31 October 2012

Lewis & Clark Branch Library

architect: Frederick Dunn
art glass: Robert Harmon of Emil Frei Studio
location: 9909 Lewis and Clark Boulevard, Moline Acres, Missouri
date: 1963

The Lewis and Clark Branch Library is the architectural and artistic jewel of the St. Louis County Library system. The design of the building surpasses the other branches both functionally and aesthetically. It features an innovative structural system that provides a wide open floor plan with few fixed columns. The Lewis and Clark theme of the library is carried out in a thoughtful, representational way that appeals to children and on a more abstract level for adults.

Fred Dunn's Lewis & Clark Branch Library, 1963. (Photograph © 2012 Andrew Raimist).

Based on my recent visits, the library appears to be well used and much loved. When I was taking these photographs, many of the library patrons asked why I was there taking pictures. I explained that there was a chance the building could be torn down. Without exception, they expressed their dismay that this valuable community resource would be replaced.

People arrived by means of a range of transportation modes: automobile, bus, bicycle, on foot and by skateboard. There were a wide range in the ages of the patrons, from children who had clearly finished school earlier that afternoon to seniors using the computers to perform searches by computer.

The building is modest and unassuming from the street. It's a low slung rectangular solid with a brick base and glass top. The roof slopes gently toward the back of the site. The most distinctive element of the facade is the colored art glass that adorns some of its panes, primarily located at the eastern end of the facade. The colorful display features clearly legible identifying text in addition to prominently featuring standing images of Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and Sacagawea. If one heads eastward on Lewis and Clark Boulevard, you will be headed toward the riverside location from which their journey across the North American continent began in 1804.

Beyond it's didactic function, the position of the major art glass elements helps direct patrons toward the main entry located on the east building face. In fact, each of the three figures is subtly oriented toward the east. Both Lewis and Clark are gazing toward the east, while Sacagawea is actually offering directions to visitors pointing them in the same direction.

A series of rectangular "dashes" extends from the main facade around the corners to the east and the west connecting these sides visually and conceptually. These brightly colored windows occupy the only operable glazing on the facade: horizontal, rectangular windows. In a sense, the building invited patrons to engage with the glazing by offering these low tilt-in hopper windows.

The glass facade is remarkable in its simplicity and sensitivity. The aluminum framing is kept to a minimum dimension and the glass is held nearly flush with the brick partition wall below. We understand this exterior wall as a non-structural skin based upon the manner in which the clearly visible steel columns and beams are kept free of the glass and brick wall. Emphasizing this disjunction, the columns are located on the center of individual glass panes. There's no attempt to disguise the structural system. On the contrary, it is exhibited proudly in a no-nonsense manner that might even be characterized as solidly Midwestern, if not emblematic of Missouri's "Show Me" attitude.

The glazing creates a clerestory that wraps the entire building offering clear views from inside to out and vice versa. In this way, patrons are constantly reminded of the weather, sunlight and exterior conditions in a way not unlike the way that Lewis and Clark might have viewed the skies over the prairies for hints of oncoming storms.

Main facade facing Lewis & Clark Boulevard. (Photograph © 2012 Andrew Raimist).

The combination of art glass with large text allows the facade to serve multiple purposes. In one sense, it functions almost as a kind of artistic billboard advertising the building's basic purpose as well as visually marking the building with its namesake figures almost as if they were religious icons. There's a sense in which the facade acts as a kind of storyboard for children whereby they can be told the story of the remarkable adventures of the Corps of Discovery at the direction of President Thomas Jefferson who believed understanding the landscape in all of its richness–cultural, scientific and aesthetic–was essential to the future of our United States. It was in connection with his monumental Louisiana Purchase that the expedition was launched and it has become the source of iconic legends connected with the foundations of our nation.

Detail of rendering of Meriwether Lewis on the main facade. (Photograph © 2012 Andrew Raimist).

While the scholarly Lewis is shown with paper and quill taking notes and making drawings as a record of their travels. The large plants that surrounds his coon skin capped head reaches around and over him to point visitors toward the east in another reminder of the building's orientation to history and for the more routine purpose of entering the library. Lewis' figure is seated and clothed in robes suggesting both Michelangelo's Moses as well as the gaunt, bearded figures of El Greco.

