History of Art and Architecture

Undergraduate Research Summer 2013

What We Did This Summer, Undergraduate Research Award Recipients 2013

2013 was a particularly rich year for undergraduates in the History of Art and Architecture department, several of whom won research awards and fellowships to undertake independent projects:

Lauren Burgess (HAA, 2014) received a Brackenridge Summer Fellowship from the University Honors College to undertake research for her honors thesis on the Chapel of the Rosary in Vence, France, designed by Henri Matisse. Burgess began the project during a class taught by Gretchen Bender, and will develop her research further in the fall of 2013, when she travels to Paris for study abroad. As a double-major in Communications who has also engaged in Dance, Burgess is interested in how bodies and individuals interact with each other and communicate through the inhabitation of and movement through space. While most scholars have focused on the painterly attributes of Matisse’s oeuvre, Burgess proposes that the artist was an equally committed architectural thinker, who devoted his life to contemplating the interrelationship of bodies and objects within interior spaces. It is revelatory that one of his last major projects entailed the decoration of an architectural site. Burgess’ project also treads new ground by asking why the Catholic Church in France, in the years around the Second World War, patronized modern artists and architects to create sacred spaces.

Robert Bush and Anna Moyer (both Architectural Studies, 2014) received an award from the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences to engage in a collaborative research and design project. Intrigued by the engagement of modern architects with furniture design, which they studied in Drew Armstrong’s Modern Architecture class, Bush and Moyer decided to focus exclusively on the chair. Careful research was undertaken on how modern designers considered materiality, ergonomics, and aesthetic characteristics, along with manufacturing and production considerations. Bush and Moyer researched several types of material, including beech, birch and ash, which were used in their case studies. This research culminated in the design of two prototypes made of ash wood. In addition to receiving guidance from Prof. Armstrong on this project, they were also mentored by a professional designer, Matthew Clifford, of Forecast Design/Build in Pittsburgh who generously provided studio space in addition to his time.

Karen Lue (HAA, 2015) received a Summer Brackenridge Fellowship from the University Honors College to continue her research on gender ambiguity in the work of Auguste Rodin, a project overseen by Kirk Savage. This project began when Karen, on a visit to Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum of Art, noted that male and female bodies in Rodin’s Hand of God possessed ‘switched’ genitalia resulting in androgynous figures who hovered between “male” and “female.” While studying abroad in Paris in the spring of 2013, she was able to study other works by the artist that also exhibited this unusual characteristic at the Musée Rodin. Lue is particularly interested in the intersection of gender and religion in Rodin’s Hand of God and other works.

Grace Meloy (Arch. Studies, 2014) is the recipient of the 2013 Fil Hearn Award for Study Abroad and an Off-Campus Summer Research Award from the University Honors College for a project overseen by Gretchen Bender on the memorial landscape of Berlin, Germany. Meloy is interested in the relationship of peripheral tourist destinations to those widely known and well documented that occupy the city’s central core. Meloy’s project draws attention to three less known locations: the Sachsenhausen concentration camp outside Oranienburg, the Soviet burial ground and monument at the park in Treptow, and the GDR-era prison at Hohenschönhausen. Utilizing the rich body of scholarship on tourism as a social practice and the abundant research that has been undertaken on history and memory in Berlin’s urban landscape, she will contribute to this discourse by considering the role of the ephemera and the experience of the tourist when contemplating Berlins’ difficult history. Her project resides in part in urban studies, as she is interested in the location of memorial sites in broader living neighborhoods. The latter do not receive much notice in scholarship on Berlin’s memorial landscape, with sites too often considered in isolation. In her desire to travel outward (literally and critically) to tourist destinations that are more peripheral, she will supplement the already rich literature on Berlin’s Mitte, redirecting attention to sites, while hitherto overlooked, bear much interest.

Troy Novak (Arch. Studies, 2014), recipient of a Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences Summer Research award, developed a unique creative project that enables him to combine his interests in structure, craft, art and science. Pursuing the Studio Arts and Chemistry minors with an interest in eventually pursuing a degree in medicine, Novak is interested in how the human body responds, physiologically, to color in two and three dimensions. Novak is being mentored by Julie Stunden, of the Studio Arts department, on a project that extends our traditional understanding of pointillism and its relationship to structure. He will be crafting three pieces that explore how color can be controlled and manipulated across different modes, including landscape, portraiture and abstraction. Novak is interested in the bodily interaction of artist to material, and of viewer to the crafted work. On the importance of thinking about craft in the 21st century, he notes “As we live in a world so frequently overwhelmed by mass production and more recently digital media, I want… to make people appreciate craftsmanship. I feel that people forget they can use their hands for more than texting and moving the mouse on the screen, so I want my primary focus to be on the hand construction of something beautiful.”

Julia Warren (Arch. Studies, 2014) received a fellowship from the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences to study in New York City in March 2013 over Spring Break and a Brackenridge Summer Research fellowship to continue her honors thesis project, overseen by Mina Rajagopalan, of the High Line in New York City. In 2010 Friends of the High Line, the organization that maintains and operates the park, was awarded the Jane Jacobs Medal for their “creative use of the urban environment,” “challenging traditional assumptions and conventional thinking,” and “generating new principles for the way we think about development and preservation in New York City.” Warren is analyzing the role of design in the preservation of the High Line and the resulting misuse and sentimentalising of nature seen within the purview of Jane Jacobs’ seminal 1961 book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Warren aims to answer the following questions: Has the architectural and landscape design of the High Line prevented visitors from understanding the structure’s history and importance to the city? And, has Jane Jacobs’ legacy been misconstrued by having her practices and principles aligned with those of Friends of the High Line? Warren’s project tackles these questions through careful site analysis conducted over several visits, enabling her to explore her broader interest in the role landscape plays in urban living.