Architecture and Film

Peter’s Reflections
A monthly column by ICAA President, Peter Lyden

As ICAA Board Member Gary Brewer stated at our recent Roman & Williams lecture, “I look to movies for inspiration in architecture and interiors as much as I look to architects.” This intersection between film and architecture is a fascinating subject, which the ICAA will be exploring in the upcoming year.

As you may know, James Ivory and Merchant & Ivory Productions will be receiving an Arthur Ross Award at our May 4th ceremony. James’s work has had an immense impact on me and many of our own ICAA family members as you will see below. Also this coming fall, we are excited by the prospect of creating a new lecture series about film and architecture. Stephen Alesch and Robin Standefer of Roman and Williams, with their incredible experience with set and production design, will partner with James Ivory to help develop this series.

The best part of my job is working with the amazing talent from the ICAA community. Therefore, when thinking about this topic, I turned to some of our members for their insight. For some, one film stood out as their greatest source of cinematic inspiration, while others had a roster of wide-ranging films that have influenced them in various ways, and for many, these films have directly impacted their own design work.

Interestingly, Gary Brewer referenced Jacques Tati’s Playtime as helping confirm his commitment to classicism by “underscoring his initial sense that modernism was devoid of cultural meaning, and sometimes bordered on the absurd.”

Not surprisingly, our members also pay close attention to historical accuracy. David Hathcock noted that in the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice, “Lyme Park is used as the Pemberley exteriors while Sudbury Hall is used for the Pemberley interiors. This is interesting to me. Many of these period films swap the exteriors and interiors willy nilly. As an architect this bothers me. But, I can understand the filmmakers wanting to reveal the more palatial look of Lyme Park’s exterior, while the interiors of Sudbury Hall are dripping in heavy plaster and wood carvings, very Grinling Gibbons-esque.”

Leslie-Jon Vickery was deeply inspired by Out of Africa, in which production designer Stephen Grimes took great pains to maintain the historical accuracy of the sets. As Leslie described, “the interiors for Blixen’s residence were re-created from photographs and drawings of the original home, with set designers researching and reclaiming many of the original pieces from the farm that were sold off when the writer left Africa in the early 1930’s.”

When asked about whether a project had been influenced by a specific film, Board Member Alexa Hampton replied, “The rooms on film to which people seem most attached aren’t in the great magnificent houses which display grand design gestures; but, rather, the quieter, more attainable interiors…In this respect, no one has had more of an impact on design through the medium of film than Nancy Meyers. It’s Complicated, The Holiday, and Something’s Gotta Give are the films most referenced by my clients.”  She also added, “some of the worst interiors have had a great impact, too. If someone wants me to reference Miss Havisham’s dining room from the perfect 1940′s David Lean adaptation of Great Expectations or if they ask me to copy a detail from Tony Montana’s Miami house in Scarface, I know this: I need to RUN!”

Still from the film Persuasion

ICAA Board Member Andrew Skurman explained, “Roger Michell’s 1995 film adaptation of Jane Austen’s 1817 novel Persuasion sparked my interest in Regency interiors and the work of the architect, art collector, and world traveler Thomas Hope … Around the time the film was released, I was commissioned to design an apartment high above Nob Hill. Inspired by the Thomas Hope room in Bath, that I was swept away by in the film, I decided to use white lacquered walls and white glass floors, for their ethereal qualities, to give the apartment a sense of calm, serenity, and elegance. Every surface and finish was precise yet luxurious and superbly crafted.”

The Pendersleigh House from the Merchant & Ivory film Maurice (filmed at Wilbury Park)

While I wish I could share all of the fascinating replies that our members shared, as they are a testament to the broad-ranging perspectives and boundless creativity that exist in our community, I will finish with a list of all the films that were mentioned as having provided inspiration. I hope this list will inspire you to watch some new films, be swept away by their beauty, and perhaps even have an impact on your future work. And please, in the comments below, share the films that have influenced your work or your love of architecture, gardens, or interiors.  For me, the house Pendersleigh in the Merchant & Ivory film Maurice (filmed at Wilbury Park) is my absolute favorite and served as a model for my own interiors, and I look forward to hearing (and watching) your favorites!

