Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Joseph O. Cezar Architectural Records Collection Offers Unique Resources

Carol A. Street, Archivist for Architectural Records

As you recline on a lawn chair in your backyard this summer enjoying a good page-turner and sipping cold iced tea, you might consider for a moment how you would design your own perfect lawn chair. A recent discovery in the Drawings and Documents Archive illustrates one architect’s classic, yet innovative, design for the perfect lawn chair.

One of many interesting items in the Joseph O. Cezar Architectural Records Collection, this 1943 drawing titled Lawn Chair is an interpretation of the classic Adirondack style chair with its sloping back, plank boards and wide armrests. The history of the Adirondack chair began, not surprisingly, in the Adirondack Mountain resort area of New York. Created in 1903, its popularity quickly spread throughout the country due to its rugged construction combined with the high level of comfort it provides despite its lack of cushions.

Forty years later, Indianapolis architect Joseph O. Cezar (1903-1991) updated what was already a classic Adirondack design and incorporated two discrete wheels under the front chair legs for increased mobility. Clearly, he was familiar with the design but felt he could improve upon it by making a few alterations.

This drawing illustrates a period in Cezar’s life when he was establishing an architecture practice in Indiana and raising a growing family. Born in Austria in 1903, Cezar found his way to Indianapolis in 1938 after he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Chicago Technical College. He worked in architecture firms until he began his own practice in 1944.

Architecture and landscape architecture students and faculty can utilize design drawings, such as this one, to learn about the decision-making process involved in matching need, such as comfort in the out-of-doors, with a design solution, in this case a sturdy and mobile chair. The technology of creating a simple functional object like a chair that bears appropriate weight, maintains its shape, and is comfortably reliable for an extended use is communicated in the clear, concise drawing and exact specifications Cezar incorporated into his drawing.

Some of the interesting, personal items in the collection illustrate Cezar’s wit and his love for his family. He drew announcements to celebrate the occasion of the birth of his first child. Every Christmas he designed cards for the family with drawings of historic Indiana architecture or buildings that he designed, and these are represented in the collection by his preliminary drawings and finished cards.

The Joseph O. Cezar Architectural Records Collection will soon be available for online viewing through the Ball State University Libraries’ Digital Media Repository, For more information, contact Carol A. Street, University Libraries’ Archivist for Architectural Records,, 765-285-8441.

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