Geometry in architecture
Pioneer Texas Buildings opened people's eyes when it was first published in 1968. At a time when "progress" meant tearing down the weathered houses, barns, churches, and stores built by the original settlers of Central Texas, this book taught people to see the beauty, simplicity, and order expressed in the unadorned geometric forms of early Texas buildings. It inspired the preservation and restoration of many of the remaining pioneer buildings, as well as the design of modern buildings that employ the same simple geometries.
This revised edition of Pioneer Texas Buildings juxtaposes the historic structures with works by twenty contemporary architects who are inspired by the pioneer tradition to show how seamlessly the basic geometries translate from one era to another. As in the first edition, sketches and brief commentary by Clovis Heimsath explain how squares, triangles, and circles take shape in the cubic, triangular, and cylindrical forms that comprise houses and other buildings. Then black-and-white photographs, the heart of the book, illustrate these geometric forms in historic and modern buildings. The book also includes two essays in which Heimsath discusses the factors that led him and his wife Maryann to document early Texas buildings and the results in historic preservation and timeless architectural designs that have followed from their efforts.
- About This Book
- Foreword by Louis I. Kahn
- Introduction to Pioneer Texas Buildings, 1968
- Introduction to the Revised Edition
- Buildings Together
This book updates and expands Pioneer Texas Buildings: A Geometry Lesson. published by the University of Texas Press in 1968. Thirty-four years ago it was ahead of its time, for it celebrated the simple geometry of early Texas buildings at a time when they were considered by many to be of no historic significance, and were routinely torn down.
Fortunately the climate of opinion has changed over the last thirty-four years. Not only are the remaining buildings cherished for the heritage they preserve, but also Texas architects continue to design with simple geometry, straightforward structures, and local materials to address today's programs.
It is the realization that the geometry lesson of Pioneer Texas Buildings is alive today that led the University of Texas Press to publish an updated edition of the book. In the process of revising the book I have contacted many architects across the state and included their work as an example, today, of the principles of design so clear in the early Texas buildings. While the projects presented are only a small sampling of what has been built by these and many other architects, the reader does not have to guess how a building today would look if it were built in the pioneer Texas tradition: there are photos
of current work in the book that answer this question. Lisa Hardaway, of Hester + Hardaway, architectural photographers, has coordinated the acquisition of appropriate photographs of recent work.
The format of the book remains the same. Each section reproduces the original photographs by Maryann Heimsath and simple text of the first edition along with photographs of current work by Texas architects designing in this tradition. The transition is seamless. The continuity in design is broadly interpreted to include a wide range of geometric forms applicable to today's programs and materials.
(Note: This essay appeared as a postscript in the 1968 edition of Pioneer Texas Buildings .)
Early Texas buildings brought me back to Texas. A hundred times I drove down dusty roads through bleak countryside and discovered again a hundred different moods of homes and towns. A hundred moods sprang up from this remembrance, and I had to come home. We can talk about the geometry of these early Texas buildings, and that is their glory, but it is the poignancy of the environment they create, set in the Hill Country, that is the "why" of this book. It would be so easy to forget that, first and foremost, architecture is a reality; it must be dissected to understand how it is formed, so that it can be seen, so that we can learn to see. But the end, the reason, the adventure is the feeling of it; it is the mood it creates; it is the reality of responding to a man-made form, a man-made space.
Early Texas buildings brought me back to Texas. It took me five years to discover it. As this book grew, it became clear to me that these houses had been speaking to me since I had first known them as a child; they had been telling me something about simplicity, order, geometry, about how Texas was a hundred years ago. I have felt the need to say something about architecture; suddenly, in these houses, I found that it was about them I wanted to speak. This book lets it out; this book lets me go on; this book helps me see architecture in basic terms, and I want it to speak to others. Architecture is a great adventure, and when we see it, when we respond to it, we are richer.
I want these houses to speak out against the sham of current American domestic architecture. The fraud is so appalling, it becomes the aesthetic sin of the age by its very magnitude; that we snug Americans can live in our endless four-square rooms with our endless eight-foot-high ceilings while the outsides say everything stylistically under the sun is a fraud—we want it, so we have it. But it damages our spirit to acknowledge this fraud. Our eyes are dulled to the things of architecture, for they accept window trimming, the memory overlay of decoration, in place of significant form, significant space, or the synthesis of the two. A Polynesian broken-eaves roof has the same stuffings inside as a French Provincial mansard-roof fa