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Gunnar Birkerts and Associates records, 1960-2014

87 linear feet — 10000 drawings

Architectural firm founded by Gunnar Birkerts, headquartered in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Textual records, architectural and engineering drawings and photographs document fourteen of the firm's major buildings including the Federal Reserve Building (Minneapolis, MN), Corning Glass Museum (Corning, NY) and the University of Michigan Law School Library Addition.

The Gunnar Birkerts and Associates Collection offers researchers a rich perspective on the work of one of the masters of American modern architecture whose career spans the second half of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first. The initial accessions of Birkert's material encompassed 69 linear feet of the firm's textual records, which are associated with 14 of Birkerts' distinguished buildings, and 7158 original drawings and prints documenting the evolution of the architectural design process for each project. In 2008, the records and drawings of 74 more projects were included in the collection, bringing the total amount of textual material to 82 linear feet and the number of drawings to over 10,000. Altogether, these visual materials detail many of the expressive elements for which Birkerts' architecture is renowned, including his bold forms, simplification of detail, innovative selection of surface materials and dramatic use of indirect light. Although six of the buildings in the original collection of 14 projects are located in Michigan, along with the offices of the firm, nine other structures were built in New York, Indiana, Mississippi and Minnesota, testimony to the national scope of this architectural practice. The following buildings were selected for inclusion in the collection by Birkerts and Bentley Historical Library staff because they represent the significance, diversity and evolution of the architect's work:

  1. Haley Funeral Home (1960-1961)
  2. University Reformed Church (1960-1964)
  3. Freeman Residence (1964-1966)
  4. Lincoln Elementary School (1965-1967)
  5. Tougaloo College Master Plan, Library and Dormitories (1965-1972)
  6. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis (1967-1973)
  7. Duluth Public Library (1969-1980)
  8. S.U.N.Y., Purchase, Dance Instructional Facility (1970-1976)
  9. Corning Municipal Fire Station (1973-1974)
  10. Calvary Baptist Church (1974-1977)
  11. University of Michigan Law Library Addition (1974-1981)
  12. Corning Museum of Glass (1976-1980)
  13. Ferguson Residence (1980-1983)
  14. St. Peter's Lutheran church (1981-1988)
  15. Additional Projects (added in 2008)

The initial accessions Gunnar Birkerts and Associates Collection are arranged in 14 series, each of which contains the business records and architectural drawings for one building. The finding aid begins with a description of the narrative records in chronological order in each series. An item-level description of the architectural and engineering drawings follows, grouping drawings in folders according to design phases, as described above. The finding aid lists the titles of drawings, when they exist, as well as title bar information including original dates, revision dates, numeric sequencing and, in some cases, names of consulting engineers. A description of the medium and support of each drawing is also given.

The 2008 accession to the collection includes of documentation of 74 additional projects consisting of 3,000 drawings and 13 linear feet of textual materials and photographs. The documentation for these projects is generally not as extensive as for the fourteen in the original accessions and the finding aid does not describe them in as great detail. They have been grouped together as single series titled "Other Projects" and the individual projects are listed in alphabetical order by project title

One of the collection's greatest strengths is found in its emphasis on the architectural design process, offering researchers a broad, visual representation of the evolution of each building through the "Schematic Design," "Design Development" and "Construction Document" sequences. Because Gunnar Birkerts and Associates meticulously saved each drawing associated with the firm's projects, this collection provides an exceptional view of the daily design process, as solutions were sought which defined the architectural character and individuality of a structure. Each of the 14 buildings in the Gunnar Birkerts and Associates Collection is conceived as an individual series, which contains the textual and visual documents associated with the project. Within each of the 14 series, the architectural and engineering drawings are arranged chronologically by design phase, beginning with "Schematic Design," when the owner's program is analyzed and sketches are drawn to illustrate the scale and relationship of the project's components. Researchers interested in viewing the earliest conceptual drawings associated with each building are encouraged to consult the finding aid of the collateral Gunnar Birkerts Collection, which amasses the sketches by the architect's own hand for most of his projects. Digital images of 284 of these conceptual sketches can be seen online in the Bentley Historical Library Image Bank through Gunnar Birkerts, Conceptual Drawings. An understanding of the beginning stage of design for each building is best obtained by studying the conceptual and "Schematic Design" documents in both the Gunnar Birkerts and Associates Collection and the Gunnar Birkerts Collection.

