The Hemicycle of Notre-Dame of Paris: Gothic Design and Geometrical Knowledge in the Twelfth Century analyzes how the layout of four plinths in the hemicycle of Notre-Dame of Paris reflects the state of mathematical knowledge at the time of the first construction phases of the cathedral in the early 1160s. During the first half of the twelfth century, building enterprise was paired with intellectual activity in Paris, where architects experimented with a new building style——Gothic——and scholars explained geometry in treatises. Stefaan Van Liefferinge reconstructs the mathematics used by the Gothic builders at Notre-Dame, notes its resemblance to the geometry of the Parisian scholars, and suggests that this similarity points to either the exchange of knowledge or a common origin.
Analyzing the letters of architect Luigi Vanvitelli (1700––1773), Robin L. Thomas reconstructs his library and explores his prolific reading. From the Library to the Printing Press: Luigi Vanvitelli's Life with Books demonstrates how Vanvitelli's books influenced his architectural practice and, conversely, how his opinions and tastes conditioned the ways he read. Literary ideas of decorum explain the stylistic heterogeneity of his architectural oeuvre and influenced the way he wrote. His Dichiarazione dei disegni del Reale Palazzo di Caserta (1756), documenting the magnificent palace he designed for King Charles Bourbon, is among the most lavish books of its time. Its analysis illuminates how the architect interacted with the printed page and how books influenced architecture in the eighteenth century.
The 1923 European trip undertaken by Francis Barry Byrne and his collaborator, the sculptor Alfonso Iannelli, is the subject of Expressing the Modern: Barry Byrne in 1920s Europe. As vividly recorded in the letters written by Byrne to his future wife, he and Iannelli visited the Weimar Bauhaus and met with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Erich Mendelsohn, J. J. P. Oud, T. H. Wijdeveld, and other leading modernists. Byrne, who trained in Frank Lloyd Wright's first studio, was especially drawn to the work of the expressionists, and Vincent L. Michael associates Byrne's distinctive architecture with that strain of modernism and with the liturgical reform movement that he helped to promote within the Catholic church, his most significant patron. In 1928 Byrne became the only Prairie School architect to build in Europe with the commission for Christ the King church in Cork, Ireland, and he continued to design modern churches into the 1960s.
Stephen James tells the story of a great unrealized project in The Menil Connection: Louis Kahn and the Rice University Art Center. Kahn, Rice, and the art collectors John and Dominique de Menil collaborated in this unusual venture, which, among other things, would have housed the de Menil art collection on the Rice campus. The project embodied Kahn's approach to designing an institutional landscape, interwoven with the smaller spaces that he judged were essential for teaching and learning. Its abandonment was the genesis of the independent Menil Collection, for which Kahn also prepared a design, but which was ultimately built by Renzo Piano.