Exactly a year ago this week, the Environmental Design Archives successfully exceeded our fundraising goal that enabled Edith Heath: Philosophies, the eighth book in the Berkeley Design Books Series. This month we are working intently on editing the third design draft. We are incredibly proud of the book, which many of you enabled us to create through your generous donations, and we can’t wait to share this project with you.
On shelves this Fall, the book is 320 pages. Heavily illustrated with more than 300 images, the book showcases the wealth of the Brian and Edith Heath/Heath Ceramics Collection and the spectacular research it has enabled—featuring a forward, preface, introduction, dynamic timeline, thirteen essays, epilogue, and detailed product and dinnerware glaze history. Thematically organized, Edith Heath: Philosophies emphasizes less-known narratives and utilizes rarely seen images.
Essay topics range from Edith’s creative collaborations, her educational background in art education and ceramic chemistry, architectural tile, the philosophical foundations and influences of one of the most significant creative forces in post-WWII America, and much more.
Check out, below, the Table of Contents, Forward, and one essay by JC Miller entitled “Making a Place for Art: Collaboration between Edith Heath and Robert Royston.” The book is still a work in progress—but we wanted to share a sneak peek with all of you. Click on the images below to see the full spreads of the book. Enjoy!
Interested in purchasing a copy of the book? Sign-up here.
College of Architecture and Design, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Being in an archive is like being in conversation with smart and interesting people who are busy doing something else; they respond to your questions, but you need to work hard to identify the answers. Being in a welcoming archive (such as the Environmental Design Archives (EDA)) means you have the time and patience to follow all the dangling threads, so your “conversation” is deep enough for research.
My association with the EDA began in Fall 2010, in the first meeting of a seminar in the history department titled “Environmental History.” I had registered for the course on the recommendation of my advisor. When it came time for introductions, I panicked a little and wondered how to explain my work in architecture to my new historian colleagues. As a doctoral student in the College of Environmental Design (CED,) though I was not yet at the dissertation stage, I knew I was interested in the history of architectural education in the United States after WWII. As the introductions continued it occurred to me that the CED was founded in 1959–the very period in which I planned to write. Extrapolating wildly from this fact, I explained that I was interested in architectural education at the time that it came in contact with ideas about environmental design. This casual comment led to a term paper on the founding of the CED. In the process, I made my first visit to an archive and learned how to navigate manuscript collections. I also discovered just how much I enjoy this type of research.
Luckily for me, there was a lot more fun to be had at the EDA. In the following semesters, I plumbed this archive for material for my seminar papers, slowly getting to know more about William W. Wurster, the first dean of the CED, department chair Charles Moore and faculty member Horst Rittel, among many others. Much of the material I used was only there because Waverly Lowell had saved it from destruction in the periodic spurts of cleaning in Wurster Hall. I eventually focused my dissertation on the idea of “research for architecture,” and decided to begin by spending time looking through the collection of Dean Wurster’s papers. As a well-connected architect and academic, I hoped his correspondence would give me information about other people I might pursue in my study. I set aside a week for this foray, but six weeks later I was still showing up daily at the archives. Not only was the collection everything I had hoped for, but being in the EDA and talking with Waverly and Carrie Morgan about my project, I was learning too much to stay away.
It took me several years of teaching and writing to get round to developing a manuscript from the dissertation. In these years, the idea of research for architecture became fashionable once more, and I had several wonderful opportunities to share my knowledge of its history. Thus, when it came time to write a book, I was ready to return to my casual comment and investigate “environmental design” more closely. I knew it was used at Berkeley but was this unique to the Bay Area? Who else used it? And more importantly, why; what did the term denote that “architecture” did not? This project, like the dissertation, took me to archives across the country but none felt like home as did the EDA. I came back to browse material I had already examined but also expanded to other collections, including the papers of architects Vernon de Mars, Ernest Kump, Sami Hassid, and Marc Trieb.
The EDA is also the archive in which I first focused specifically on searching for images to illustrate the manuscript, now titled “Environmental Design: Architecture, Science and Politics in Postwar America.” Choosing images is always a tricky business, but my task was especially hard because my topic was architects and their ideas rather than architecture and buildings. I did not want to use portraits of individuals but rather sought illustrations of their thought processes and professional arguments. Once again Waverly, and now Chris Marino, were there to help me. Together we identified drawings by De Mars for an exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Art in 1939, juxtaposing “living as is” with “living as it should be” (Fig 1. and 2.) We also found a graph of the hierarchical decomposition (analysis) of the requirements for a housing project, prepared by a team led by Sam Davis in the 1960s, following the method described by Christopher Alexander in the book Notes on the Synthesis of Form (Fig. 3). Rittel’s teaching was represented with his own lecture notes (Fig. 4) as well as student work in his course (Fig. 5). Two other drawings, a diagram by Trieb (Fig. 6) and a drawing by Moore (Fig. 7) allowed me to juxtapose the scientific and artistic approaches to architecture, a central theme of the book.
The published book is a documentation of my “archival conversations” and, I hope, the beginning of many more. I therefore proudly and happily sent the EDA a copy. Environmental Design was back home, where it began.
Avigail Sachs teaches landscape and architectural history and theory at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Her current project, tentatively titled Atelier TVA: Architecture, Landscape and Planning in the Tennessee Valley, 1933-1953, will critically analyze the impact of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s design policies on the careers of the architects and landscape architects who worked for it. Her book, Environmental Design: Architecture, Politics and Science in Postwar America, was published by the University of Virginia Press in 2018. This study examines the development of the concept of “environmental design” in architecture and its role in the modernization of American architecture. Her 2009 essay, Marketing through Research: William Caudill and Caudill Rowlett Scott (CRS) in: Journal of Architecture 14/1, was selected for inclusion in a special issue anthology comprised of the Journal of Architecture’s most important articles of the decade.