Avery Drawings & Archives Collections
 

Paul Nelson architectural records and papers, 1924-1976

Summary Information

Abstract

Paul Nelson was an American architect educated at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris and practicing in France and the United States. This collection contains materials related to Nelson's personal, professional, and academic lives, the bulk originating during his residency in the France, beginning in the 1920s.

At a Glance

Bib ID 7203000 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Nelson, Paul, 1895-1979 ; Drexler, Arthur ; Fuller, R. Buckminster (Richard Buckminster), 1895-1983 ; Jourdain, Frantz, 1847-1935 ; Malraux, André, 1901-1976 ; Miró, Joan, 1893-1983 ; Nitzchke, Oscar, 1900- ; José Luis Sert, 1902-1983 ; Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts ; Museum of Modern Art (New York, N.Y.) ; Ecole d'art et d'architecture (Université d'Aix-Marseille Luminy)
Title Paul Nelson architectural records and papers, 1924-1976
Physical Description 2 manuscript boxes; 2 bound volumes; 58 photographs (58 photographs); 241 drawings (241 drawings)
Language(s) English , French .
Access

This collection is available for use by appointment in the Department of Drawings & Archives, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University. For further information and to make an appointment, please email avery-drawings@library.columbia.edu.

Arrangement

Arrangement

This material is arranged in four series: Project Records, Professional Papers, Faculty Papers, Personal Papers, and Student Work. The arrangement of materials within each series is described at the beginning of each series inventory.

Description

Scope and Content

This collection contains materials related to Nelson's personal, professional, and academic lives, the bulk originating during his residency in the France, beginning in the 1920s.

Using the Collection

Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library

Restrictions on Access

This collection is available for use by appointment in the Department of Drawings & Archives, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University. For further information and to make an appointment, please email avery-drawings@library.columbia.edu.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Columbia University is providing access to the materials in the Library's collections solely for noncommercial educational and research purposes. The unauthorized use, including, but not limited to, publication of the materials without the prior written permission of Columbia University is strictly prohibited. All inquiries regarding permission to publish should be submitted in writing to the Director, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University. In addition to permission from Columbia University, permission of the copyright owner (if not Columbia University) and/or any holder of other rights (such as publicity and/or privacy rights) may also be required for reproduction, publication, distributions, and other uses. Responsibility for making an independent legal assessment of any item and securing any necessary permissions rests with the persons desiring to publish the item. Columbia University makes no warranties as to the accuracy of the materials or their fitness for a particular purpose.

Preferred Citation

Paul Nelson architectural records and papers. Located in the Dept. of Drawings & Archives, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University.

Custodial History

1989.012

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number--1989.012.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Brad Walter, Mellon Graduate Intern, and Annemarie van Roessel, Archivist, Dept. of Drawings & Archives, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, in 2009.

Revision Description

2009-06-25 File created.

2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.

Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.

Genre/Form

Heading "CUL Archives:"
"Portal"
"CUL Collections:"
"CLIO"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
"ArchivedGRID"
Architects Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Architectural reprographic prints Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Carbon typescript papers Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Correspondence Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Film negatives Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Holograph papers Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Mixed media works Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Photographic prints Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Photographic transparencies Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Printing paper Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
typescripts Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

Subject

Heading "CUL Archives:"
"Portal"
"CUL Collections:"
"CLIO"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
"ArchivedGRID"
Architects -- France -- 20th century Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Architecture -- Study and teaching Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Architecture -- United States -- History -- 20th century Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Calder, Alexander, 1898-1976 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Hospital architecture -- Egypt Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Hospital architecture -- France Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Hospital buildings -- Design and construction -- France -- History Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
International style (Architecture) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Le Carré bleu Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Le Corbusier, 1887-1965 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Motion pictures -- Setting and scenery Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Nelson, Paul, 1895-1979 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts (France) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

History

An American-French architect educated at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, Paul Nelson contributed significantly to the theoretical and pragmatic dialog between American and French architecture in the mid-twentieth century, designing a range of building types, both built and unbuilt. His most famous work, the much-studied Maison Suspendue, remains a landmark of elegant modernism married to prefabricated technology. This small collection documents Nelson's career and professional interests through papers, photographs, architectural drawings, writings, and published materials.

