Brendan Hart, 2016 Rieger Graham Prize Winner, on the Roman Forum and the Perseverance of the Eternal City

The Roman Forum from the Capitoline

The Roman Forum from the Capitoline

Standing in the center of the dark nave, the crack of a lock and the groan of old hinges announce the opening of the large wooden doors.  Sunlight races past ancient columns and streams onto the dusty church floor.  Thirty feet below us, curious faces look at our group as we crowd into the open portal and gaze over a stunning panorama of the Roman Forum.


View from San Lorenzo in Miranda / Temple of Antoninus and Faustina

We are at the church of San Lorenzo in Miranda, a church of medieval origins and Baroque ornamentation built into the ruins of the ancient temple of Antoninus and Faustina.  Our vantage of the Forum is from the church’s front door, which archeological excavations have disconcertingly severed from the space, creating a condition where the church’s large front doors float in the middle of the facade, high above the current level of the Forum.  At the moment, this strange condition is also what allows our unique vantage, a special place to contemplate the many layers and continuous evolution of the city.


Views from San Lorenzo in Miranda/Temple of Antoninus and Faustina

Our visit to San Lorenzo was part of a ‘walk-and-talk’ organized by the American Academy in Rome that focused on the medieval history of the Imperial Forum.  A fascinating topic about a place that has largely been removed by modern archaeology, it was also a fantastic opportunity for me to learn about a site that was fundamental to the development of the Possesso, the papal processional route that is the topic of my studies during my three-month stay at the American Academy.  The Possesso passed by San Lorenzo on its path from St. Peter’s to St. John Lateran, utilizing the rhetorical potential of past imperial splendor as scenography for its ceremonies.

Mapping the development of the Possesso

Mapping the development of the Possesso

From that odd doorway, suspended high above the ground, I saw San Lorenzo as an allegory for the Possesso, and an important messenger of some of the ideas I have been considering while studying the route. Developed piecemeal over time, it presents a collage of time periods.  Both pragmatic and poetic, the church is very much a product of its particular time and place, but utilizes its history as an opportunity to express a powerful message of continuity, adaptability, and perseverance.  The Possesso, likewise, was the product of many generations and showed adaptability to site-specific conditions that, when incorporated, added to its narrative potential. San Lorenzo, although a minor landmark on the route, now offers one of its most poignant parallels.


Castel Sant’Angelo, Rome


Visits such as the trip to San Lorenzo leave me deeply grateful.  Over my short time here, I feel lucky to have had many unexpected opportunities for reflection on the city: a visit to Villa Aurora, home to a perplexing and unique ceiling by Caravaggio; a tour of Palazzo Farnese to witness the genius of Michelangelo and the splendor of Carracci; access to Santa Maria del Priorato, and the peculiar idiom of Piranesi. These experiences come in waves, powerful breakers that remind me of the thousands of years and millions of lifetimes this city holds.  It is a life-altering privilege to allow these waves of history to sweep me into the vortex where Roman temples become Baroque basilicas, and popes parade with emperors.

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View of St. Peter’s Cupola

My deep thanks continue to go to the Institute for Classical Architecture & Art for the gift of this time in Rome and the experiences is has offered me.  I know these memories will continue to soak in for a lifetime, but in the meantime, I look forward to continuing to share some reflections from my time in Rome.


St. Peter’s Basilica from a vicolo

Rome from the Janiculum

Rome from the Janiculum


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Monthly Newsletter: October at the ICAA

Welcome to our monthly newsletter, including articles, news, and programming from the ICAA and the classical design community. To receive an email version of our newsletter, sign up today.

In his latest blog story, ICAA President Peter Lyden pays tribute to Ben Pentreath,  a multi-talented contemporary classicist who recently spoke at a special event  co-hosted by the ICAA and Architectural Digest.

In his latest blog story, ICAA President Peter Lyden pays tribute to Ben Pentreath, a multi-talented contemporary classicist who recently spoke at a special event co-hosted by the ICAA and Architectural Digest.



Support ICAA Educational Programming this Holiday Season
Double the Impact of Your Gift

1Please make a donation today to the ICAA to help provide scholarships for our many education programs, including the Summer Studio in Classical Architecture, continuing education courses, the Rome Drawing Tour and more.

