The Drawings of Architect Jonathan Lane
Semester: Spring 2023
Praxis Course: Praxis II – CITY 350 Urban Projects
Faculty Advisor: Jeff Cohen
Field Site: The Lane Family & University of Pennsylvania’s Architectural Archives
Field Supervisors: Barbara Miller Lane & Steven Lane
Praxis Poster:Olvia Kaplan and Dylan_Praxis Poster_Final_Resized
Our Praxis project focused on the architectural drawings and career of Jonathan Lane (1931-2021). His work explored the evolving species of modernism and models of residential development in suburbs outside of Philadelphia from the late 1950’s through the 1970’s. By means of collecting drawings, cataloging, researching locations, and finding images, our goal was to organize and understand the scope of Jonathan Lane’s work.
At the start of the semester, we met with Jonathan’s wife, Barbara Miller Lane (founder of the Growth and Structure of Cities Department at Bryn Mawr College). In our discussion, we were able to learn more about his professional career; from Frank Lloyd Wright’s studio in Chicago to studying at M.I.T., to settling in the Philadelphia area, where he primarily practiced in a studio behind Lane house in Wayne.
In the backyard studio/office space, hundreds of drawings, some rolled and some stored flat in drawers, recorded the breadth of Jonathan Lane’s architectural work. We worked to catalog the more than 50 rolled sets, mostly blueprints and hand drawings. These were incredible works showing the artistic and functional process of architecture. We were also able to work with Jonathan Lane’s son, Steven Lane, as he began working through the flat drawers, providing further information to the project.
Our goal was to identify the different projects represented, noting client, date, location, and number of drawings for each. We compiled the data on the projects into spreadsheets and began the process of connecting the drawings to Steven Lane’s drawings to create a master list in order to figure out the homes that still stand today.
As we became familiar with some of Jonathan Lane’s work, we started to notice features that he favored in house designs – there was repetition of expansive horizontal layouts spanning multilevel sites, dark vertical wood siding, long decks and corner windows, and ceiling planes uninterrupted by lighting fixtures. Taking note of this, we started to explore relationships of the work with coeval published designs. While similar in process, each project had personality and a distinct nature of comfort and familiarity that truly seems to define Lane’s practice.
As the work on the collection continues, we anticipate a transfer of the cataloged and collated drawings to the University of Pennsylvania Architectural Archives and the future integration of the cataloging into the Philadelphia Architects and Buildings website.
Being able to work closely with the architectural drawings and the family of the architect has been a unique and unforgettable experience, one that has thrown new light on our sense of architectural design. For both of us, we found personal favorites and interests as we dug deeper into Jonathan Lane’s drawings and career which will continue to guide our undergraduate studies and future endeavors. Having the opportunity to work with Barbara Miller Lane, Steven Lane, and be guided by Professor Cohen of the Cities department all to create a memory of Jonathan Lane’s life’s work was an unforgettable experience. It has piqued new interests and taught us lessons and histories we may have not been exposed to before. It was also a privilege to work alongside the Lane family and Bryn Mawr College with the hundreds of sheets of drawings, as well as aid the University of Pennsylvania’s Architectural Archives in the start of archiving the many works.