William Clark with his long gun and game he's caught (view from library interior). (Photograph © 2012 Andrew Raimist).

Clark stands erect holding his long gun in one hand and displays a creature that he's captured in the other. His figure is ready for action and appears clad in animal skins not unlike those that Sacagawea wears. With his knees and legs exposed, he is clearly the more active figure of the two men. The beast he's bagged has been rendered with an artistic resemblance to Picasso's fragmented figures in Guernica suggesting the impending violence the white race would bring to the indigenous peoples of the area. Indeed he gazes at Sacagawea almost stoically with a sense of dynamism and violence that contrasts perfectly with her symmetrical, peaceful Madonna-like figure.

Sacagawea with child on her back with Clark and beginning of metaphorical "red path" (view from library interior). (Photograph © 2012 Andrew Raimist).

Of the three figures, she's the most heavenly and otherworldly. Surrounded by signs of peace and life (dove in flight) and immortality and renewal (peacocks perched on branches), Sacagawea carries her son Jean Baptiste Charbonneau on her back. Like a representation of the Madonna and Christ, the child appears to understand its role in communicating the peaceful intentions of these foreign explorers in the untamed lands of the American west.

Between Clark and Sacagawea, a red path appears which meanders across the facade suggesting their wanderings in the wilderness and the sometimes confusing doubling back that their journey experienced.

Detail of panel representing Sacagawea with her name, folds of her clothing and a plant (view from library interior). (Photograph © 2012 Andrew Raimist).

While the namesakes of the library are explicitly named in the building's name (along with the boulevard on which it is located), Sacagawea's name is rendered in a thin modernist font over an amorphous plant below her pointing hand. This detail helps reveal the special qualities of the enameled glass employed in creating this unique mid-century modern installation. The problem with using standard stained glass is that it tends to be primarily visible from only one side (either from the interior during the daytime or at night when the interior is lit). The enameled glass allowed the figures to read clearly from inside and out during a wide range of lighting conditions. The alignment of the figures on the interior and exterior faces of the glass vary in a way that creates a palpable sense of depth.

Representation of a bison under the "library" text above and the meandering red path below (facade view). (Photograph © 2012 Andrew Raimist).

The bison, an iconic figure of the American West, is rendered in the manner of an ancient cave painting. Its outline is precisely delineated, while some of the other marking are wonderfully child-like. Like the other major figures of the composition, the bison charges toward the east as if to say, "Get thee in to the library!"

Operable hopper window on the interior of the main facade with the artist's inscription reading, "Emil Frei Assoc. St. Louis". (Photograph © 2012 Andrew Raimist).

Fred Dunn developed a remarkable talent for creating understated, yet innovative architecture. The Lewis and Clark Branch Library is one of his best last works. He is perfectly happy to create a functional, beautiful work of architecture without feeling a need to declare his creative genius through his flair for original, startling form. He allows the building to be exactly what it needs to be. The reading room and book stacks are closest to the street and ensconced under the soaring ceiling above. The ceiling slopes gradually down toward the rear of the building where the librarian's offices and work spaces are located and a lower second story with community spaces can be found.

View of flexible, open plan interior with grid of steel beams overhead. (Photograph © 2012 Andrew Raimist).

Of course daylighting is a major driver of the architectural form in this structure. It informs the building's overall configuration and highlights its artistic decorative elements. There is a sense in which this building is a concatenation of two works of modernism: Phillip Johnson's Glass House and his solid brick house. Dunn uses brick where it performs an excellent backdrop for bookcases and desks. The glass begins from a consistent horizontal datum located above head height providing a continuous clerestory around the building's perimeter. It not only lights the interior, provides views of the sky and trees outside, but also highlights the building's structure and its isolation from the enclosure.

Section perspective view of library. Main facade (facing south) at right. [3D model created by Xiaoyang Gui, Washington University graduate architecture student as part of the history/theory seminar "Mid-Century Modernism in St. Louis"].

The SketchUp model with its roof removed reveals the ingenious way that Dunn has deployed the structural system. There are only two free-standing columns visible. The other pair of column are embedded in brick screen walls located to the south of the main entry and the loading dock. These two screen walls provide several advantages. They serve to define the reading room as a defined space separate from the rest of the programmatic requirements of the library. They also help to control gusts of air from entering that space. In addition, they help to create a smaller scale, more intimate space adjacent to the two other major decorative glass installations in the building.

