Trajectories of an Architect’s Design Sensibilities: From Student to Practitioner

Model of architectural design project.
Austellungsbau—Variabel—Transportabel, Architectural model, 1962

The beginning of the fall semester and the nearly overnight return to a bustling and lively campus provides a good opportunity to reflect on the essential thing that we do, which is to educate. Student works are common discoveries in the collections that form the International Archive of Women in Architecture (IAWA) and can tell us either about an architect’s own practice or their methods of classroom instruction. This post will focus on the former, with an eye to the role that archival collections can play in examining design sensibilities within the context of a developing architectural practice.

Drawing showing elevation and site plan sketches.
Concept drawing, Bahamas Nursing School, c. 1985.

One of the most profound ways to understand the progression of the aesthetic sensibilities of a creative professional is to examine their works (including inspirational materials, writing, and sketches) across their career. Looking at materials that span years—or even decades—offers a glimpse into how their style evolved, was refined, stayed constant, or in some cases shifted radically. With architects it is possible to trace the development not only of their design considerations, but also the changes in drawing techniques, enhanced observational skills, and a deeper understanding of spaces. It is often possible to see how they refine and expand their understanding of the outer world, visual culture, and the impact of spaces on the people who inhabit them.

Photograph of architectural model.
Austellungsbau—Variabel—Transportabel, Architectural model, 1962

The Exhibition Hall—Variable—Transportable project was completed by Dorothee Stelzer King while she was an architecture student at the Hochschule fur Bildende Kunste in Berlin, Germany. Completed the same year that she received her degree, the project was based on a first-year design exercise involving the enlargement of a simple shape to create a complex design without adding extra material to the final structure.

Document outlining requirements and development of the project.
Description and requirements of the award-winning portable exhibition hall project.

 

Drawing showing interlocking shapes.
Concept drawing showing how a basic triangle is repeated and extended to create interlocking stars and circular forms that in turn interlock to create flexible, modular shapes.

 

Elevations, site plans, and details.
Elevations, site plans, and detail drawings for Austellungsbau—Variabel—Transportabel.

Ms2013-023, Dorothee Stelzer King, Folder 3Ms2013-023, Dorothee Stelzer King, Folder 3

The Dorothee Stelzer King collection also contains works that the architect completed at various points during her professional career, allowing researchers to study the progression of her designs over time. The series of concept drawings and plans for the Bahamas Nursing School in Nassau, Bahamas, shows King’s attention to understanding how educational spaces and their inhabitants interact. While the drawings show a move away from the more experimental design work seen in Exhibition Hall—Variable—Transportable, they showcase a greater understanding of the practical nature of educational facilities and the importance of proper acoustics, seating, structural elements, and paths of movement through interior spaces.

 

Site plan drawing.
Location plan, Bahamas Nursing School, April 16, 1985.

 

Construction photos.
Construction photographs showing exterior and interior spaces, including structural elements, of the Bahamas Nursing School project.

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Many other student and professional design projects and records can be accessed in the Special Collections Reading Room at Virginia Tech. The finding aid for the Dorothee Stelzer King Architectural Collection can be viewed online at Virginia Heritage. The collection is currently being digitized with funding from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) and will be available in full through the Virginia Tech digital library.

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Native Voices: or, The History of Whitepeople

On September 16, 2016, Newman Library began hosting the Native Voices: Native Peoples’ Concepts of Health and Illness exhibit. The exhibit was developed and produced by the U.S. National Library of Medicine and came here as part of a tour put together by the American Library Association’s Public Programs Office. It will remain on display in the library’s 2nd floor commons until October 25 when it will leave us to continue its tour.

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The Native Voices exhibit on display in Newman Library

This post isn’t really about the exhibit. If you want to know more about it, The National Library of Medicine has a website with tons of info. The reason I mention the exhibit is that it prompted me to look through our collections for items that would complement the exhibit and be appropriate to highlight during Native American Heritage Month (October 10 – November 15). I managed to find some interesting items in our collection of Michael Two Horses’s papers (Ms2006-001). They aren’t spot on with the focus of the exhibit but I think they are worth sharing – especially considering that Banned Books Week happened recently.

Michael Two Horses was a visiting professor at Virginia Tech from fall 2003 until his unexpected death in December 2003. He was affiliated with the Sicangu Lakota and the Wahpekute Dakota. During his time at Virginia Tech he taught as part of the American Indian Studies program, the Humanities Program, and served on the Commission on Equal Opportunity and Diversity. We acquired two boxes worth of his papers following his death including academic and personal writings, research for the classes he taught, the transcript of an oral history he gave, various writing samples, and some artwork.

When I was reviewing the materials in this collection looking for something to share, I came across a letter he wrote in response to an email while he was a professor at the University of Arizona. The initial email took umbrage at some of the texts Professor Two Horses was using in one of his classes. His response was eloquent and well presented. After reading it, I checked and we have copies of all three texts included in the collection! I want to share the letter and show you the texts that prompted the complaints.

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This is the complaint that was submitted to the American Indian Studies program at the University of Arizona. There is a handwritten note from “Shelly” to see her about the email.

