URDS senior, Veronica Watson, wins Phi Beta Kappa/Albert S. Borgman Memorial Prize!

28 May

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We are thrilled to announce that  Veronica Watson, Urban Design & Architecture Studies Program, was awarded the Albert S. Borgman prize for  Best Honors Thesis in Humanities.  The abstract of  Watson’s thesis, The Resor House: Perspective Representation and Mies van der Rohe’s “Inner Structure”, can be read and images viewed at the end of this post but, first, a bit about our awardee:

Veronica majored in Urban Design and Architecture Studies and minored in Studio Art as well as Web Programming and Applications. Within the major, Veronica focused in the study of architectural history, and was particularly interested in modern architecture. At a MoMA exhibit, Cut ‘n’ Paste: From Architectural Assemblage to Collage City, she came across Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Resor House collages. Captivated by the collages, she decided they would make an excellent subject for her senior thesis. Under the guidance of Professor Jon Ritter, she turned a study of the collages toward a broader investigation of perspective and architectural representation. Now that she has graduated, Veronica plans to work and pursue a graduate degree in architecture.


Mies van der Rohe, “Resor House Project, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Perspective and view of the site from interior,” 1937-1938, Museum of Modern Art




Mies van der Rohe, “Resor House Project, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Interior perspective of living room (view through north glass wall),” 1937-41, Museum of Modern Art




Mies van der Rohe, “Resor House Project, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Interior perspective of living room and south glass wall,” 1939, Museum of Modern Art



Architectural representation is the conceptualization and translation of designed space onto a two-dimensional picture plane. Linear perspective, invented in the early Renaissance by Fillipo Brunelleschi and described by Leon Batista Alberti in his book, On Painting, as a tool for painters, has become an integral method for architectural representation. These representations deserve deeper consideration as direct artifacts of the architect’s design conceptualization, freed from physical construction and its practical constraints. Furthermore, it is important to consider the way in which the two-dimensional perspective form may be reflected in the built three-dimensional space it represents.

These concerns will be turned toward a close examination of German modernist architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, specifically by considering a number of sketches and, more particularly, three perspective collages he produced for his first American commission, the Resor House, in 1937. The collages combine photographic images of the landscape with drawn perspectives of the living space looking out into it. Using the ideas of art historian Erwin Panofsky in Perspective as Symbolic Form as a basis, I will argue that Mies employs the perspective form to a manipulative stylistic effect. While much has been written about Mies’s architecture, especially in regards to his interest in the structure of buildings, I will make a new argument. My research suggests that we may interpret the “inner structure”, that Mies proclaims to expose in his buildings as more than a skeletal structure highlighting what holds the building up. Instead we might perceive an underlying visual structure that reflects the form of the two-dimensional perspective in which it was conceived.



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