SPANS: Photographs from the Esther McCoy Papers at the Archives of American Art

March 9 to June 5, 2011
Exhibited in Washington, D.C. at the Lawrence A. Fleischman Gallery

Interior view of SPANS exhibition

Interior view of the SPANS exhibition. Photo: Michael Barnes.

Esther McCoy was a Los Angeles-based architecture critic and historian active from the 1950s through the 1970s. She wrote for Arts and Architecture and championed the goals of its Case Study House program in which the magazine commissioned the design and construction of houses to showcase new building technology.

The photographs and booklets I have selected for this exhibition show a variety of spanning systems used in twentieth-century building construction. My interest in these images is both technical and aesthetic: I am captivated by the exquisite patterns and undulating volumes produced by advanced engineering. Architectural photography is the ideal medium to express these beautiful forms, and these superb prints are but a few of the hundreds of images McCoy obtained for her writing projects, and later gave to the Archives of American Art.

The archival photographs in this site-specific exhibition show the principal highlights in the evolution of a spanning technology that starts with the groin vault ceiling of this gallery and ends with Norman Foster’s glass canopy over the Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard (visible through the windows). To add another layer to these histories, I have made a drawing with adhesive vinyl that projects a complex structural web (from Pier Luigi Nervi’s Palazetto dello Sport in Rome) onto the gallery’s vaults.

Terence Gower

View Items from This Exhibition

SPANS: Photographs from the Esther McCoy Papers at the Archives of American Art

Understanding the hyperbolic paraboloid

Understanding the hyperbolic paraboloid, 1958 Jul.

Creator: Felix Candela

Learn More

SPANS: Photographs from the Esther McCoy Papers at the Archives of American Art

Mexico City Stock Exchange under construction

Mexico City Stock Exchange under construction, ca. 1953

Learn More

SPANS: Photographs from the Esther McCoy Papers at the Archives of American Art

Diagram of the Hyperbolic Parabola for the Stock Exchange in Mexico City

Diagram of the Hyperbolic Parabola for the Stock Exchange in Mexico City, ca. 1953

Learn More

SPANS: Photographs from the Esther McCoy Papers at the Archives of American Art

Aerial view of the Square of Three Powers 
under construction, Brasilia, 1959

Aerial view of the Square of Three Powers under construction, Brasilia, 1959, 1959

Learn More


SPANS: Photographs from the Esther McCoy Papers at the Archives of American Art

Chamber of the Deputies under construction, Brasilia

Chamber of the Deputies under construction, Brasilia, 1959

Creator: Esther McCoy

Learn More

SPANS: Photographs from the Esther McCoy Papers at the Archives of American Art

Brasilia, ano 3, numero 28

Brasilia, ano 3, numero 28, 1959 Apr.

Learn More

SPANS: Photographs from the Esther McCoy Papers at the Archives of American Art

"Those 'crazy' domes" published in the Los Angeles Times, 22 February, 1959., 22 February 1959

Creator: Esther McCoy

Learn More

SPANS: Photographs from the Esther McCoy Papers at the Archives of American Art

Felix Candela: Shell Forms

Felix Candela: Shell Forms, May, 1957

Creator: Esther McCoy

Learn More


SPANS: Photographs from the Esther McCoy Papers at the Archives of American Art

A chronicler of California architecture

A chronicler of California architecture, 1984 Jul. 7 through 1984 Jul. 8

Creator: Joseph Giovannini

Learn More

SPANS: Photographs from the Esther McCoy Papers at the Archives of American Art

Simple concrete shell structures

Simple concrete shell structures, 1951 Dec.

