University of Texas, Alexander Architectural Archive

Chester E. Nagel:

An Inventory of his Drawings, Papers, and Photographs, c.1939-1971

Collection Summary

Creator:Nagel, Chester E., 1911-
Title:Chester E. Nagel collection
Abstract:Chester E. Nagel (1911-) studied architecture at the University of Texas, graduating in 1934, and later studied with Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, receiving his Master's degree in 1940 and later returning as an assistant professor. Early in his career he worked for the National Park Service; later he was involved with The Architect's Collaborative and eventually set up his own practice in 1958. The Chester E. Nagel collection consists of 28 exhibition panels, 13 photographic prints, 1 magazine, 10 prints, 2 drawings, 3 architectural renderings, .1 linear feet correspondence, and 38 pages of video transcripts that reveal the working life of this native Texan who became a proponent of the International Style.
Identification:NAGEL 1993004; 1993005; 1993006; 1994002; 1994003
Quantity:28 exhibition panels, 13 photographic prints, 1 magazine, 10 prints, 2 drawings, 3 architectural renderings, .1 linear foot correspondence, 38 pages of video transcripts
Language:Materials are in English.
Repository:Alexander Architectural Archives, The University of Texas at Austin.

Biographical Sketch of Chester E. Nagel

"Chester [Emil] Nagel (1911-) was among the first architects to bring the International Style to Texas. Born in Fredericksburg in 1911, he studied architecture at the University of Texas, graduating in 1934. From 1935 to 1938 he worked as an architect for the National Parks Service, helping to design facilities for Bastrop and Palo Duro state parks.

"In 1939 Nagel received a scholarship to study at the Harvard Graduate School of Design where he came in contact with Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer. After receiving his Master's degree from Harvard in 1940 he returned to Austin and, inspired by Gropius' ideas, designed one of the first International Style structures in the state, a house for himself and his wife on Churchill Drive.

"During the war years, Nagel was assigned to the Army Corps of Engineers in Bastrop, and from 1943 to 1945 he worked as a test engineer on the new Convair B-36 bomber in Ft. Worth. After the war he returned to Austin and collaborated with Dan J. Driscoll on the Barton Springs Bathhouse (1945). In 1946 he was called back to Harvard to be Gropius' assistant and later became an assistant professor at the Graduate School of Design. He gave up his teaching position in 1951 to join The Architect's Collaborative (TAC) and from 1951 to 1953 he headed the TAC offices in Washington. Nagel's designs, many of which were collaborative ventures with Gropius, included the Valley House in Lexington, Massachusetts (1940), the Overholt Thoracic Clinic in Boston (1955), and the American Embassy in Athens (1956). In 1958 he opened his own practice in Massachusetts and during the course of the next decade designed a series of projects in Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands as well as several buildings for the Harvard medical and dental schools.

"Over the years Nagel has also taught and lectured at a host of different institutions among them Williams College, MIT, and the University of Texas. In 1974 he served as a visiting critic at the University of Colorado in Boulder and since 1976 has been a visiting professor of architecture at the University of Colorado, Denver campus. He now lives in Denver where he continues to practice."

Quoted from Christopher Long, n.d., article in Alexander Architectural Archives reference files.

Scope and Content of the collection

The Chester E. Nagel collection consists of 28 exhibition panels, 13 photographic prints, 1 magazine, 10 prints, 2 drawings, 3 architectural renderings, .1 linear feet correspondence, and 38 pages of video transcripts that reveal the working life of this native Texan who became a proponent of the International Style.


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This collection is open for research. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using archival materials. As all or portions of this collection may be housed off-site, advance notice of at least three working days is required for retrieval. Certain items may require additional time for flattening or humidifying before they can be viewed. Access is by appointment only. Please contact the archives' reference staff for further information.

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Index Terms

Subjects (Persons)
Nagel, Chester E., 1911-
Gropius, Walter, 1883-1969
Subjects (Organizations)
Chester Nagel and Assoc.
Architecture--Texas--20th century
Houses--20th century--United States--Texas.
Archives--Nagel, Chester, E.
Buildings--Designs and plans.
Athens (Greece)
Austin (Tex.)
Berlin (Germany)
Puerto Rico
Saint Thomas (V.I.)
Document Types
Architectural drawings
Exhibit panels

Administrative Information


Chester E. Nagel collection, the Alexander Architectural Archives, the General Libraries, the University of Texas at Austin

Processing Information

Materials processed by: Wai-Yin Kwan; Beth Dodd, 2003.

Other Finding Aids

Unpublished inventory in archive.

References to works by or about Chester E. Nagel

"House in Texas."Architecture d'aujourd'hui20 (Feb. 1950): p. 100-101. Illus., plan.

"House at Austin, Texas."Architects' journal 98 (Dec. 4, 1943): p.413-414. Illus.

"House in Austin, Texas : Chester E. Nagel, architect and owner."New pencil points 24 (Jan. 1943): p. 20-31. Illus., plan, diagr.