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

David Calligeros
Great Expectations

Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast
The Holy Innocents
The Royal Tenenbaums
Moonrise Kingdom
Castle in the Sky
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Sense and Sensibility

Matthew Enquist
Sense and Sensibility
White Collar 
(TV show)
The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

Steven Gambrel
I am Love
Gods and Monsters
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir

Elizabeth Graziolo
Beneath the Hagia Sophia
Shallow Grave
Life is Beautiful

Something’s Gotta Give

Kahlil Hamady
It Started in Naples

Pride and Prejudice

Alexa Hampton
The Leopard
The Talented Mr. Ripley
I Am Love
Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Marie Antoinette

Merchant & Ivory films
Gosford Park
Brideshead Revisited
It’s Complicated

The Holiday
Something’s Gotta Give

David Hathcock
Gosford Park

The Patriot
Amazing Grace
Pride and Prejudice
(1995) (This version is better, let’s face it)
Pride and Prejudice

Out of Africa

Jonathan Hogg
Suddenly Last Summer
The Last Emperor
Howard’s End
A Room With a View
La Grande Bellezza
Tous Les Matins du Monde
Hannah and Her Sisters

The Third Man
Touch of Evil

Andrew Skurman
Roger Michell’s 1995 film adaptation of Persuasion 

Andrew Tullis
Barry Lyndon
A Passage to India
The Last Emperor

The films of Peter Greenaway
The films of Merchant & Ivory
The great Thirties designer Cedric Gibbons
Brideshead Revisited

Leslie-Jon Vickory
Out of Africa

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President’s Council Reception at the Home of Nick and Courtney Stern

The Greek Revival townhouse in the West Village, home to luxury builder, Nicholas S.G. Stern and interior designer Courtney Stern, was the setting for a cocktail event on Thursday, April 9, 2015. The evening celebrated the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art’s newly formed President’s Council. Recently featured in Architectural Digest, the landmark townhouse designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects, renovated by Nick’s firm, Stern Projects, with interiors by Courtney Stern, seemed a perfect venue for the ICAA to celebrate its mission as the nation’s premier organization dedicated to advancing the practice and appreciation of the classical tradition in architecture and the allied arts.

The President’s Council is the driving force to raise funds and direct strategy for the ICAA’s multifaceted education programs, which include training the next generation in classical architecture and the allied arts; launching art and architecture programs for public and private high school students; partnering with colleges and universities nationwide to enhance the classical element of their art and architecture programs; and providing valuable training opportunities for students that are not available elsewhere.

During the evening, attendees enjoyed conversation with ICAA President Peter Lyden, Chairman Mark Ferguson, and Board Member Suzanne Santry. Long-time ICAA stalwarts Elizabeth and Sam White were also in attendance.

Guests included Denise Lefrak Calicchio, Judith DiMaio, Christopher Hyland, Christina and Richard Davis, Elizabeth and Jon Kurpis, Julian Peploe, David Sprouls, Carol and Dan Strone, Felicia Taylor, and Harriet Weintraub.

This event was also featured on New York Social Diary (April 13, 2015).

All Photos: J Grassi/

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The Dan & Gemma Camp Workshop in Classical Design

The Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, in collaboration with the Mississippi State University School of Architecture, presented the Dan and Gemma Camp Workshop in Classical Design on Friday and Saturday March 20–21, 2015. Over eighty architecture students and regional professionals participated.

The Workshop included presentations on the practice of classical design and a tour of Starkville’s Cotton District by its founder and developer Dan Camp.

Michael Mesko and Marty Brandwein gave an overview of the classical language and guided participants through the drawing of a classical order. Dan Osborne, of Historical Concepts, and Clay Hayles, of Robert A.M. Stern Architects, presented on the use of historical precedent in contemporary design through a series of project case studies. Mike Watkins extended the discussion to the scale of the city, introducing concepts and components of traditional urbanism and their application in the design of new places. The walking tour of the Cotton District neighborhood provided an opportunity to see many of these elements and design strategies adapted to a unique local context.