View of building model with roof removed. Main entry at right. Loading dock at far side (directly opposite). [3D model created by Xiaoyang Gui, Washington University graduate architecture student as part of the history/theory seminar "Mid-Century Modernism in St. Louis"].

The line of yellow and red dashes that run around the building in the operable hopper windows lead to the two functional building entries: the main entry on the east and the loading dock for books and other library materials. The east-west orientation of this axis which is aligned directly adjacent the building's centerline knits together multiple meanings in the context of the building. Over the main entry is an abstract maze of red paths set into yellow and white zones. This formal emblem symbolizes the starting point of Lewis and Clark's journey across the unknown lands to the Pacific Ocean and invites library patrons to enter a world of intellectual adventure of the mind.

Decorative glass panel over the main entry. View partially obscured by subsequent interior soffit and exterior roof. (Photograph © 2012 Andrew Raimist).

Upon entering the library, patrons would look across the building and see the intricate panel of art glass located over the loading dock. At this moment, there would be a sense of recognition, if not epiphany, that they are traversing an intricate path of exploration just as Lewis and Clark did in 1804. How many buildings are able to incorporate purely functional spaces like a loading dock into an integrated artistic program that ties the architecture, historic theme and circulation patterns together into a meaningful whole?

Decorative glass panel positioned over the book loading dock. The main entry is aligned directly to the east. (Photograph © 2012 Andrew Raimist).

The bronze plaque inside the main entry on the brick partition wall located to your left is a beautiful and simple evocation of the period and the aesthetic intentions of the building and the organization: Provide a simple, clear, beautiful useful place for the public to access books. What could be a better definition for a library?

Bronze plaque inside the main entry with the architect and board of directors. (Photograph © 2012 Andrew Raimist).

03 June 2012

Isadore Shank, Architect

Following is a blog post from the course "Mid-Century Modern Architecture in St. Louis" at the Sam Fox School for Design and Visual Arts taught by Andrew Raimist and John Guenther. The following entry was composed by Andrew Raimist.

Today our class visited two houses designed by Isadore Shank: the Shank House and the Zerman House. The Shank House was designed and built around 1940, while the Zerman House was from 1958. While both houses are clearly "modern" there is a great distance between them intellectually and philosophically.

Isadore Shank, Shank House, circa 1940.
The focus in the Shank House seems to be more on the planes and material textures than on the volumes. The design of different surfaces with contrasting materials or textures tends to break down our reading of the volume as a consistent piece of three-dimensional geometry and forces the viewer to pay more attention to the separate surface textures, colors and surfaces in trying to understand the architect's intentions.

The Zerman House seems much more easily legible and readable in the sense that whether you look at the house from the street, from the side, rear or interior, it's organization and structure are clearly evident. There is a similar interest in using contrasting planes and materials, but the palette used is more limited and more "logical" in the sense that brick masonry suggests mass, solidity and privacy and it performs in that way. Similarly, the glazing is used in a way that offers clarity of vision and structure, allowing us to see the actual wood framing of the house which extends from inside to outside. In this way, the house has a greater sense of transparency and honesty of expression than the Shank House.

Isadore Shank, Zerman House: view from Family Room toward Entry. Photograph by Andrew Raimist.

One of Shank's preoccupations seems to be with issues of privacy. It appears in many of his designs through the use of screen walls and layered compositions that don't reveal the entirety of the structure from an initial glance. The sense of protection seems to be of special importance with respect to the relationship between the street and the house interior. The Shank House is more closed and disarming to the visitor, while the Zerman House offers a clear sense of entry and arrival and welcome with the covered walk and extensive glazing adjacent to the main entry which allows visitors to see into the main public space of the house. If a party were going on in the house at nighttime, that would be evident to anyone driving by, while I'm not sure that would be so clear for visitors to the Shank House (unless the party spilled out onto the porch).