Paul Nelson was born in Chicago in 1895 and after a brief stint at Princeton University in 1914 and service in the United States Air Force in World War I, he moved to Paris in 1920 to begin a rigorous study of architecture at the highly-regarded Ecole des Beaux-Arts. Nelson entered the atelier of Emmanuel Pontrémoli and moved to the atelier of August Perret in 1925, becoming the first graduate of Perret's studio in 1927. In this heady environment, Nelson was introduced to the fluid vocabularies of Art Deco, Classicism, and Constructivism. Nelson, in particular, recognized the life-long influence of Le Corbusier's writings and architecture in his own work.

Nelson opened his professional practice in Paris in the late 1920s and practiced primarily in France for the remainder of his career. Among Nelson's earliest commissions was a residence in Paris for Alden Brooks, the American author, in which he employed a rigorous geometry on the exterior façade, while the rear of the house was a transparent skin of glass, looking out on a small garden.

Influenced by the International Style and emerging structural technologies, Nelson's work became more experimental and cerebral over time, reaching its apogee in his most recognized design, the Maison Suspendue, in which interchangeable prefabricated units were literally hung within a structural metal armature, allowing for endless freedom and adaptation to modern living. This unbuilt project was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and established Nelson as a major figure in the European architectural scene.

Ever interested in the cross-pollenization of American and French architecture, Nelson also maintained close ties to the American engineer, inventor, and polymath R. Buckminster Fuller. During a lengthy return to the United States in 1927, Fuller began a correspondence with Nelson that would grow into a long and rich collegial relationship. Indeed, Nelson served as the official representative in France to promote Fuller's 4D House project, which later evolved into the Dymaxion House. As well, Nelson expanded Fuller's knowledge of current French architecture, especially that of Le Corbusier and Perret. In return, Nelson was introduced to the use and properties of metal in architecture, which he found especially appealing in such later projects as the Maison Suspendue.

Exploring the modern movement's affinity for using technology to improve quality of life, Nelson returned again and again to prototyping medical and health care facilities, largely in France. Among his major projects were the Franco-American Memorial Hospital in Saint-Lô (1946-1954), additions to the American Hospital in Neuilly (1951), and the joint design of a "compact" hospital in Dinan, France (1963-1968) and a large hospital near Arles (1965-1974). Numerous competition and unrealized clinic and hospital projects also show Nelson searching for the balance between functionalism and aesthetics.

During an extended sojourn in the United States between 1957 and 1960, Nelson received a number of prestigious appointments, serving most notably as a visiting professor at Pratt, Yale, Harvard, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as technical advisor to the U.S. Public Health Service, as a Fellow of the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, and as a researcher for the Joint Center for Urban Studies at Harvard and MIT. Returning to France, Nelson continued his academic career as professor at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris and then at the Ecole d'Art et d'Architecture at Luminy, Marseille.

Nelson also nurtured close relationships with major writers, artists, and film figures, including Georges Braque, André Derain, Alexander Calder, Joan Miró and Pablo Picasso. In 1930, Nelson designed the luxurious International Style set for Gloria Swanson's film What a Widow! Among his later commissions was a house for Ferdinand Léger's daughter and a museum for Léger's paintings, both unbuilt. Nelson died in Marseille in 1979.

External users and Columbia affiliates may view materials on-site at RBML. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, only Columbia affiliates may view materials on-site at Avery, Starr, and Burke. After clicking 'Submit Request', users will login with their UNI and password (Columbia affiliates) or their special collections account (external users). Appointments are required and will be arranged according to each individual repository's policy.


Series I: Project Records


Subseries 1: Drawings



Drawer 295 Folder 01 4D Time Lock, 1928

Creator: R. Buckminster Fuller

4 drawings.



Drawer 295 Folder 02 4D Tower, 1928, undated

Creator: R. Buckminster Fuller

12 drawings.



Drawer 295 4D Tower, 1928

Creator: R. Buckminster Fuller

1 drawing.



Drawer 295 Folder 03 Brooks, Alden, Maison (80 Boulevard Arago, Paris, France), 1928

1 drawing.



Drawer 295 Folder 04 Brooks, Alden, Maison (80 Boulevard Arago, Paris, France), 1929 Apr-1929 May, undated

34 drawings



Drawer 295 Folder 05 Kennedy, Joseph P., Sr., Residence, Cinema (Bronxville, NY), circa 1930

7 drawings.



Drawer 295 Folder 06 Léger, Nadia, Maison (Gif-sur-Yvette, France), 1956 Jan-1956 Jun, undated

10 drawings.



