Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library Acquires the Edgar A. Tafel Archive


"Edgar would have been so pleased to see the records of his life's work being treated with such care and dignity. We are thrilled that they will be available to scholars and others interested in his work over future generations. We can think of no better place than Avery Library to house the Edgar A. Tafel Archive," the Trustees, in making this bequest, stated.

A native New Yorker, Edgar Tafel was one of the first students to study architecture under Frank Lloyd Wright as an apprentice in the Taliesin Fellowship. He was one of three apprentices charged with designing and supervising the construction of Fallingwater, Wright's masterpiece for the Kaufmann family of Pittsburgh.  He also worked on the Johnson Wax Headquarters in Racine, Wisconsin and Herbert F. Johnson's residence, Wingspread.

A prolific architect, Tafel is best known for his addition to the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York and his master plan for the State University of New York campus at Geneseo. In all, Tafel designed 80 houses, 35 churches and other religious buildings, and three college campuses.

"In addition to his architectural talents, Tafel was blessed with a vivacity of thought and expression that made his books and lectures popular and rewarding. Anyone studying Frank Lloyd Wright will be interested in seeing these papers," Janet Parks, curator of Drawings and Archives at the Avery Library, said.

Due to his close connection with Wright, Tafel was a well-known historian of Wright, authoring two books on the architect: Apprentice to Genius: Years with Frank Lloyd Wright (1979) and About Wright: An Album of Recollections by Those Who Knew Frank Lloyd Wright (1993). He lectured frequently on Wright and appeared in several documentaries on Fallingwater, notably Ken Love’s Fallingwater: The Apprentices (1996).

In addition to the research files on Wright, the archives contain more than 250 rolls of drawings for Tafel's own projects dating from the 1950s through the 1990s.

The Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library is one of the most comprehensive architecture and the fine arts library collections in the world. Avery collects a full range of primary and secondary sources for the advanced study of architecture, historic preservation, art history, decorative arts, city planning, real estate, and archaeology. The Library contains more than 550,000 volumes including more than 40,000 rare books. Avery’s Drawings and Archives collection includes 1.5 million architectural drawings and records. The Avery Library is home to the Avery Index to Architectural Periodicals, the only comprehensive American guide to the current literature of architecture and design.  For more information, please visit: https://library.columbia.edu/libraries/avery.html.

Columbia University Libraries/Information Services is one of the top five academic research library systems in North America. The collections include over 11 million volumes, over 150,000 journals and serials, as well as extensive electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, maps, and graphic and audio-visual materials. The services and collections are organized into 22 libraries and various academic technology centers. The Libraries employs more than 500 professional and support staff. The website of the Libraries is the gateway to its services and resources: library.columbia.edu.