Isadore Shank, Shank House, facade, circa 1940.
The front/side porch is an unusual feature of the Shank House. It functions in a way like historical porches on the fronts of many American homes where occupants could sit outside to enjoy good weather and be available to passersby. There's a sense of this kind of "display" and sense of public space in the way the porch is clearly visible from the street and to visitors arriving at the house. From the viewpoint of the house itself, I imagine it functioned very much like an American "back porch" where friends and family would gather for meals and conversation. Since the street is a cul-de-sac and basically private, there was never a great deal of traffic going by. The result was that the family could count on a reliable sense of privacy even when outside on their front porch.

It is tempting to view this sense of openness in relation to Shank's political interests in communism as a form of social organization. In the prewar years in the Soviet Union (prior to Stalin), there seemed to have been a clear sense of revolutionary spirit which extended from political sensibilities to an acceptance and desire for new forms of architecture which would embrace and embody these beliefs. Clearly Shank had particular views on the relationships between individuals and how they might more properly relate and cooperate with one another. The discrimination he faced being a Jew in a relatively tight-knit, conservative St. Louis community likely caused him frustration at the way that people would hire one another based upon irrelevant factors rather than based upon skills, experience and ability.

Aleksandr Z. Grinberg. The House of Culture and Science in Novosibirsk, Russia, 1931. From "Perception and Critique of the Architecture of Novosibirsk, 1920-1940."

So the question arises whether I'm projecting my own peccadilloes onto Shank or whether there is a legitimate connection between his political beliefs and how they might have influenced or effected his conceptions of architecture. When viewed through the widest lens, it seems almost ludicrous to try to conflate politics and architectural form, however ultimately the architect has to have some preconceptions about the way people could or should behave toward one another. Architecture functions as the framework within which such relationships and interactions take place.

In making the decisions about where to place a wall and how to create openings in them, there are assumptions that an architect makes with respect to how those separated spaces will allow for interaction or provide for privacy. While people may disregard or actively seek to undermine the constraints that architecture puts in their way, there are nevertheless many assumptions that an architect makes in deciding how to configure a plan. This is particularly true in the case of a residence where the architect knows something of the personalities and peculiarities of the owners. Many such factors are likely lost to history in being contained only in the conversations and memories of the individuals involved. Drawing specific conclusions with regard to particular clients is bound to be filled with hypotheticals and assumptions.

In the unique case where an architect designs a home for himself and his family, there is a presumption that there is a greater freedom to design the structure the way he or she envisions to be correct or ideal. Of course what constitutes the ideal at a given time will be subject to change as time passes and experiences accumulate. An architect may well be his own harshest critic with the punishment being forced to live with his own decisions (or "mistakes").

Isadore Shank, Shank House proposal (unbuilt), circa 1940.

For Isadore Shank, having built and lived in one home throughout his life, we don't have the ability to speculate meaningfully about what he might have designed for himself in the 1950s or 1960s. One can only look at the examples of the work produced, compare and contrast them, and extrapolate from their differences the development of an architects ideas and beliefs as they change over time.

It seems clear that Shank faced a great deal of disappointment, particularly in the earlier years of his career, when he proposed some monumental structures and devised inventive, experimental architectural forms. The lessons of the American capitalist system can be harsh and difficult to accept, especially for a visionary with strong beliefs and demonstrated capabilities. The realities of real estate development, contractual obligations and legal structures can undermine an architect's ability to carry out his vision and see it implemented. It seems that Shank faced some of these kinds of challenges and developed his own approach to dealing with the inequities inherent in the real, flawed world in which we live.

Isadore Shank, Ambassador Theater proposal, circa 1928.

In the postwar period, Shank seems to have found an approach and a strategy for working for people with whom he found a basis for common understanding. Of course, all architects and designers must find clients with whom they have a sufficient beliefs in common to establish a meaningful, productive working relationship. In Shank's case it seems that his aesthetic conceptions and his ethical beliefs were tightly knit in a way that he had to be careful and considerate to take on the kinds of project that would provide a reliable basis for his professional practice, offer a sense of personal gratification and continue his quest for creating a better world.

02 June 2012

Paul Rudolph Designed House

Following is a reproduction of an article by architectural historian Esley Hamilton regarding the home in Warson Woods that was designed by architect Paul Rudolph. He explains the origin and history of this house which is featured in tomorrow's tour of mid-century modern homes in the Saint Louis area.

Architect Paul Rudolph in 1978 (Photograph by Philip Periman, Texas Architect, Volume 5/6, 1998).