Drawer 295 Folder 07 Léger, Nadia, Maison (Gif-sur-Yvette, France), 1956 Feb-1956 Jun, undated

13 drawings.



Drawer 295 Folder 08 Maison de Santé, type minimum., 1932 Jan

4 drawings.



Drawer 295 Folder 09 Maison des Docteurs., 1933 Feb 13, undated

20 drawings.



Drawer 295 Folder 10 Maison Suspendue., circa 1936-1938

69 drawings.



Drawer 295 Folder 11 Musée Léger (Biot, France), 1956 Apr 04, undated

5 drawings.



Drawer 295 Folder 12 Unité de Voisinage (Martigues, France), 1974 Apr 30

4 drawings.



Drawer 295 Folder 13 Vannier, Pierre, Dr., Maison, Details (France?), 1937, undated

21 drawings.



Drawer 295 Folder 14 "What a Widow!," set designs., 1930

3 drawings.



Drawer 295 Folder 15 Unidentified project [possibly residence?], undated

1 drawing.


Subseries 2: Files



Box 01 Folder 01 Centre de Santé (Arles, France), 1971-1974

Newspaper articles in French.



Box 01 Folder 02 Fuller, R. Buckminster. 4D Project., 1928 May 21

Description. Bound copy.



Box 01 Folder 03 Fuller, R. Buckminster. 4D Project., 1928 Aug 17

Description.



Box 01 Folder 04 Fuller, R. Buckminster. 4D Project., 1928 Aug

Agreement between Fuller and Nelson.



Box 01 Folder 05 Fuller, R. Buckminster. 4D Project., undated

Correspondence from Fuller to Nelson.



Box 01 Folder 06 Fuller, R. Buckminster. 4D Project., undated

Description, in French.



Box 01 Folder 07 Fuller, R. Buckminster. 4D Project., undated

Description draft, in English, with sketches on verso.



Box 01 Folder 08 Fuller, R. Buckminster. 4D Project., undated

Patent papers, including description and drawings.



Box 01 Folder 09 Fuller, R. Buckminster., 1944 Feb-1944 Mar

Speech transcript, correspondence, and list of names.



Box 01 Folder 10 Fuller, R. Buckminster., undated

Confidentiality agreement, blank.



Box 01 Folder 11 Hôpital Américain (Paris, France), 1952 Apr

"Hôpital Américain de Paris," L'Architecture d'Aujourd'hui.



Box 01 Folder 12 Hôpital Mémorial France-Etats-Unis (St.-Lô, France), 1943 Jul

"Suns for Surgery in St.-Lo," Life Magazine.



Box 01 Folder 13 Hôpital Mémorial France-Etats-Unis (St.-Lô, France), 1949 Mar

Penrose, Roland. "Hospital at St.-Lo, France," Architectural Preview, vol. 105, no. 627.



Box 01 Folder 14 Hôpital Mémorial France-Etats-Unis (St.-Lô, France), 1959 Jun 16

Nelson, Paul. "From an Integrated Approach to Design: A 'Hospital for Life'," Hospitals, J.A.H.A. vol 33.



Box 01 Folder 15 Hôpital Mémorial France-Etats-Unis (St.-Lô, France), undated

Bridgeman, Dr. "Hôpital Mémorial France-Etats-Unis, St-Lo, France," L'Architecture d'Aujourd'hui no. 70. Also includes English translation.



Box 01 Folder 16 Hôpital Mémorial France-Etats-Unis (St.-Lô, France), undated

Nelson, Paul. "Sala de Operaciones Ovoide." Instituto Tecnico de la Construction y del Cemento.



Box 01 Folder 17 Hôpital Mémorial France-Etats-Unis (St.-Lô, France), undated

"Un modernissino complesso ospedaliero: l'Ospedale Francia-Stati Uniti a Saint Lô. Illustrazione Medica.



Box 01 Folder 18 Hôpital Hospice (Dinan, France), 1965 Feb

"Dinan--Hôpital Hospice," Techniques et Architecture series 25, no. 2.



Box 01 Folder 19 Hôpital Hospice (Dinan, France), 1965 May

Nelson, Paul. "Réalisations Passées, Présentes et Futures: Projet d'Hôpital à Dinan," Ordre des Architectes no. 204.



Box 01 Folder 20 Hôpital Hospice (Dinan, France), 1970 Apr 22

"Nouvel Hôpital de Dinan." Report by Centre International d'Etudes Techniques.