The second "Design Development" stage in each building series includes more precise site plans, floor plans, elevations and sections which further define the dimensions, mechanical/electrical systems, building materials and architectural character of the project. This phase often ends with the production of artistic presentation drawings which are used to obtain the client's approval of the design. Although the collection contains a large majority of original sketches and drawings on tracing paper, vellum, linen and mylar, many blue-line and sepia prints have been retained in each series if they are substitutes for missing originals or if they are annotated and thus show the ongoing search for solutions in the evolution of the design process.

Each series in the collection also records the third "Construction Document" phase, during which the final working drawings are developed before being sent to contractors for bids. These drawings are the graphic representation of the written "Specifications," included in the textual records of every series. The "Construction Documents" for each building, which were often revised to show changes after construction began, may be of significant value to historic preservationists or future owners seeking to restore the building to its original condition or adapt it to a new use.

The Gunnar Birkerts and Associates Collection is also significant in its pairing of the visual documentation described above with the textual records of each building, which describe the decisions and actions of the firm during the design and construction process. Thus, scholars can read the program information, specifications, addenda and memoranda associated with the architectural drawings during each chronological stage of the building's design. Written contracts, correspondence, transmittals and field inspection reports further inform historians about the relationship between the firm and its clients, contractors, consulting engineers, landscape architects and sub-contractors, documenting in rich detail the business affairs of a nationally known architectural firm in the second half of the twentieth century. Of particular value within the narrative records of each building series is the "Architect's Conceptual Statement". These statements offer design and history students an opportunity to understand the interchange of objective and subjective influences on Mr. Birkerts' creative process and the solutions which define the architectural character of each building.

The Gunnar Birkerts and Associates Collection is also of exceptional value to scholars because it represents the end of the era of hand-drawn architectural documents. By the end of the twentieth century, many architects have begun to use the computer in the development of design and construction drawings. However, this collection of the original 14 buildings contains only drawings which show the flow of the creative process from the brain, through the hand, to the paper. Even drawings which are marked "void" are retained because, like annotated prints, they show the evolution of the design as the search for architectural solutions begins to define the building. Whereas the use of computer-aided design would undoubtedly delete many intermediary design drawings from a collection, this aggregation of hand-drawn documents shows the artistry and complexity of the creative process. The beauty of the architect's pencil line on delicate tracing paper, smooth vellum and opaque mylar is preserved here for future generations of scholars, just as its use in the late 1990s is being abandoned by many architects.

In 2015, Gunnar Birkerts donated a large collection of 7,840 color 35 mm slides, associated with the design and construction of 123 projects, documenting through photographs the work of his entire career. This additional collection is encompassed in the series titled, "Photographic Slides of Projects."


Law Library (University of Michigan) publications, 1967-1989

0.3 linear feet

Includes annual reports, brochures and pamphlets, manuals such as A Guide to Legal Research, programs, regulations for library use, and reports.

The Law Library Publications Include annual reports, brochures and pamphlets, manuals such as A Guide to Legal Research, programs, regulations for library use, and reports.


Law Library (University of Michigan) Records, 1859-2006 (majority within 1930-1995)

22 linear feet — 25 oversize items — 1 oversize folder

The Law Library was established as part of the University of Michigan Law School in 1859 and is currently maintained and administered as a part of the instructional and research operation of the Law School. The collection contains documentation related to administrative matters within the Law Library, including financial documentation, correspondence, director files, and documentation on the building expansion of the library. The collection also contains some of the material removed from the collections at the library, as well as documentation related to the Law School, which was also previously housed in the library collections.

The material included in the Law Library records are primarily the files of the library directors and of Professor Hobart R. Coffey and Esther Betz. The material included in the Law Library records are divided into five series: Administration, Collections, Law School, Audio Visual Material, and William Cook Papers.


Law School (University of Michigan) records, 1852-2010

121 linear feet — 1 oversize volume — 4 oversize folders — 2 folders — 1 drawings (outsize; roll of architectural drawings and blueprints) — 2.1 GB (online) — 11 digital audio files — 1 digital video file

Records of the Law School document the evolution of legal education at the University of Michigan as well as tenures of various deans and faculty. Documentation includes historical and class files; student organizations and activities; planning and construction of Law School buildings; information on William W. Cook and his bequest; topical files; deans' correspondence; reports and minutes. Also included are materials related to the Thomas M Cooley and William W. Cook lecture series and portraits of faculty and students, photographs of activities of the Judge Advocate General's School held at the Law School during World War II, the construction of the Law Quadrangle and Law Library addition, and student activities.