The article appeared in the most recent NewsLetter of the Missouri Valley Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians. You can access and download the entire contents of the NewsLetter as a .pdf document on this web page under Spring B 2012.

The current exhibition at the Sheldon about the early work of Paul Rudolph in Florida is a reminder that he also designed right here in Warson Woods, the suburb north of Manchester Road and west of Rock Hill. It’s a house you would be unlikely to find on your own, and finding it in the scholarly literature would be even more surprising. It does not seem to have been discussed in any of the books about Rudolph, and even Charles R. Smith, in his bibliographical chronology published in 1987, cites only the publication that commissioned it rather than the place where it was built.

House designed by Paul Rudolph for Woman's Home Companion magazine.
You would be most likely to come across the house if you were searching for images of modernism in old is- sues of the so-called “shelter” magazines. The Woman’s Home Companion commissioned the design from Rudolph and spread the resulting house across twenty of the large 10 x 13-inch magazine pages of its September 1956 issue. They called it the House for Family Living.

Essentially, the house has a nearly square plan with a front-facing gable and a two-car garage extending toward the street on the left, not too different from what is pejoratively called a snout house these days. But the garage is integrated into the overall design and the house is given great drama by extending the roof-line out to create an enormous open gable at the front, sheltering the walk to the front door and framing a usable front garden. The trellis-like rafters cast diagonal shadows reminiscent of “film noir” movies.

Inside, the angle of the roof creates soaring birch-lined ceilings rising high enough to accommodate a balcony in the center as large as a room. The west portion of the front includes the kitchen with L-shaped counters entirely open to the family room, a feature that is commonplace today but highly unusual for the time. The kitchen backs up to the two compact bathrooms, one with a shower, creating a central service core. Three bedrooms at the back are buffered by wall-size closets. Space is available at the rear of the balcony for another bedroom and bathroom. The basement is large enough to accommodate a workshop as fully fitted up as the kitchen.

Since the article was written by the home equipment editor and home decoration editor, much space was given to the house’s detailing. The house has a built-in vacuum system. The fireplace hood is stainless steel. The balcony railings are wide open, but they “may be enclosed with metal mesh for safety if you have toddlers.”

While the house still looks strikingly modern after more than half a century, the household appliances featured in the article now show their age. For readers then, however, they had many exciting new features, so new that the authors had to explain them in detail. The sliding racks of the Hobart dishwasher, for instance, take all shapes of utensils. The burners of the Roper gas stove maintain the heat setting. The Servel refrigerator has its own freezing compartment as well as storage spaces in its door. The Bendix washer has a choice of water temperatures. The Motorola TV has a swivel base.

The house was built by Everett Schneider Company, with landscaping by Carl Baney. House & Home carried a fol- low-up article in their October 1956 issue. They reported that the house drew 5,000 visitors in its first three days, and that seven out of ten visitors liked the balcony solution. Schneider noted however, that the high ceilings required double scaffolding. “It’s tough to build,” he said.

Rudolph had included four variations on the house that was built, intending them for different climates and topographies. No. 2 was identical with our No. 1 except that it could be built of wood. Plans 3, 4 and 5 had a central clerestory, No. 3 with a hipped roof, No. 4 with a flat roof and concrete block construction, and No. 5 was a tri-level adaptable to hilly areas.

Alternate design number five (Illustration from Woman's Home Companion magazine).
Woman’s Home Companion listed three places in Indianapolis and one outside Pittsburgh where Plan No. 1 was supposed to be built, and it even named the builders. None of these houses was built, however, at least not at the reported addresses.

Apparently Everett Schneider and his wife Harriet were the first residents of the Warson Woods house, since they did not sell it until 1960. The buyers were Lorran and Ruth Foster. The house has had at least six owners since then, but the present owners have been there since 1994, longer than anybody else.

29 May 2012

MCM Architectural Tour -- June 3, 2012

An architectural tour benefitting
The Sheldon Art Galleries 

1956 house designed by Paul Rudolph.

This unique tour of exemplary works of mid-century modern architecture by masters of the idiom provides complete access to tour these homes including transportation from The Sheldon. The homes on the tour were designed by Paul Rudolph, Isadore Shank and William Adair Bernoudy.