Creator: Felix Candela

Learn More

SPANS: Photographs from the Esther McCoy Papers at the Archives of American Art

Clark Theater designed by Jeffrey Lindsay, San Diego Zoo

Clark Theater designed by Jeffrey Lindsay, San Diego Zoo, ca. 1955

Creator: Sam Rosenberg

Learn More

SPANS: Photographs from the Esther McCoy Papers at the Archives of American Art

Aerial view of the German Pavilion at the Expo '67, Montreal

Aerial view of the German Pavilion at the Expo '67, Montreal, 1967

Learn More


SPANS: Photographs from the Esther McCoy Papers at the Archives of American Art

Frei Otto's German pavilion at the World Exhibition in Montreal

Frei Otto's German pavilion at the World Exhibition in Montreal, 1967

Learn More

SPANS: Photographs from the Esther McCoy Papers at the Archives of American Art

German Pavilion, designed by Frei Otto, under construction at the Expo 67, Montreal

German Pavilion, designed by Frei Otto, under construction at the Expo 67, Montreal, 1967

Learn More

SPANS: Photographs from the Esther McCoy Papers at the Archives of American Art

Buckminster Fuller's geodesic dome at the Milan Triennale

Buckminster Fuller's geodesic dome at the Milan Triennale, 1957

Creator: Esther McCoy

Learn More

SPANS: Photographs from the Esther McCoy Papers at the Archives of American Art

Interior of Buckminster Fuller's geodesic dome at the Milan Triennale

Interior of Buckminster Fuller's geodesic dome at the Milan Triennale, 1957

Creator: Esther McCoy

Learn More


SPANS: Photographs from the Esther McCoy Papers at the Archives of American Art

“Telemuseo” dome at Eurodomus 3, Milan. Design by Paolo Lomazzi, Donato D’Urbino, and Jonathan De Pas.

“Telemuseo” dome at Eurodomus 3, Milan. Design by Paolo Lomazzi, Donato D’Urbino, and Jonathan De Pas., 1970

Learn More

SPANS: Photographs from the Esther McCoy Papers at the Archives of American Art

Detail of the model of an inflatable structure submitted to the Italian Pavilion for the 1967 World’s Fair, Osaka

Detail of the model of an inflatable structure submitted to the Italian Pavilion for the 1967 World’s Fair, Osaka, 1967

Learn More

SPANS: Photographs from the Esther McCoy Papers at the Archives of American Art

Model of an inflatable structure submitted to the Italian Pavilion for the 1967 World’s Fair, Osaka. Design by Paolo Lomazzi, Donato D’Urbino, and Jonathan De Pas.

Model of an inflatable structure submitted to the Italian Pavilion for the 1967 World’s Fair, Osaka. Design by Paolo Lomazzi, Donato D’Urbino, and Jonathan De Pas., 1967

Learn More

SPANS: Photographs from the Esther McCoy Papers at the Archives of American Art

Inflatable structure at the Milan Triennale, 1969. Design by Paolo Lomazzi, Donato D’Urbino, and Jonathan De Pas.

Inflatable structure at the Milan Triennale, 1969. Design by Paolo Lomazzi, Donato D’Urbino, and Jonathan De Pas., 1969

Learn More


SPANS: Photographs from the Esther McCoy Papers at the Archives of American Art

Italian Air Force hangar, Orbetello, Italy

Italian Air Force hangar, Orbetello, Italy, 1939

Learn More

SPANS: Photographs from the Esther McCoy Papers at the Archives of American Art

Interior of the Palazetto dello Sport, Rome

Interior of the Palazetto dello Sport, Rome, 1957

Creator: Oscar Savio

Learn More

SPANS: Photographs from the Esther McCoy Papers at the Archives of American Art

Fiat auto show at the Torino Exhibition Hall, Italy

Fiat auto show at the Torino Exhibition Hall, Italy, between 1947 and 1949

Creator: Riccardo Moncalvo

Learn More

SPANS: Photographs from the Esther McCoy Papers at the Archives of American Art

Interior of a salt mining warehouse, Tortona, Italy

Interior of a salt mining warehouse, Tortona, Italy, 1950

Creator: Riccardo Moncalvo

Learn More


SPANS: Photographs from the Esther McCoy Papers at the Archives of American Art

Cosmic Ray Pavilion, University City, Mexico City, 1950. Design by Félix Candela

Cosmic Ray Pavilion, University City, Mexico City, 1950. Design by Félix Candela, 1950

Learn More