Detailed Description of the Collection

Series A: Professional Work

Series Abstract
Various records representing a sample of Nagel's professional career. Material donated by Nagel, accessions 1993005 and 1993006.
Mr. and Mrs. Chester E. Nagel residence. Churchill Drive and 33rd Street, Austin, Tex.
1 photograph: perspective, 1940-1941
(10 x 14")
8 photographs: 6 exterior, 1 interior, 1 detail of staircase, 1940-1941
(8 x 10")
5 photographs: 4 exterior, 1 interior, ca. 1940-1941
(17 x 23")
working drawings: complete set, 11/25/1940
(8 blueprints 18 x 27")
1 negative photoprint; plan, 1941
"House in Austin, Texas: Chester E. Nagel, architect and owner. "New pencil points 24 (Jan. 1943): p. 20-31. Illus., plan, diagr.
Harvard Medical School. Research Center. Southboro, Mass., completed 1963. Chester Nagel, Architect
(40 x 25")
Harvard School of Dental Medicine. New facilities design proposal, commissioned and designed 1966. Chester Nagel and Assoc. Architects.
(print, 36 x 25.5")
Coolidge Bank & Office Building. New facilities design proposal. Adjoining Harvard Square, Cambridge, Mass., commissioned and designed 1966. Chester Nagel and Assoc. Architects.
(print, 36" x 24")
Fuller Brook Apartments. Design proposal for 174 units. Wellesley, Mass., 1968
perspective rendering showing car
(pencil, 21 x 54")
preliminary designs; perspective rendering showing people on sidewalk
(pencil on trace, 21 x 30.5")
Limetree Beach Hotel. St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, 1968
Hotel room interior perspective

Series B: Exhibition Material

Series Abstract
28 (20×30") exhibition panels of Nagel's work that were a part of an exhibition at the University of Colorado at Denver. This exhibition was designed by Nagel. Panels contain photographic prints, drawings and descriptive passages. Material donated by Nagel, accession 1993004.
1Limetree Beach Hotel, Virgin Islands. Photographs and site plan.
2Limetree Beach Hotel, Virgin Islands. Hotel room interior.
3Fuller Brook Apartments, Wellesley, Mass. Perspectives, plans.
4John T. Berry Rehabilitation Center, Boston, Mass. Photographs and plans.
5School theatres, Arecibo and Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico. Plans, renderings, photograph of model.
6Harvard Medical School and School of Dental Medicine, Cambridge, Mass. Renderings, photographs of models, photographs, plan.
7Buxton School, Berkshires. Photo, site plan, axonometric drawing.
8American Embassy, Athens, Greece. Photographs, site plan and Gropius quote.
9Colliers Elementary School. Articles design graphics, and group photograph.
10Overholt Thoracic Clinic. Photos, Overholt quote, and Nagel observation on Overholt.
11Smithsonian exhibition, hi-speed photography. Photos and Nagel article on design.
12Tallahassee auditorium. Design renderings, Gropius and Nagel photographs.
13Hansa Apartments, Berlin, Germany. Photographs and perspectives.
14West Bridgewater Elementary School. Photographs and plans.
15Nagel house, Boston Court. Tokyo article with plans, photographs.
16Nagel house, Austin, Tex. Photographs, plans, portions of 1943 and 1950 articles.
17Nagel house, Austin, Tex. Photographs and plans. Old original panel.
18Nagel house, Austin, Tex. Large floor plans.
19Nagel house, Austin, Tex. 5 large photographs, quote from Gropius.
20Nagel historical role in Texas 1934-1946. Excerpts from Austin 1986 book, Nagel portrait.
21New England residences. Photographs, plans.
22Museum of Modern Art competition designs. Outdoor furniture honored.
23Nagel freehand drawings. Eleven animals.
24Nagel freehand drawings. "Things that never were".
25Nagel freehand drawings. "Grace of action and repose".
26Nagel freehand drawings. "Diversity of purpose and form".
27Architecture's give and take. Teaching observations at the University of Colorado at Denver, and cartoon.
28Moments to remember. Nagel with Gropius and Pei: photographs, telegram, quotes.

Series C: Correspondence

Series Abstract
Copies of correspondence between Walter Gropius and Nagel as student/teacher and later colleague and friend relationships, 1939-1969. Material donated by Nagel, accession 1994002.
"I am writing to enter the school (Master Class, taught by Gropius and Breuer)... for the Master in Architecture degree this fall.", August 10, 1939.
"I highly appreciate that you are one of those who are believers and are willing to sacrifice something in favor of the architectural gospel...", September 9, 1949.
"I really congratulate you because I think it is an excellent design. Better publicity than that...(cartoon) you cannot have.", October 10, 1941.
"I shall always enjoy hearing from you.", February 13, 1942.
"Times have changed quite a bit... all private practice seems to have entirely gone… I myself have been busy with prefabrication...", September 25, 1942.
"It is excellent indeed that Pencil Points gave you so much space (12 pages). But, you deserve it because... it is really a lovely design.", March 31, 1943.
"An architect with your training has been able to climb up the ladder in such a difficult field as test engineering for airplanes.", March 9, 1944.
"I understand... that you are longing to get back to your own profession, but your contact with the industry will have enriched you as a designer.", May 1, 1945.
"I am glad that you have been released (from defense industry), and can work at architecture again.", November 7, 1945.
"I wanted to inform you of the final arrangements made in Harvard. The whole new Basic Design course has been thrown in my lap...", July 5, 1950 (Nagel vacationing in Texas).
"I was wondering if you could write a review for Laboratory Design (a book) hoping that I do not impose too much on you.", November 29, 1951.
"When you make arrangements for me for a visit to Washington, ... make it late in August. (Meanwhile) am longing to get a breathing spell.", July 7, 1952.
"This exciting new view point of our world from above gives us a new dimension.", January 30, 1953. (Book gift, Nagel to Gropius)
"I dig deep into my files for the book Giedion is writing, but I feel somewhat like a gravedigger.", April 21, 1953. (regarding Space, Time and Architecture)
"Most generous of you to equip me with films for my coming trip to Bagdad.", December 30, 1958.
"Ise and I like very much your layout for a possible book on me... It takes an entirely new angle which hasn't been tried yet.", December, 28, 1964. (regarding Man of Vision -- video and monograph)

Series D: Video Transcripts

Series Abstract
Copies of transcripts to Nagel's videos "Gropius/Man of Vision" and "Creativity in Architecture". Material donated by Nagel, accession 1994003.
"Gropius/Man of Vision" transcripts
"Creativity in Architecture" transcripts