The home designed by Paul Rudolph located in Warson Woods is a singular example of his work in the St. Louis area. Rudolph was a prolific architect and educator who ultimately designed, built and lead the Yale School of Architecture. The home on view occupies a unique position in his career. While it was clearly derived from the series of residences he developed in Florida during the 1950s, this design was created as demonstration home for a popular shelter journal and adapted to the climate and culture of the midwest.

The use of a forecourt surrounded by shade trellises clearly draws upon his "Umbrella House" (included in the "Made in the Shade" exhibition currently on view in The Sheldon Art Galleries). However in place of the swimming pool typical of Florida homes, a generous garden forms the centerpiece for the main facade. Formal symmetry and clear architectural order are clearly on view while the image of the house has been adapted to reflect the prototypical gable form of vernacular American residential architecture. Rudolph takes the abstract form as a starting point from which he develops a contrapuntal rhythms which depart from strict adherence to the typology.

The Isadore Shank designed home located at the exclusive Westwood Country Club features many of the signature elements found in his residences, including a beautifully modulated, perforated brick screen wall facing the street and providing a sense of security and privacy. Built in 1956, it is a classic example of Shank's palette of wood, glass and masonry.

The Bernoudy designed home is located on extensive acreage in Town and Country was designed in 1960. This multilevel home terraced into a hillside opens itself to the landscape in ways that are intimate and grand. Private courtyards and balconies with magnificent views make this home a dramatic example of the application of Organic Principles of residential design by the mature architectural practice of Bernoudy-Mutrux-Bauer.

25 April 2012

50th Anniversary Celebration of Priory Chapel

50th Anniversary Celebration of Priory Chapel at St. Louis Abbey
Thursday, April 26, 2012

You are invited to attend a special celebration of the St. Louis Abbey’s 50th anniversary, complete with comments from Fr. Gregory Mohrman, Gyo Obata, FAIA and a lecture by Andrew Raimist, AIA on centrally-planned churches from European history. This is a unique opportunity to celebrate with a client who appreciates architects and architecture and a truly once in a fifty year time experience.

Photography copyright Andrew Raimist, AIA.

At the culmination of the program, the Benedictine monks will chant to demonstrate the acoustics of the chapel; we will then proceed to the monastery for a reception.
Photography copyright Andrew Raimist, AIA.

event:     50th Anniversary, St. Louis Abbey (Priory Chapel)

date:       Thursday, April 26, 2012

time:        5:30 – 6:30pm program
                6:30 – 7:30pm reception @ the monastery

Photography copyright Andrew Raimist, AIA.

program:          Comments by design architect Gyo Obata, FAIA
                         Lecture by Andrew Raimist, AIA
                         Demonstration of the acoustics of the chapel by monks
location:           500 South Mason Road, Creve Coeur, Missouri 63141

Photography copyright Andrew Raimist, AIA.

education credit:  One hour continuing education HSW credit

Photography copyright Andrew Raimist, AIA.

RSVP:                 member@aia-stlouis.org (indicate program)

24 February 2012

Hyde Park :: book reading, 2

On Friday 24 February at 5:30pm I'll be presenting material in connection with the Hyde Park photography work now on display at the Gya Community Arts Gallery. I'll be reading from my book documenting the program, (en)visioning Hyde Park. I've set up a Facebook event with full details.

(en)visioning Hyde Park, © Andrew Raimist.
The photographs by Andrew Raimist are presented as a single piece consisting of five horizontal bands of joined images with the title: 5 sentences about Hyde Park (do not a paragraph make). The alternating rows of images bring together images of the children, teachers, college students, volunteers and adults who are committed to improving the neighborhood conditions. The rows between these informal portraits are composed of architectural photographs in series documenting buildings in the area.

5 sentences about Hyde Park (do not a paragraph make), © Andrew Raimist.
The idea behind the title is to make clear that any documentation of Hyde Park is bound to be fragmentary, partial and biased. While I've attempted to create a realistic, authentic portrait of a community in fashioning the exhibition and publication, these efforts are clearly informed by my own personal preferences and constitute a narrative structure that I've inevitably imposed. Others will dispute the impressions created as being too sunny and optimistic or too harshly depressing. I've attempted to maintain a balance based upon my own perceptions and preconceptions (visually and intellectually) to offer an unvarnished picture of the area through my own eyes. I hope my own images offer some semblance of the honesty and directness with which the children approached documenting the area and each other.

