firm active: 1907-1921

minneapolis, minnesota :: chicago, illinois
philadelphia, pennsylvania :: portland, oregon

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Virtual Catalogs

There are arguments both for and against the creation of document collections such as these virtual catalogs.  To the good, the evolution of forms over time can be better understood as a process of simplification and resolution in the aesthetic.  In addition, similarities and differences between decorative elements in various commissions can be more clearly seen.  The study of these diagrams can provide important, even profound insight into the consciousness from which they emerged.  The sometimes greatly magnified size of the electronic images can be a useful aid to understanding the layers and relationships often hidden in these forms, especially for the person trying to comprehend them by drafting.

On the downside, visual comparisons can automatically trigger an "apples versus oranges" mentality toward patterns whose raison d'etre exists solely within the context of the building where they were intended to be seen.  Furthermore, there are people who might use these patterns serendipitously to create (or, worse, adapt) commercial reproductions, something that reflects a sad misunderstanding--and, in my view, betrayal--of the P&E philosophy against copying things of the past.  Such uses are made difficult and therefore unreliable by the frequent absence of scale in the electronic facsimile, making the results of such reproductions even more problematic or, dare I say, catastrophically bad.  [The creation of drink coasters from images of the E. L. Powers leaded glass door panels is the lowest point of exploitation I have yet witnessed].

The vast majority of these drawings are published by the University of Minnesota Libraries with a searchable interface.   Their XML indexing is incomplete for searches on "sawed wood diagram" and the like, but the persistent researcher can eventually locate almost all the images presented here through the University of Minnesota Libraries online U Media Archive.  The few drawings that appear here from The Western Architect issues can also be obtained.  The full scale drawings in the flat files of the Purcell Papers remain absent, leaving many additional patterns unseen.  In all, perhaps the good will outweigh the bad here.


research courtesy mark hammons