Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Art Moderne Indiana armories

The Indianapolis Heslar Naval Armory, along with another naval armory in Michigan City and an infantry armory in Darlington, were the focus of the feature story in the 1938 issue of Architectural Concrete magazine for their striking and cost-saving use of reinforced concrete. All three armories were designed by Indianapolis architects Ben H. Bacon and John P. Parrish in the streamlined Art Moderne style and built using labor supplied from the Works Progress Administration, known as the WPA. Completed during the Great Depression, concrete was chosen over other masonry choices due to lower materials cost as well as for the relative ease in training unskilled labor how to work with concrete.

The Drawings + Documents Archive maintains a collection of Architectural Concrete publications from 1935 to 1947. Produced by the Portland Cement Association, a national advocacy group for concrete manufacturers, the publication profiled building projects where concrete was used extensively. The article on the Indiana armories was written by the architects for all three projects, Bacon and Parrish, after the buildings were finished and had their dedication ceremonies.

An excerpt:
To many people an armory is just a place to go to see a wrestling match, prize fight, or a visiting soprano, but it has far more serious functions. It is a peace time training station for a war time army, a mobilization point for the National Guard in times of civil unrest, and a public shelter for victims of floods, hurricanes, and other local disasters. In many communities, particularly smaller towns and cities, the armory is the civic center. An armory can be the most used and most useful building in any community.

For this reason armory construction for many years has tended toward sturdy, permanent structures of architectural merit. And it is for this reason that the three new Indiana armories, erected during the past two years, are sturdy architectural concrete buildings, designed to reflect credit to the surrounding areas, and built to stand hard use for many a long year.

To learn more about the Indiana armories, visit Indiana Landmark's Hidden Gems website.

Images: Architectural Concrete, v. 5, no. 1, 1938. Trade Catalog Collection, Drawings + Documents Archive, Ball State University.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

NEW! Leslie F. Ayres collection now online

Thanks to the generosity of donors Steve and Sharon Zimmerman, a new collection of Leslie F. Ayres drawings was donated to the archive this summer. The entire collection has been digitized and is available for viewing online in the University Libraries' Digital Media Repository. It consists of drawings, sketches, presentation drawings, photographs, and reproductions of drawings made by the Indianapolis architect from 1926 to 1945. The finding aid for the collection can be found on our website.
The earliest drawings and sketches depict his student work at Princeton University, possibly his work at the prestigious architectural firm Pierre & Wright, and scenes around Indianapolis that caught his interest. The Indianapolis scenes include a wide range of subjects that include power plants, high schools, monuments, clubs, civic structures, and religious buildings. During a visit to the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933 he sketched scenes from the Belgian Village.

Ayres was well known among Indiana architectural circles for his highly refined and exquisite renderings. Even after he embarked on his own architectural practice he continued to receive rendering commissions from his former employers, Pierre & Wright, as well as from other prominent firms such as Rubush & Hunter, A. M. Strauss, and Robert Frost Daggett. His beautiful and atmospheric renderings, which were often made in watercolor and colored pencil, lent an air of sophistication to any project and were used to sell the client on the architect’s design. He was so successful that in 1948 the magazine National Architect described him as "just about the only professional renderer in Indiana."

His professional drawings from the 1930s and 1940s depict residences, apartment buildings, and churches that it is not yet known whether they were ever built or where they stand. One realized project represented by seven black-and-white photographs in the collection is the Wilkinson House in Muncie, Indiana. This Art Moderne masterpiece has been widely celebrated as one of the best examples of this style of residential architecture in Indiana.

Images: Indianapolis Athletic Club sketch, 1933; Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument and Monument Circle sketch, 1933; Chicago World's Fair Belgian Village sketch, 1933; Small house similar to Honeymoon House presentation drawing, undated. Leslie F. Ayres Architectural Drawings, Drawings + Documents Archive, Ball State University.