Carnegie Library, © Andrew Raimist.
I cannot deny my fascination with historic architecture and with the tragic sense of loss embodied in collapsing buildings. I find them compelling sources for developing a sense of history and for constructing a narrative of the lives lived and lost in those architectural frames. Likewise, I find restored buildings of grandeur like the Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church to be inspiring and uplifting.

Gateways, © Andrew Raimist.
The architectural photographs I've included in the piece range from historic, well-preserved structures like the Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church and the Bissell Point Water Tower, to the dilapidated buildings scattered throughout the neighborhood and buildings in various states of repair and renovation. These are all very real and present.

Living with collapse, © Andrew Raimist.
There is the beginnings of a renaissance presently under way in the neighborhood. A whole series of historic brick masonry buildings are undergoing renovation including the old Salisbury Hardware Store located at the corner of Salisbury and Blair. The once proud building with its mansard roof and dormers is now being gutted and will become a new center of business and street life at a critical intersection adjacent to Hyde Park.

Firewall, © Andrew Raimist.
The other corners of this intersection are anchored by important neighborhood icons: Firehouse No. 8 marking the entrance to the park itself, Hyde Park Antiques and the Cornerstone Cafe. These buildings are touchstones for the neighborhood, not just architecturally, but culturally and economically. The history of the area is discussed in my book which includes the 19th century Compton & Dry aerial rendering juxtaposed to a more recent aerial photograph (courtesy of the world wide web) of the corresponding area. The rural nature of the surroundings shown in the aerial drawing relates favorably to the openness of the land now exposed by the loss of built fabric in recent decades.

Salisbury Hardware undergoing renovation (exterior & interior), © Andrew Raimist.
While the loss of buildings is tragic (especially in cases like the recently demolished Turnverein Hall), there are opportunities the open land affords that would not otherwise be possible in a densely settled urban setting. These include providing locations for the construction of new homes and other development opportunities. The Bethlehem Lutheran Evangelic Church community has been instrumental in supporting the construction of new homes in the area which clearly meet a need in the market.

Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church, © Andrew Raimist.
Urban pioneers like businesswoman Julie Longyear and artist Mark Pappas are establishing new infrastructure and creating a renewed sense of community in spaces previously vacated. Julie operates Irie Star and Blissoma brand natural skincare products from her home which specializes in natural, organic skin care products and is creating an organic garden on vacant land previously occupied by decaying brick homes. Mark Pappas is working to found the Hyde Park Art Center in the historic Divoll Branch of the St. Louis Public Library. The monumental brick and stone building which is visible from Highway 70 is a majestic, proud work of architectural art and an important part of the neighborhood's history. Mark is spearheading the restoration of the building which may well take the rest of his lifetime.

Mark Pappas and his Carnegie Library, © Andrew Raimist.
My experiences working in the neighborhood have been instructive for me in understanding the relationship of children, families, schools, churches, community groups, city government and private developers. These are all essential ingredients for the holistic renewal of the area.

Twice Burned, © Andrew Raimist.
I hope this exhibition and the accompanying book will help to spur further interest in the Hyde Park, to give residents and visitors historical and cultural context and to promote future growth and development. There are clearly many serious challenges facing the community, but with so many people caring a great deal about the area, there are bound to be more positive developments.

Terracotta Ornament, © Andrew Raimist.

23 February 2012

(en)visioning Hyde Park :: book reading, 1

On Friday 24 February at 5:30pm I'll be presenting material in connection with the Hyde Park photography work now on display at the Gya Community Arts Gallery. I'll be reading from my book documenting the program, (en)visioning Hyde Park, funded in part through an online crowd-sourced Kickstarter grant. You can see the original Kickstarter project page here: http://kck.st/m32Pqu.

Book cover (front, back and spine)
The exhibition of photography by middle school kids from Hyde Park was first exhibited at the Old North St. Louis gallery in fall 2011. The exhibit was supported by a grant from the Missouri Arts Council.

The exhibition on display at Gya / Yeyo Arts Collective (2700 Locust Street, St. Louis, Missouri 63103) also includes enlarged portraits of the children taken by Andrew Raimist as part of the global arts initiative: Inside Out Project. This effort was initiated by a street artist who goes by the name JR and was funded through his being awarded the TED Prize last year.