Box 01 Folder 21 Hôpital Hospice (Dinan, France), undated

"Projet pour l'Hôpital de Dinan," L'Architecture d'Aujourd'hui no. 115.



Box 01 Folder 22 Palais de la Découverte, 1937

Nelson, Paul. "Projet d'un Palais de la Découverte," Cahiers d'Art. Co-architects: Paul Nelson, Oscar Nitzschké, Frantz Jourdain.



Box 01 Folder 23 Palais de la Découverte, 1938 Mar 14

Nelson, Paul. "Projet d'un Palais de la Découverte: Analyse du Problème." Co-architects: Paul Nelson, Oscar Nitzschké, Frantz Jourdain.


Subseries 3: Photographs



Box 01 Folder 24 Kennedy, Joseph, Residence, cinema (Bronxville, NY), circa 1930

3 items : Model views.



Box 01 Folder 25 Kennedy, Joseph, Residence, cinema (Bronxville, NY), circa 1930

10 items : Drawings.



Box 01 Folder 26 Hôpital Mémorial France-Etats-Unis (St.-Lô, France), undated

14 items : Drawings.



Box 01 Folder 27 Hospital project (Ismailai, Egypt), undated

1 item : Model view.



Box 01 Folder 28 Hospital project (Arles, France), undated

2 items : Model views.



Box 01 Folder 29 Unité de Voisinage (Martigues, France), 1974 Apr 30

5 items : Drawings.

Series II: Professional Papers



Box 01 Folder 30 "A La Recherche de L'Hôpital du XXe Siècle," Revue Equipements et Techniques du Confort no. 32, 1965 Nov

Interview with Paul Nelson.



Box 01 Folder 31 American Institute of Architects, Vital Questions, 1968

Newsletter.



Container 4-Flap Architecture Hospitalière, Deux Etudes, Paul Nelson: Maison de Santé, Pavillon de Chirurgie, 1936

Wire-bound.



Box 01 Folder 32 Assorted newspaper clippings, 1963-1964

In French.



Box 01 Folder 33 Calder, Alexander - Correspondence, 1965 Sep 22

In French. Also includes personal comments.



Box 01 Folder 34 Le Carré Bleu, 1961-1969

Multiple editions.



Box 01 Folder 35 Claudius-Petit, Eugène - Correspondence, 1969



Box 01 Folder 36 Drexler, Arthur - Correspondence, 1959-1974



Container 4-Flap Exposition des Techniques Americaines, 1946

Bound scrapbook with black-and-white photographic prints.



Box 02 Folder 1 Galpérine, Charles, "Un American à Paris," Notre Republique no. 250, 1967 Feb 03

Interview with Paul Nelson.



Box 02 Folder 2 Graham Foundation., 1957 Jan 02

Interview with Paul Nelson for "Quatre Soli." Transcript of group discussion regarding research project proposed by Nelson In French



Box 02 Folder 3 Graham Foundation, 1957

Fellows information.



Box 02 Folder 4 Graham Foundation, correspondence to and from, 1957-1958



Box 02 Folder 5 Graham Foundation, 1958 Apr 22

Project report written by Nelson.



Box 02 Folder 6 Graham Foundation, 1958

Fellows information.



Box 02 Folder 7 Les Informations Dieppoises, 1964-1965

Newspaper clippings.



Box 02 Folder 8 Le Corbusier - Correspondence, 1948 Mar 25



Box 02 Folder 9 "Liason des Arts," exhibition, 1961 Jul 31

Correspondence and description.



Box 02 Folder 10 Miró, Joan - Correspondence, 1966 Nov 25



Box 02 Folder 11 Nelson, Paul. "L'Air Conditionné: Sa valeur thérapeutique, ses conséquences sur l'architecture hospitalière", 1934



Box 02 Folder 12 Nelson, Paul. "L'Homme, L'Architecte et L'Industrie du Bâtiment." From unidentified magazine, circa 1950s



Box 02 Folder 13 Nelson, Paul. "Introduction à la Conférence à Vancouver", 1975 Dec 14

Typewritten manuscript.



Box 02 Folder 14 Nelson, Paul. "Modern Architecture is Based on Current Life: Great Building Art Product of Necessity." Chicago Evening Post Magazine of the Art World, 1928 Apr 17

Newspaper clipping.



Box 02 Folder 15 Nelson, Paul. "My Approach to Architecture", 1941 Apr 22

Lecture given at Yale University. Typewritten.



