Origins and Endowment
|Campus Address:||Battle Hall 200, Mail Code: S5430 (BTL200 S5430)|
|Location:||Charles W. Moore Room - Battle Hall room 6 (map)|
|Mailing Address:||Alexander Architectural Archives, University of Texas Libraries, PO Box P
The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78713-8916 USA
Image source: Student event featuring Ptah. Date unknown. School of Architecture collection.
About the Alexander
The Alexander Architectural Archives is one of the largest such repositories in the country. Together, with the Architecture & Planning Library and its Special Collections of rare publications, it forms a nationally recognized architectural research center. On campus, it is considered a Distinguished Collection of the University of Texas Libraries.
Holdings reflect the work and scholarship of architects, landscape architects, planners, designers, preservationists, historians, professors, and businesses in the industry. Emphasis is on Texas and the surrounding region of the United States, but includes material from England, and some Latin American countries. Over a quarter of a million drawings, and likewise photographic items, 2000 linear feet of papers, films, audio visual media, and other ephemera focus on design, history, criticism, theory, professional practice, education, case studies, and technology.
The Alexander directly supports enhancing the value, relevance and effectiveness of teaching, research, and public service goals. All students, faculty, staff and citizen scholars have convenient access to literature, information, visual, and digital resources that support professional education in architecture and its related design disciplines. While the Alexander is located in close proximity to the School of Architecture, in historic Battle Hall, its archival finding aids and instructional guides are web- based, allowing global discovery and access via the Internet.
Blake Alexander started what has become known as the Alexander Architectural Archives in 1958, after he directed a team of student architects recording historic buildings in Pennsylvania for the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS). Professor Alexander adapted the HABS format to his own course at the University of Texas, requiring students in his architectural history class to measure and draw historic Texas buildings as one of their assignments. During this time, Alexander also began rescuing early studio work of the students, representing an era of the School's Beaux-Arts approach to teaching design principles. In the mid-1960s, one Alexander's students approached him with large paper sacks filled with tattered, water-damaged drawings. Upon examination, it became apparent that they had in fact been through a flood - the great Galveston hurricane of 1900. These drawings, by the well-known Galveston architect Nicholas Clayton, had been given to the student by Clayton's granddaughter. As the first professional records to be deposited in his collection, the Clayton drawings opened up the prospect of seeking original drawings of other important Texas architects whose records needed to be preserved.
In 1974, Alexander announced the School of Architecture's formation of the Texas Architecture Archives to the national Committee for the Preservation of Architectural Records (COPAR Newsletter, number 2). This rapidly expanding collection soon outgrew his office and into a small storage room, fondly known as "Alexander's closet." In 1979, the General Libraries (now the University of Texas Libraries) became the formal repository of the records. Alexander's collection was moved to the Architecture and Planning Library and named "The Architectural Drawings Collection."
Other collections became available as word spread of this new resource. Almost immediately, large collections with formats beyond drawings began to be acquired, including that of the San Antonio firm of Ayres and Ayres as well as James Riely Gordon, one of the premier designers of Texas courthouses. Professor Alexander maintained his efforts throughout his career helping to secure the acquisition of the original design drawings for The University of Texas campus by Paul Philippe Cret, among other notable architects.
Today, the Alexander Architectural Archives is the largest such resource in Texas, representing thousands of projects in Texas as well as New York, Chicago, California, and Great Britain. Professor Alexander was a pioneer in recognizing the importance of preserving architectural records. The resources he collected continue to play an important roles in teaching, research and scholarship. As well, many historic buildings have benefited from renovation applying original architectural records.
In 1997, the Texas Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians sponsored a campaign to name this valuable archive after its founder. The University, in support, recognized that without Alexander's initiative, records of our architectural heritage would have perished from neglect. It is with great appreciation and celebration that the collection he founded is named the Alexander Architectural Archives.
Blake Alexander (February 4, 1924 – December 11, 2011)
Drury Blakeley Alexander, champion for the education, documentation, and preservation of Texas' architectural heritage passed away December 11, 2011.
The University of Texas Libraries and the School of Architecture celebrated Blake's long life and accomplishments and stewardship in a memorial gathering held in the Battle Hall Reading Room of the Architecture & Planning Library on Saturday, April 28, 2012. View a recording of the service.
To learn more about Blake's life and legacy, please see:
- Biography of Blake Alexander, from his archival finding aid
Blake Alexander Architectural Library Endowment
Throughout his long career, Blake expressed great value in the Architecture & Planning Library and Archives. He once boasted that he personally knew each and every librarian in its history, from its early years as a departmental library until it joined the University of Texas Libraries system. The quality of the students' experience was also important to Blake. He used the library during his own school days and naturally continued in teaching as well as his own research. He understood the important roles libraries and archives play at a research university, through expertise, services and distinctive collections. Blake also recognized the importance and value of investment. He backed the donation of his personal library and archive with a gift of support. It was with great pride that he could continue his stewardship through the gift of an endowment.
"Blake Alexander lived a productive life as a scholar’s scholar, and he left us with an enduring legacy," stated University of Texas Libraries’ director Dr. Fred Heath. "The Alexander endowment will permanently enrich a great library’s contribution to teaching and learning on behalf of every student and faculty member it serves.”
The Blake Alexander Architectural Library Endowment provides opportunities for innovation within architectural collections at the University of Texas. Special collections acquisitions, archival processing, preservation support, developing expertise and technological improvements have directly impacted the quality of students' experiences on campus and throughout the world.
The Alexander family asks that memorial contributions be made to the Alexander Architectural Archives or the Architecture & Planning Library. Please contact at email@example.com or donate online.