23 March 2010

ideal villas

As we rode in the cab from the Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel to Rathbun's Restaurant for supper last Saturday night, we passed an interesting building. There it rose on a bluff overlooking downtown Atlanta, rising over the multi-lane street. The style is gentle deconstructivism (if that's not an oxymoron). The view from the big windows (toward the West) must be glorious at sunset.

After I got back to Alfred, I sent a note to VRA-L to see if anyone knew anything about the building. Frank Jackson, Emory librarian who had done some of the local arrangements for the VRA conference responded with a real estate advertisement for the house which is a 1929 or 1930 garage-like building with a villa atop. Now if you know me very well or not even very well, you know I love the works of Palladio and he is, of course, Mr Villa. Frank also led me to the post-pessimist who blogged about the house in 2006. (The pictures above are from the blog entry.) And that led to another Atlantan who blogs about unusual architectural sightings. Love this social networking. If somebody with an extra half million buys the house, I'd love to come visit in real time.

And thinking about villas and ideal homes, I was reminded again of the plan that Arnold Klukas drew for me twenty-five years ago. Arnie was a medievalist and architectural history grad student at Pitt when I worked there just after library school. We loved to talk about architecture and things medieval. He one time doodled up a residence for me, actually "being a library with house attached." The house started around the remains of a 1350 cloister and the last part was a new brutalist garage from circa 1970. Of course, by now, there would be new wings in pomo and decon and Ungers- or Krier-influenced late modern, and perhaps a neotraditionalist development down the road, out of sight (I hope).

19 March 2010


Seen in the English Ceramics gallery at the High Museum of Art, Atlanta ... and then a couple hours later, on my plate at the VRA dinner and awards ceremony:

17 March 2010

plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

Three or four times today here at the VRA conference, the thought has gone through my head that our modern world is just a faster version of yesterday's world. Or we're going back.

At the Transitions lunch in the spectacular (even on a cloudy day) revolving Sun Dial restaurant at the top of the Westin, someone was talking about how the art faculty members were all building their own collections of digital images as the university collections were being eliminated. In the old days, a professor probably collected the slides they needed and they were just kept on the shelves of their office. Then folks got the brilliant idea of building a collection and there was economy of scale. Now the collection is being dismantled, partly because of ARTstor and other image databases but also because of economics. Now we're seeing individual collections again.

Peter Brantley of the BookServer project at the Internet Archive gave the opening plenary speech. He talked about how information gathering is focused on discovery rather than content. But research has always been discovering the information you need. Social networking does bring it to you but you're really just doing the same kind of thing, just faster. I think he was trying to argue that the networking actually did change the information. Brantley talked about the redundancy of some of the paths and did pass on a wonderful quote he'd heard from someone about trying to keep up and worrying about missing something. Someone had said "if it's really important, the news will find me."

The redundancy of effort came up again in the blogs and wikis panel later in the afternoon. Not everyone will find the same path and information will fly around and you'll maybe find out what you need to know. But it's still just trying to find what you need to know. And I really can't buy Brantley's contention that content isn't the most important thing. Even when he said that sharing is more important than content, it's not worth sharing if it's not meaningful. Or, maybe, the receiver of the content will make something valuable of it even if it isn't inherently valuable. (This is probably all bunk ... as he changed his Facebook status to something else that didn't matter.)

Brantley started out by talking about everyone as publishers and communicators. I couldn't help but think of Benjamin and his writing on authorship (not that I really understand it). Maybe I should have just kept thinking about the modern architecture that we'd seen on the morning walking tour rather than trying to process what they'd said at the sessions. When I saw Dustin Wees, I said I really should do up some SAHARA cataloging, like the First Presbyterian Church in Bath.

15 March 2010

J. Wrey Mould and Caravaggio

A week or so ago, I went over to the nearby town of Bath, New York, because I thought I remembered seeing a bookstore on the main street. I didn't find a bookstore but I did find a nice church -- the First Presbyterian Church on the village square. I took the picture above and a couple others. When I got home, I googled the church to see if their website identified the architect. The website said the architect was John Wrey Mould (aka Jacob Wrey Mould) and that the new building was done in 1977. That didn't seem right so I did some more investigating. Mould (1825-1886) worked with Olmsted and Vaux on Central Park and he designed the Belvedere Castle and other monuments. Discovering that was pretty exciting because I'm very fond of the Belvedere Castle which sits high above the Turtle Pond. The church, by the way, was done in 1874-1877 and there's a Tiffany rose window done in 1895. They are doing church tours on Wednesdays in July and August so there will clearly be another expedition to Bath this summer.

Not sure why the variation in first forename. At other points in history, folks have Americanized their names to make them less foreign-sounding. John seems more "normal" than Jacob but I don't know if folks were trying to be less German in the middle of the 19th century.

Completely unrelated (I think) is a small note in the Week in Review section of last Sunday's New York times. The note said that art historian Philip Sohm has determined that Caravaggio has overtaken Michelangelo as a subject for academic study. When I googled that, I found that Michael Kimmelman had written about it on March 9th.

08 March 2010

reading historical novels seems to run in the family

My current book is In the company of the courtesan by Sarah Dunant. It's set in Italy in the 16th century. The courtesan Fiammetta and her dwarf companion, Bucino, were in Rome for the sack of 1527 and ran off to Venice and are working at restoring their dignity and fortune. Fiammetta had her hair cut off by the invaders and both she and Bucino are rather the worse for wear.

A few books ago it was Roma by Steven Saylor, not that I liked it very much. But it was historical fiction. Sometimes I'd rather read just plain old history, like the history of Habsburg Spain that I read after Bill and I got back from Spain and I had felt pretty ignorant of those guys in the Prado portraits that lived at the Escorial. And then one of those Habsburgers goes and sacks Rome.

This afternoon, I decided to try to make some order of the boxes and detritus in the front upper bedroom. There is a box of books that belonged to my great-grandfather and great-grandmother. There's a Lew Wallace novel in two volumes -- The prince of India, or, Why Constantinople fell (1893) -- and also Darkness and dawn, or, Scenes in the days of Nero by Frederic W. Farrar (1891). Why, gosh, I'm tempted to try one or both of them ... not that there aren't also many other books on the waiting list.