Stark and desolate images of the Civil War’s battlefields are not usually expected around Tech’s campus, but that is exactly what greeted students as they walked to classes or study sessions in the Clough.
The exhibit, although installed by students in the Architecture department, was less about architecture itself than what Laura Hollengreen calls “battlefield ecology”—the living conditions, natural and man-made environmental conditions, relationship with nature and destruction and the life and death patterns of wartime.
The exhibition lasted from Aug. 19 to Oct. 18. Titled “Surface + Depth: Civil War history under our feet,” with a subtitle of “An environmental perspective on war,” the exhibit presented information and photographs of the Civil War and defenses that ran through Atlanta and even across what is now Tech’s campus.
The show featured Civil War photographs lined up as large scale reproductions of original photos.
“The photograph banners were printed on mylar, which is translucent, in order to make for a ‘layering’ of image and visitor in the gallery space.” said Laura Hollengreen, associate Architecture professor whose classes provided the focus and design for the Civil War exhibit.
The idea was that visitors might regard the history presented differently if they could literally see others through the historical images,” said Hollengreen.
Next to the photographs were various pieces of information and topography about the war in Atlanta, including one map that overlaid the location of Confederate forts on a current map of campus, including layers of defense at Fort X, near what is now Engineer’s Bookstore.
Two main purposes of the display were to reveal the details of the Civil War in the part of Atlanta where Tech’s campus is, and to expose Architecture students’ environmental design and visual representation to the student body, according to Hollengreen.
Students from different Architecture classes, such as “Museums: History, Theory and Design,” and “Landscapes of War,” came together with different ideas and methods to produce the final product.
The “Landscapes of War” class examined literature on environmental conditions and cultural repercussions of war, and involved assignments where students had to come up with schematic designs for an exhibition on World War I landscapes.
This inspired students and other volunteers to research the Civil War and its nature of weaponry and fortification techniques.
“The main intent was to inform Tech students of the history of this place, but to do so in a way that would inspire them to take a break from their busy schedules and be able to reflect on what it means to be apart of this history,” said Wesley Herr, a fifth-year ARCH major.
Herr hoped his contribution to the exhibit would impact the viewer and show them how devastating war can be.
“My idea was to have these large, almost overpowering images that allow people to look into the past, grabbing attention with powerful imagery that would hopefully stir further observation,” Herr said of his specific contribution in the “Surface and Depth” portion, using the mylar sheet arrangement.
“I think what is most fascinating to me is that these traces of our past actually often exist and are simply waiting to be made manifest,” said Holden Spaht, a Master’s student in Architecture who also helped with “Surface and Depth.”
The techniques used by Herr, Spaht and others to create the maps for the exhibit included large-scale photo transferring.
“It’s wonderful to get so deep into a subject so quickly and I’m always impressed by Architecture students’ work ethic, especially in an elective class and/or when volunteering their time,” said Hollengreen.
“In the process, they came to be passionate about the subject and were able to explain and defend our approach quite compellingly.”