Professor Two Horses’s response was a little over two pages in length. As Professor Two Horses indicated in his response, the texts were used to illustrate how elementary texts incorporate stereotypes about Native Americans. These texts illustrate to students how those texts appear to Native American students.

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Page 1 of Michael Two Horses’s response.
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Page 2 of Michael Two Horses’s response.
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Page 3 of Michael Two Horses’s response.

 

 

WARNING: Reading the first two texts can provide a bit of a jolt for Caucasian Americans because (a) they aren’t used to being identified with any sort of modifier (they’re normally just “Americans”), and (b) they aren’t used to reading about themselves in this type of tone. When reading, be sure to think about children’s books about Native Americans – these are spot on parodies of them.

First up: The Basic Skills Caucasian American Workbook

Book 2: 10 Little Whitepeople: A Counting Rhyme

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Here’s the cover of the second book: “10 Little Whitepeople”. It is also embellished with dollar signs as illustration.

Book 3: The Truth About Columbus: A Subversively True Poster Book for a Dubiously Celebratory Occasion

Professor Two Horses’s comments about the third book just speak to the research that has been done into the history of Christopher Columbus and the fact that most American schools taught a limited scope on the subject.

I hope glimpsing these challenged titles was enjoyable for you and made you think a little about the Native American perspective. If you want to see everything they have to offer, we have all three among many other interesting papers from Michael Two Horses in the Michael Two Horses Collection (Ms2006-001). We would be happy to share them with you in our Reading Room.

Benjamin M. Peck’s Civil War Pocket Diaries

Front cover of Benjamin Peck's 1864 pocket diary.
Front cover of Benjamin Peck’s 1864 pocket diary.

To day was spent in taking positions and [feeling?] of enemy

it was soon asertained that the enemy were falling back

troops were immediately started in pursuit.

We were rear guard and held the works in front during the after noon and night.

This was Captain Benjamin M. Peck’s entry in his pocket diary on Saturday May 7, 1864. Accessioned earlier this year, Peck’s 1864 & 1865 pocket diaries make up one of our newest Civil War collections. Digital scans and transcriptions of each diary are available at VT Special Collections Online. The transcriptions for each entry are transcribed as entered into the diary by Benjamin Peck. All original spelling, punctuation, and grammar are maintained in the line-by-line text found under each image.  Brackets and question marks represent areas where the entries are unclear. One prominent example which appears repeatedly in both diaries is, S? This is presumably a nickname for his wife Sarah, but the style and punctuation changes from entry to entry.

Benjamin Peck's nickname for his wife Sarah Peck.
Benjamin Peck’s nickname for his wife Sarah Peck as it appears in the diaries.

Benjamin M Peck was born on October 5, 1838, in Smithfield, Bradford County, Pennsylvania. He married Sarah H. Watkins on April 9, 1863 and after the war the couple would have two children. Their son, Guy W. Peck, was born in 1867, followed by a daughter, Mary A. Peck in 1870. Benjamin entered the legal profession and received his license to practice law before entering the Army. After the war he returned home to Towanda, PA and opened his law office. In 1872 he was elected prothonotary of the local court and served six years.  Then, in 1890, he served as President Judge of the 13th Judicial District of Pennsylvania. Benjamin died on September 9, 1899 and is buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in Towanda, PA.

Peck’s military service began in August of 1862 when he enlisted in the Union Army as part of Company “B” of the 141st Pennsylvania Volunteers Infantry Regiment as a 1st Sergeant. Early on he helped recruit new members for the regiment. On December 10, 1862 he was promoted to the rank of Full 2nd Lieutenant, and then promoted to Full Captain on December 5, 1863. During the Battle of Chancellorsville Lieutenant Peck was wounded in the neck and shoulder by a cannon shot on May 3, 1863. He returned to his unit, after a two month absence, fully recovered from his injuries and was mustered out of the service on May 28, 1865 in Washington, D.C.

The 1864 leather bound, preprinted diary contains two daily entries per page with cash accounts and notes sections in the back of the diary. In 1864 Benjamin M. Peck was the Captain of Company B in the 141st Regiment PA Volunteers. Due to absences, injuries, and illness of other officers he was placed in command of the regiment before being assigned to lead the 1st United States Sharp Shooters. Brigadier General Byron R. Pierce saw fit to place him in charge of the three companies of sharpshooters and he remained in this position until the end of the war. Peck describes battles, skirmishes, picket lines, commands, and other military assignments and engagements in great detail. He notes the various marches and travel routes of his company and records his travels between the Virginia front and his home in Towanda, PA. As part of the Army of the Potomac, Peck recounts the regiment’s campaign in Virginia and the Siege of Petersburg. He lists his men who were wounded or killed in battle, describes court martial proceedings, and even gives an account of the execution of a Union soldier for desertion. Following the 1864 presidential election he enumerates each candidate’s results within the division, which Lincoln won convincingly.

