HOW THE CURTIS ELECTRONIC BOOK BEGAN

Abbye Gorin, Ph.D., architectural historian, met Nathaniel Curtis in 1989 when she was writing about the design of the Curtis and Davis project, the Royal Orleans Hotel (1960), the first post-World War II hotel built in New Orleans. Over the years the two built a friendship laced with their common interests in the modern movement, architectural history, and architectural writing.

By the mid-1980s, Curtis completed a rough draft of his professional autobiography. He asked Gorin to read and evaluate it. Gorin, who creates and writes electronic programs for architecture and art, immediately saw a story that had both strong educational merit and general appeal. It was the kind of story missing from the body of architectural knowledge and sorely needed in New Orleans literature.

Shortly before Curtis died in 1997, he asked Gorin to be his biographer, edit his draft, and get it published. As Curtis saw his life passing by, he told Gorin that he was pleased that he had had the time to put into writing his life's adventure in architecture. He would leave it to the critics to judge his contribution to the modern movement. Since the architect's manuscript was in draft form, it lent itself to the new multimedia book design, a convenient form for preserving and retrieving his philosophy and the art of his architecture.

Gorin called on long-time collaborators, producer Barbara Coleman and editor Helen Malin, to join her in presenting the architect's story in electronic format. Others who joined the core team were University of New Orleans Web-master, Steven Duplantier; Curtis' wife, Frances, who supplied important archival materials; his daughter, Nell Tilton, who created the portrait on the cover; his grandson, Chris Tilton, who composed the computer-generated music that opens and closes the book; and the architect, Michael Rouchell, who designed the cover for the CD-ROM. With the collaboration of others listed in the credits, an avant-garde architect of the twentieth century is published in an avant-garde electronic book of the twenty-first.

 


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