Box 02 Folder 16 Nelson, Paul, "New O.R. Design Concepts." Hospital Topics Magazine, 1959 Feb



Box 02 Folder 17 Nelson, Paul. "Researching for a New Standard of Living." Printed by Revere Copper and Brass, circa 1940s

Pamphlet.



Box 02 Folder 18 Nelson, Paul. "Les Tables Rondes du Second Oeuvre: Plomberie et Sanitaire Industrialisés." Chaud-Froid Plomberie no. 226, 1965 Oct



Box 02 Folder 19 Nelson, Paul. "Urbanisme et Enfance." Pédiatrie Sociale, undated



Box 02 Folder 20 Nelson, Paul. "Vers le Centre de Santé." La Table Ronde no. 242, 1968 Mar

Pamphlet.



Box 02 Folder 21 Nelson, Paul. "Vers un Nouvel Humanisme." L'Architecture d'Aujourd'hui, 1957 Jan



Box 02 Folder 22 Perspecta, 1971

Correspondence with Robert L. Geddes, Graham T. Johnston, and Henry Wollman regarding contributions to Perspecta.



Box 02 Folder 23 Royaumont conference. "Liaison des Arts", 1965 Nov 11

Schedule and list of participants.



Box 02 Folder 24 Royaumont conference. Nelson, Paul, "Le Théatre et les Loisirs", 1961 Jun



Box 02 Folder 25 Royaumont conference. Nelson, Paul, "Vers une méthode pour l'intégration des Arts", 1962 Oct



Box 02 Folder 26 Rosenfield, Isadore. Correspondence, 1971 Nov



Box 02 Folder 27 Sert, José. Correspondence, 1971 Nov

Subseries III: Faculty Papers



Box 02 Folder 28 Atelier Franco-Americain, 1961-1966

Proposals and correspondence. In French.



Box 02 Folder 29 Ecole d'Art et d'Architecture à Marseille-Luminy. Enseignement Divers, 1958-1974

Design course proposals. In French.



Box 02 Folder 30 Ecole d'Art et d'Architecture à Marseille-Luminy. General materials, 1967 Apr 06

Press release; clippings from Le Figaro.



Box 02 Folder 31 Ecole d'Art et d'Architecture à Marseille-Luminy. Théories Enseignement, Architecture et Urbanisme, 1968-1972

Correspondence to and from André Malraux and administrative and course development papers. In French.



Box 02 Folder 32 Ecole d'Art et d'Architecture à Marseille-Luminy. Objectifs et Programmes d'Enseignement--Architecture Hospitalière, 1974-1976

Hospital design course descriptions. In French.



Box 02 Folder 33 Pratt Institute, Jersey Meadows studio, 1958

Notes, administrative papers, maps, published materials, photographic negative



Box 02 Folder 34 Pratt Institute, Jersey Meadows studio, 1958-1959

Administrative papers and published materials.



Box 02 Folder 35 Pratt Institute, Jersey Meadows studio, circa 1958

Student project photographs. Black and white photographic prints.



Box 02 Centre Homéopathique, undated

18 : Black-and-white photographic prints.

Series IV: Student Work



Drawer 295 Exposition d'Art Français, circa 1920s

2 items : Graphite, ink, and wash on paper.



Roll A132A.13 Spanish Colonial-style Beaux-Arts club, circa 1920s

3 items : Graphite on paper.



Roll A132A.14 Spanish Colonial-style Beaux-Arts club, circa 1920s

1 item : Graphite on paper.



Drawer 295 Un Etablissement de Bains Froids, [1924-1925]

1 item : Ink and gouache on paper, mounted on heavy paper.



Box 02 Un Etablissement de Bains Froids, 1924-1925

2 items : Printed paper.



Box 02 Une Cuisine-Restaurant Populaire, 1924-1925

2 items : Printed paper.



Roll A132A.11 Unidentified project [sporting complex?], circa 1920s

1 item : Graphite on paper.



Roll A132A.12 Unidentified project [sporting complex?], circa 1920s

1 item : Graphite on paper.



Box 02 Unidentified project, elevation, 1924

1 item : Black-and-white photographic print.

Series V: Personal Papers



Box 02 Folder 40 Oeuvres d'Art, Correspondances Artistes et Galleries, 1960-1973

Correspondence with Guggenheim Museum and others regarding Alexander Calder sculpture.