call ahead for hours during college holidays and Reunion Weekend.

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