 

Peck's 1865 Pocket Diary
Peck’s 1865 Pocket Diary

The 1865 leather bound, preprinted, pocket diary contains one entry per day with cash accounts and notes listed in the back of the book. This diary continues with the 141st PA Volunteers camped outside of Petersburg in their winter quarters and continues through the end of the war and Peck’s return home. He recounts the fall of Petersburg, the Union pursuit of Lee’s Army of Virginia across the state, and Lee’s ultimate surrender at Appomattox Court House. Peck was assigned to preside over several court martial proceedings and gives details regarding these proceedings and punishments, which include a botched execution of a Union soldier. As in the first diary, Peck provides an account of the daily movement of Union troops and supplies. He gives detailed lists of captured soldiers and artillery, as well as Union wounded and casualty records. As the war nears its conclusion Peck was in charge of mustering out soldiers and kept thorough records of the process. In one of his most moving and emotional entries he recounts receiving the news of Presidents Lincoln’s assassination and describes the mood of the men upon hearing the President died. The entries end in July of 1865 with Peck practicing law in his home town of Towanda, PA.

We hope to have a timeline of date and cities Benjamin Peck traveled through during the war available soon at VT Special Collections Online. Until then, if you’d like to learn more about our Civil War collections or any of our other resources please visit us either online or in person!

Irving Linwood Peddrew, III, First Black Student at VPI

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Sixty years ago in September 1953, Irving Linwood Peddrew, III was the first black student admitted to Virginia Polytechnic Institute (VPI). Everett Pierce Ramey applied to VPI in 1951, but his application was refused because he wished to study business. Black students were considered for admission only if they wished to pursue a curriculum, such as engineering, that was not offered at Virginia State, the black land-grant state school near Petersburg. Once admitted, a black student was not permitted to change his major from engineering to another course of study.

In November 2002, Peddrew did an oral history interview with Tamara Kennelly, University Archivist, in which he spoke of the loneliness of desegregating Virginia Tech. Just this year he released the interview to the public. The interview is available at http://spec.lib.vt.edu/archives/blackhistory/oralhistory/peddrew/

Peddrew was not permitted to live on campus or eat in the cafeteria with the other cadets. He boarded with the Mr. and Mrs. Hoge about a mile away from campus. He had to lug his cadet gear back and forth each day and change in another cadet’s room to be prepared for the meticulousness of military bearing. Several students requested him as a roommate the following year, but that was not permitted.

In the fall of 1954, three more black students entered Virginia Tech: Lindsay Cherry, Floyd Wilson, and Charlie Yates. They too had to live and eat their meals off campus. In 1958 Yates became the first black student to graduate from Virginia Tech. Yates earned his doctorate from Johns Hopkins. He later returned to Virginia Tech and taught first in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and then in the Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering. For more interviews, images, and information about the first and early black students at Virginia Tech, visit http://spec.lib.vt.edu/archives/blackhistory/

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In 2003 New Residence Hall West, which was built in 1998, was renamed Peddrew-Yates Hall to honor Irving Linwood Peddrew, III (on the right) and Charlie Yates.

A Mightier Ring: Bugle or Tin Horn?

Hokies know that each year their activities are chronicled with a Bugle’s call, but how many know that The Bugle, Virginia Tech’s yearbook, was once accompanied by a Tin Horn.

VT's First Women Graduates
The first women graduates of Virginia Tech were (l-r) Mary Brumfield, 1923. and Ruth Terrett, Lucy Lancaster, Louise Jacobs, and Carrie Sibold, 1925

Women were formally approved by the Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College and Polytechnic Institute’s Board of Visitors to be admitted to all courses of study – excluding the military – on January 13, 1921. This motion was approved, unanimously, due in large part, to VPI president, Julian A. Burruss’ persuasive arguments that VPI was in a unique position to economically provide the technical and agricultural training needed by Virginia’s women in the new arenas available to them in the post-World War I society.

Although, the motion to allow women to attend VPI was accepted unanimously by the Board acceptance among the cadets (and some professors) took a bit longer. The co-eds who arrived ready for classes in September 1921 faced cadets who publicly protested their admission and professors who actively doubted the women’s intelligence. Acceptance in extra-curricular activities was nonexistent so the co-eds organized their own groups: a basketball team (at various times called the Sextettes and the Turkey Hens); a Women’s Student Organization; special science, chemistry, business, and biology clubs; the Coed Dramatics Club; and their own yearbook The Tin Horn.

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The 1925 Tin Horn, published when the women who entered in 1921 would be seniors, consisted of hand-drawn pages and pasted-in photographs dedicated “to the spirit of fun.”  Although, billed as the “first and only volume,” subsequent publications of The Tin Horn followed in 1929, 1930, and 1931.  The latter two were professionally printed. It would not be until 1941, 20 years after the arrival of the first female students on campus, that The Bugle would represent women equally alongside the men in their pages.

Special Collections has digitized all four volumes of The Tin Horn. They have also been pulled as part of our celebration of Women’s History Month and are available for viewing in our Reading Room. Whether you visit with The Tin Horn online or in Newman Library make sure to spend some time with Virginia Tech’s leading ladies.