The program was made possible by an endowed gift from Dan and Gemma Camp as well as generous gifts from Briar and Michelle Jones and Duncan-Williams Inc. Investment Bankers. The ICAA is deeply grateful to Tracy Ward, Mississippi Committee Chairman (ICAA Southeast Chapter), Michael Berk, Director of the MSU School of Architecture, and Dan Camp for their commitment and support of this initiative. News of the program may be found on the MSU website.

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Inspired Places & Spaces – April

For many millennia, Italy has served an epicenter of inspiration. Italy is a vital creative and educational resource, especially for the ICAA community. When ICAA Chicago-Midwest Chapter Board members Gary Ainge, Chris Derrick, and Elizabeth McNicholas were asked about their favorite places and spaces, it’s no surprise that all three favored Italian sites.

Gary Ainge: On a recent trip to Italy my wife and I had the opportunity to take in the sun setting over Florence from the terrace adjacent to San Miniato and from Piazzale Michelangiolo. Although ever-changing and fleeting, the sunlight accentuated all the beautiful aspects of the city in an awe-inspiring performance that left us both with indelible memories of the time and place.

Sun setting over Florence

Sun setting over Florence

Chris Derrick: The Ecstasy of Saint Theresa – This sculpture by Lorenzo Bernini is the most beautiful work of art I have ever seen. The sculpture’s setting in the aedicule of the Santa Maria della Vittoria is a wonderful stage for what I consider to be the pinnacle of the Classical Arts. Not only are the figures flawless, but Bernini has breathed life into them. His choice of subject has made this masterpiece all the more inspiring. It is as if Bernini has caught St. Theresa of Avila at the very point where the bitter pain of God’s love is piercing her heart and she realizes nothing less will ever satisfy her. This composition speaks to me of beauty, hope, and virtue and characterizes all that art and architecture has the potential to become.

The Ecstasy of Saint Theresa

Elizabeth McNicholas: To explore Milan’s Cimitero Monumentale for an afternoon is to take just about as stimulating a “Grand Tour” as one could ever hope to orchestrate. While it’s easy – particularly for an architect – to be overwhelmed by the beauty and whimsy of the monuments’ designs, one also finds oneself powerless against the purposeful efforts of past sculptural masters to manipulate your emotions through their art. Whatever inner balance (or imbalance) there is of sorrow and delight will be re-calibrated at every turn: a truly sublime experience.

Cimitero Monumentale

Cimitero Monumentale

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America’s Garden of Eden: The Hudson River Valley

Peter’s Reflections
A monthly column by ICAA President, Peter Lyden


“Truly all is remarkable and a wellspring of amazement and wonder. Man is so fortunate to dwell in this American Garden of Eden.”   -Albert Bierstadt, Painter

The Hudson River and its magical environs have always held a certain spell over me. The charm of the region comes from a special alchemy, a unique combination of its signature characteristics: the glowing light which the Hudson River School Painters treasured; the romantic charm of the grand houses that have fallen into a bit of disrepair and their overgrown gardens; the majestic views in all directions; the embedded history and remembrance of the region’s significance throughout the revolutionary, civil, and world wars (remember FDR gave the Queen Mum hot dogs at Hyde Park overlooking the Hudson River). While Americans seem to be so keen to visit and gush about the beauty of the Rhine, I personally think the Hudson is even more splendid than its European counterpart.
I have my own personal favorite places to share with you, a veritable classicist playground!

1. Edgewater, as a part of Classical Homes Preservation Trust

In my mind, Edgewater is a temple to the gods. The families that owned the house over the years, from the Livingston family to my personal hero Dick Jenrette (who currently resides there), created such a classically beautiful home right on the Hudson River that is a sight to behold. My favorite features of the house include its parade of perfectly proportioned rooms; its impressive collection of Duncan Phyfe furniture; its position on the Hudson River with the Catskill Mountains in the distance; and its lush collection of trees and English border gardens. I am delighted to give you all a little teaser that the ICAA will soon be working in partnership with Dick and his fine foundation on an upcoming project. Stay tuned!

