Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Georgia Tech throws an Architecture Party for Betty Dowling.

I'm telling you: those crazy hard partying architecture professors had their-selves a time.

This is Betty Dowling, Elizabeth Meredith Dowling Ph.D. that is. She's an author, professor, architectural historian, a registered architect until 2005, and now the Georgia Tech College of Architecture’s first professor emerita.

For Atlanta architecture fans: she wrote THE book about Shutze: American Classicist: The Architecture of Philip Trammell Shutze and others.

She gets around. I've seen her out and about 3 times lately. As president of the ICA & CA Southeast (Southeast Chapter of the Institute for Classical Archtiecture & Classical America) she rallied the classical architects, designers and fans.

She introduced William Bates (founder of the Drawing and Design Department at the American College of the Building Arts) at ADAC.

She enjoyed the Pink Castle with us. She'd written about it in "The Book."

So what do you for a girl who has everything and is obviously too young to retire? You throw a party featuring her former students who have become distinguished architecture historians in their own right. You start at 8:30 AM on a Saturday morning and end with a luncheon with key lime pie for dessert. Yeah!

Where to party? The recently renovated Reinsch-Pierce Family Auditorium. It's a beautiful modern room with walls covered with sparkly gold fabric, stainless doors with portholes, and practical hospital style lobby, impervious to sleep deprived students.

How do nutty, hard partying architects break the ice? They present academic papers at 9am of course. Yahoo. I'm pretty sure I was the only non-professor, non-student, non-in-the-business person in the room. Those that knew me were amused. I had the freedom of an outsider and the ignorance of the amateur.


The law of academic papers: All the blood must be squeezed out before delivery. Fortunately when humans deliver the papers, joy and beauty inevitably escape the text.

Pauline Morin (Ph.D., Georgia Institute of Technology now at Cornell) took us to Florence. Did Masaccio's painting, "The Trinity," serve as the model for main portal of Santa Maria Novella by Alberti? I was delighted to go home and study up on that.

Carol A. Flores (Ph.D., Georgia Institute of Technology now at Ball State) . Text on buildings remains a BIG thing and there is more come. I'm going to pay more attention.

Michelle Moody (M.Arch Ga Tech, now project manager at Norman Davenport Askins Architects) introduced me to parody as a way to appreciate P0mo. No irony though. I wanted to learn more about Kresge College and Robert Venturi.

Julia M.-Smyth-Pinney (M. Arch Harvard now at University of Kentucky) confirms that however hard it is to find out what your neighborhood was like 50 years ago, it's a bit tougher in Leo X's neighborhood back in 1520.

Dorothy Metzger Habel (Dottie Habel Ph.D. University of Michigan now at University of Tennessee) gave the keynote. She demonstrated that property management, tenant relations, urban planning, financing, and building has always been tough. We've all been to THAT zoning meeting. The Piazza Colonna turned out pretty nice anyway but you should have seen the original plans.

A panel discussion followed

Allow me to introduce you.

George Johnston and Julia M. Smyth-Pinney

Julia M. Smyth-Pinney, Michelle Moody, Dorothy Metzger Habel

Dorothy Metzger Habel, Carol Flores, Pauline Morin

Here is another person Georgia need to know, Robert M. Craig (Ph.D. Cornell now at Ga Tech). He appeared in a ghostly internet video to pay a humorous tribute to Betty. Robert is the author of most of the architecture entries in the New Georgia Encyclopedia like this one on Leila Ross Wilburn. Grab Robert's, "Atlanta Architecture: Art Deco to Modern Classic, 1929-1959" if you can find it.

After that we had a nice lunch with key lime pie. Betty could not escape without a little speech. Some eyes were a bit moist. But the session ended in time for that horrible game at Clemson.


  1. Wonderful Terry. Would like MORE about this symposium !!

    Betty Dowling is too young for retirement.

    1st female student at GA Tech was my dad's year. He's 76, still full time at NASA. Nov. 1 another shuttle & he'll be in MER-mission evaluation room.

    Over 1,000 space engineers already let go, with our gov't shutdown of NASA,.....many a lot younger than my dad. Yes, GA Tech is a great school.

    Noticed text on buildings in Europe over a decade ago. Along with fabric sheathing with art.

    Did you see the recent article (NYT/WSJ can't remember) about slums in South America with artwork coating them? Entire buildings, hillsides of slums coated with the faces of the inhabitants. Quite moving.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  2. Betty and I were students at the same time but she must have hung out with the smart ones.

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