The Law School Records begin in 1852 and span the years through the end of the twentieth century. The records document the history of legal education at the University of Michigan, the administration of the Law School, and the lives of some of the scholars who have studied and taught there.

The physical arrangement of the records reflects the various accessions of material that have been received from the Law School over the years. This finding aid is structured to reflect the intellectual organization of the records - continuing series and like materials have been brought together regardless of when the records were transferred to the library. The Summary Contents List provides and overview of the organization of the records.

There are eight major series in the record group: Historical and Class Files (1865-1974); Deans of the Law School (1852-1999); Faculty Files (1859-1994); Student Files (1894-1996); Law Quadrangle and William W. Cook, (1919-1938); Law School Lecture Series; Committee of Visitors and Audio/Visual Materials.


Photo and Campus Services (University of Michigan) photographs, 1960-1987 (majority within 1969-1970, 1980-1984)

1.25 linear feet (in 2 boxes)

The University of Michigan Photo and Campus Services is a comprehensive photographic unit established to meet the needs of the schools, colleges, departments, and other units within the university as well as individuals within the university community. In existence since 1948, the unit officially became part of News and Information Services in 1997. Services include photographic reproduction and studio and location photography.

The photographic images in the Photo and Campus Services record group represent a small portion of the images created by the unit. The photographic materials are divided into three series based on format: Slides, Portrait Negatives, and Photographs.


Rudolph H. Gjelsness papers, circa 1919-1968

7 linear feet

Correspondence and other papers relating to his work with the American Library Association's Committee on Revision of the Anglo-American Cataloging Rules, 1935-1941; letters from his former students upon the occasion of his retirement in 1964; personal correspondence, including letters to his parents from relatives in Norway, 1880-1935 and letters written while in service during World War I; and photographs.

The bulk of the collection consists of Gjelsness' professional correspondence between 1930 and 1965; materials concerning the committees of the American Library Association on which he served, and relating to his foreign assignments; extensive files of drafts of the revision of the Catalog Code, together with related. correspondence; and comments on the final draft of the Code.

Some unusual items are letters in Norwegian written between 1881 and 1935 to Marius S. and Karoline O. Gjelsness, parents of Rudolph Gjelsness. The correspondents were family and friends in Norway, and residents of other Norwegian. communities in north-central United States. Business papers of Marius S. Gjelsness from 1885 to 1917 reflect his activities as a member of the local school board and as a leader in his church. Several catalogues of merchandise are included.

There are also early personal letters of Rudolph H. Gjelsness written to his mother and his sister Helen during the years he was in the army and later a student in Norway, as well as a few from his days as a library science student and a beginning librarian. There are also a few folders of his World War memorabilia.


Theodore Wesley Koch Papers, 1894-1941

12 linear feet — 1 oversize folder

Librarian at the Library of Congress, University of Michigan and Northwestern University, and bibliophile. Correspondence, articles and pamphlets, papers relating to his books and articles, and topical files relating to his interest in Carnegie Libraries, literary forgeries, the work of the American Library Association's Library War Service during World War I, library Americanization programs, 1919-1921, and the library building of University of Michigan; also photographs.

The Koch papers are very incomplete for the part of his career before he went to Northwestern. Much of the earliest correspondence deals with the gathering of material for his "A Portfolio of Carnegie Libraries," Very little material on his work at the University of Michigan has survived, although a few reports from Byron A. Finney on the operation of the library and copies of Koch's proposal for a new library in 1915 are included in the collection.

Although the collection is much larger for the years after 1919, it is apparent that even for these years many of his professional files were either retained by the Northwestern University Library or destroyed. There is surprisingly little information on the activities of the A.L.A. or other professional organizations. Much of the correspondence consists of family and personal mail rather than the activities of the Northwestern library.

A high proportion of the material from this period relates to the writing and publication of his many books and pamphlets. Although Koch's files on Carnegie libraries, literary forgeries, the A.L.A. Library War Service, and Americanization programs may be of interest to scholars, many of his publications involved the translation and publication of works aimed merely at bibliophiles. These works were often published by such groups as the Caxton Club of Chicago or the Roxburgh Club of San Francisco which are interested in printing as an art form.