2. Montgomery Place

Montgomery Place (Image: Peter Lyden)

To me, Montgomery Place is the most authentic, archetypal example of an ideal Hudson River home. Perfectly positioned on a bluff, overlooking the river, it is the jewel in the crown of this region. This is where I always bring my guests to show them a true Hudson villa, à la Edith Wharton. Montgomery Place is the joint creation of the architect Alexander Jackson Davis and the landscape designer Andrew Jackson Downing. Both men created many memorable homes and gardens, but I believe this united effort resulted in a near perfect result.

3. Wethersfield Garden

Wethersfield Garden (Image: Wethersfield Garden)

Please travel to Wethersfield to see the gardens designed by Bryan J. Lynch and Evelyn N. Poehler. They have created a timeless, meditative garden that focuses on shrubs, water features, and stone walls with classical statuary. My favorite parts of the garden are the views of the valley below (particularly in autumn) and its flowering shrubs in the spring, especially the rhododendrons and azaleas. An additional treasure at Wethersfield Garden is its impressive horse carriage collection. Seeing the hackney ponies and driver out with one of the classic historical carriages is truly a beautiful sight.

4. Middlefield

Middlefield (Image: G. P. Schafer Architect, PLLC)

In my opinion, the Greek revival home of architect Gil Schafer (former President and Chairman of the ICAA) stands out as one of the country’s most extraordinary examples of contemporary classicism. Middlefield is not only a stunning building on its own, but it is perfectly aligned with its natural setting. One would think Gil’s house had been there for centuries! The exceptionally high standard of design, craftsmanship, and beauty are maintained not just in the architecture, but also in the landscape design and the interiors, all of which near perfection.

5. Drumlin Hall

Drumlin Hall (Image: Peter Pennoyer Architects)

How wonderful to see that the houses mentioned above have influenced the creation of Drumlin Hall, the contemporary regency villa designed by Peter Pennoyer (also a former Chairman of the ICAA). The gently arched porte-cochère was inspired by Montgomery Place. The interiors, designed by Thomas Jayne, draw inspiration from Edgewater, with its painted wood floors. Peter combines these various influences with perfect continuity. However, what I admire most about this house is its spectacular placement in the drumlins, the miniature hills caused by glacial deposits.

I would also recommend visiting the houses of Old Chatham and the drive down Route 13; the charming town of Kinderhook; Olana’s grounds and spectacular views; and the horse properties of Millbrook, particularly Yellow Frame Farm. And I could go on; such are the treasures of the Hudson River!  – Peter Lyden, ICAA President

* Keep an eye on the ICAA’s Instagram this week to see more of Peter’s favorite views from the Hudson River Valley.

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Inspired Places & Spaces – March

As the signs of spring begin blooming around us, March’s Inspired Places & Spaces visits three extraordinary sites that serve as inspiration to James Doyle, Quincy Hammond, and Kathryn Herman. These three landscape professionals have discovered spaces that offer a magical blend of landscape, architecture, and design.

Montacute House

James Doyle: Montacute House is a masterpiece of Elizabethan Renaissance architecture and design and I fell in love with the honey-gold color of the ham stone. Beautiful gardens surround the house and bleed out to the Somerset countryside. The house was completed in 1601 and a walk through the Long Gallery is a must. The history of time is evident with the gallery housing Tudor and Elizabethan portraits from the National Portrait Gallery.

The Musée Rodin

The Musée Rodin

Quincy Hammond: The Musée Rodin in Paris is the perfect marriage of art, landscape and architecture. The building establishes the formal character of the garden layout, while the sculptures define the unique character of each garden room, while the plantings enhance the intrinsic character of the sculptures within them. They complement so completely it is impossible to imagine one element without the other.

Lunuganga Estate

Kathryn Herman: Lunuganga Estate, the private home of Geoffrey Bawa on Dedduwa Lake, Bentota, Sri Lanka is one of my favorite places. The buildings and gardens are a charming mash up of tropical meets Italian meets British Colonial. The gardens are lush and water is prevalent in the design. The house is beautifully sited to overlook the lake. Bawa used his home and gardens as a place to experiment and this is something that I can relate to!

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