You can see examples of individuals and groups from across the globe who participated in the InsideOutProject at their website. Contributors were encouraged to take black and white portraits of people and upload digital files of the images to the InsideOutProject site. In return, they would print and send out portraits at approximately 48" high x 36" wide using a dot matrix algorithm. Each portrait includes a web page address corresponding to the image posted online.

Portraits from the InsideOutProject displayed in Gya's storefront windows.
The portraits were to be displayed publicly in the community from which they came. The project's intentions related to expressing ideas about humanity, society, individual lives and how people are empowered to show their care and love for one another and for the world. The public display of the photographic portraits were then documented (again photographically) and uploaded so they can to be shared with others visiting the InsideOutProject website.

You can see examples, of these portraits below along with their display in the storefront windows at Gya. The dimensions turned out to be excellent given the dimensions of the glazing on the historic storefront in the new downtown Locust Business District located just north of the Wells Fargo complex at Market Street and to the west of Jefferson. The portraits bring a sense of life, joy and innocence to the streetscape that is in the midst of revitalization.

The exhibition also includes photographs taken by instructor, photographer and architect Andrew Raimist. He taught digital photography to the students in Hyde Park under the auspices of Rebuild Foundation's Urban Expressions program in connection with the Most Holy Trinity Catholic School located at Mallinckrodt and Blair. The program is directed by Artist-in-Residence Dayna Kriz without whose support and encouragement this project would not have been possible.

Letter from Mendelsohn

The following short video features a reading of a 1952 letter architect Eric Mendelsohn wrote to a student wishing to study architecture in the United States. His comments relate his advice against attending Harvard's Graduate School of Design and encouragement to attending the University of California at Berkeley (where Mendelsohn was teaching at the time).

The student is from Cyprus in the Mediterranean. Mendelsohn also references strife and political tensions in the area as well as the benefits and dangers involved in returning to his homeland to practice architecture.

20 February 2012

Hyde Park :: faces & places – opening

The Gya Community Arts Gallery is presently exhibiting photography from Hyde Park from the (en)visioning Hyde Park program. The images on display include work by the middle school students involved in the program as well as a photographic presentation by their instructor Andrew Raimist.

Photograph © Aaron Raimist 2012.
The exhibit opening was well attended by the children and their families as well as others in the St. Louis arts community. The joy and pride of the kids was evident, seeing their work displayed in the gallery located at 2700 Locust.

Photograph © Aaron Raimist 2012.
Seeing parents along with their children made the event special. The kids' excitement about the Urban Expressions program, sponsored by Rebuild Foundation, was clear. Younger brothers and sisters were asking if they might be able to participate this program next summer.

Photograph © Aaron Raimist 2012.

Many of the kids posed alongside their work or next to their portraits. A series of enlarged portraits are hanging in the storefront windows of Gya's gallery facing north onto Locust and east onto North Beaumont. These portraits were taken by photography instructor Andrew Raimist and enlarged as part of the global arts initiative InsideOutProject funded through a TED grant to the French artist JR. The project solicited portraits from communities the world over and printed them at 48" high x 36" wide to be displayed publicly as street art.

Photograph © Aaron Raimist 2012.

Their pride in seeing their faces enlarged and displayed in Gya's gallery in downtown St. Louis was heartwarming. This public display seemed to help validate their worth as artists with a voice and an opinion about the future of our city.

Photograph © Aaron Raimist 2012.

The program was sponsored directly by Rebuild Foundation through their Urban Expressions effort and by Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church, a critical visual and spiritual anchor of the Hyde Park neighborhood for generations.

Photograph © Aaron Raimist 2012.
One of the catalysts for the program's success has been the Community Arts Training (CAT) Institute developed by the Regional Arts Commission. Andrew Raimist and Gina Martinez were two artists working with Rebuild who were CAT graduates from 2011. Dayna Kriz (Rebuild's Director) and Mallory Nezam are present members of the Institute.

Photograph © Aaron Raimist 2012.

The program was also supported by members of Women's Voices Raised for Social Justice who published some of the children's photographs in a special section of their website entitled North of Delmar, helping to raise awareness of the physical and social conditions existing today in Hyde Park.