Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Conservation in the Archive

Four extraordinary landscape architecture drawings were recently donated to the Drawings and Documents Archive’s Indianapolis Parks Collection. The drawings depict Garfield Park Conservatory, a design for an outdoor amphitheater, and Holiday Park; all located in Indianapolis. Each of the drawings are full-color pencil drawings on paper, dating from the 1940s to 1950s. Much of the Indianapolis Parks Collection contains architectural drawings and mechanical information for structures in the park, so these elegantly rendered landscapes and planting drawings are a welcome addition to the collection.

Unfortunately, they were previously housed in a mechanical warehouse with engines and exposed to decades of soot and dirt, and thus came to the Archive covered in a layer of grime that obscured their beautiful colors, subtle details, and handwritten planting notes. The first pair of white, cotton gloves used to move the items to the Archive were quickly blackened from the soot covering nearly every inch of the items.

In order to be placed within the collection and enable researchers to utilize the information contained in the drawings, they required careful cleaning to remove the layer of grime that obscured them, without removing the image itself.

This image of the Garfield Park Conservatory drawing was taken with the cleaning was nearly complete. You can see, on the left side, the extent to which it was darkened.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

How to research a historic Indiana neighborhood

For new students in the Historic Preservation department, or for researchers who just want to learn more about their own neighborhood, writer Tanya Marsh details her method of researching the Brightwood neighborhood in Indianapolis. Read her interesting article at

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

New Exhibit on Indiana's Conservation Design History

The College of Architecture and Planning's gallery is now hosting an extraordinary exhibit titled Celebrating Indiana’s Conservation Design Heritage: Selections from the Archives of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, curated by Christopher Baas, Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture, and Ryan Smith, a second year graduate student in Landscape Architecture.

Displaying drawings mined from the vast archives at the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Division of Engineering, this exhibit explores a wide range of drawing types for state owned properties: master plans, conceptual designs, and construction drawings. The majority of the collection is the federally funded New Deal Era landscapes and structures, but several date to the reservoir construction era of the 1960s and 70s.

Due to security issues, the exhibit contains high-resolution images scaled to the original size of the drawings, not the original drawings themselves. However, two original, featured works from the exhibit are on display at the Drawings and Documents Archive down the hall from the gallery. They are a Jens Jensen design he created for the Prairie Club Fountain, Indiana Dunes State Park in 1932, and an elaborate drawing by John Lloyd Wright for Beach Cabin Units, also at the Indiana Dunes State Park, in 1930.

Jens Jensen, as a member of the Chicago’s Prairie Club, was instrumental in attempts to establish a Dunes National Park in the years leading up to WWI. After the attempts faltered, Indiana created a state park in the late 1920s (the National Lakeshore was not established until the late 1960s). As a thank you, Prairie Club members held a fountain design competition of which this design of Jensen’s won. The fountain was dedicated in 1932. It was unearthed from a dune and moved to a location near the park’s visitor center in the 1980s.

This drawing was likely the landscape architect’s proposal to the state seeking approval for construction (a reasonable explanation for it being in the DNR archives). A similar set of construction drawings is located at the Jensen Archives at the University of Michigan.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s son, John, had a practice in Long Beach, Indiana. He had a lengthy career both in Indiana, and later in California. He was also the inventor of Lincoln Logs. Little is known about this commission beyond what the drawing communicates. Wright presents a conceptual plan for a multi-story motel that is cleverly integrated into the dune landscape. The project was never constructed.