Thanks to the generosity of our Board of Directors, your donation will be matched dollar-for-dollar up to $50,000, doubling the impact of your gift.



Travel with the ICAA to Paris, Barbados, Spain & More
Upcoming Dates & Destinations 

Mosque of Córdoba (Photo: Lani Summerville)

Mosque of Córdoba (Photo: Lani Summerville)

February 11-18 Classicism in the Caribbean: Great Houses & Gardens of Barbados (sold out)

April 20-23 Architectural Treasures of Classical Atlanta

May 14-21 The Rich Art and Architectural Heritage of Andalusia, Spain

June 9-17 Private Paris & Beyond: Exemplary Private Sites, Residences, Chateaux & Gardens

July 10-15 Gardens of the Welsh Borders

August 24-27 Private Bar Harbor

VIEW ALL                                        


Watch the ICAA’s Newest Video
Curiosity, Education, and Influence: Two Careers in Architecture


Gil Schafer speaks with ICAA Board Members Mark Ferguson and
Russell Windham about their initial attraction to the architectural profession,
their educational experiences, and what influenced their careers.



Continuing Education
Upcoming Courses Nationwide

4Learn more about upcoming Continuing Education opportunities across the country, including New York, Florida, Washington Mid Atlantic, and more!

Featured Course: Traditional Hand Drafting (December 3rd)



Inspiration from Rome
An Update from the 2016 Rieger Graham Prize Winner

52016 Rieger Graham Prize Winner, Brendan Hart, is currently spending three months at the American Academy in Rome. Hart is studying the connection of the Possesso, a traditional papal processional route, with the urban development of Rome.



Give the Gift of Membership


A membership to the ICAA is the perfect gift this holiday season for an architect,
interior or landscape designer, artisan, student, or design enthusiast. Whether the recipient is an established professional, budding designer, or an admirer of the classical tradition, there is a perfect ICAA membership available for them.



Lectures, Tours & Events
Upcoming Programs in New York

7Explore upcoming programs, including:

December 1 The Legacy of Parish-Hadley: A Panel Discussion with Mark Ferguson, Brian McCarthy, and Bunny Williams, Moderated by Alexa Hampton

December 7 2016 Stanford White Awards

March 1 16th Annual McKim Lecture with John Simpson

April (date TBD) George Hadfield: Architect of the Federal City, with Dr. Julia King



Awards & Prizes
Upcoming Dates & Deadlines

8December 7 New York: Stanford White Awards – Ceremony

December 8 Southeast: Shutze Awards – Submission Deadline

December 9 New York: Alma Schapiro Prize – Submission Deadline

December 15 New England: Bulfinch Awards – Submission Deadline

December 30 National: Arthur Ross Awards – Extended Submission Deadline

January 31 Washington Mid Atlantic: John Russell Pope Awards – Submission Deadline



2017 Summer Studio in Classical Architecture
Now Accepting Applications


The Summer Studio in Classical Architecture is a four-week, immersive program introducing students to skills, knowledge and resources essential to the practice and appreciation of classical design.

Thanks to the The Richard H. Driehaus Charitable Lead Trust the ICAA is able to offer scholarships to offset tuition costs plus assistance to help with housing costs while in New York to ensure accessibility to the program for students of all financial backgrounds.




Rome Drawing Tour
Now Accepting Applications


The Rome Drawing Tour provides participants practical knowledge of the classical tradition as manifested in the architecture, urbanism and landscapes of Rome, using observational drawing and watercolor as the means for studying precedent.

Scholarship opportunities are available for qualifying students. Email for more information.



In the News

(Photo: Julia Robbs for Architectural Digest)

(Photo: Julia Robbs for Architectural Digest)

“Kate Middleton’s Favorite Designer Shows AD How to Host a Dinner Party” by Jennifer Fernandez, Architectural Digest
Architectural Digest covers the dinner that followed Ben Pentreath’s talk at the ICAA earlier this month.


“A Celebration of Classicism in           Charleston” by Robert Behre, The Post and Courier
The Post and Courier engages the ICAA on the universal appeal of the quality classical design in Southern Architecture.



Posted by Richard McGovern on | Leave a comment

Ben Pentreath: Classical Splendor

A classical house in Oxfordshire, with renovations and additions by Ben Pentreath (Image Source: Ben Pentreath)title

I have always been intrigued by architects throughout history who were driven to design not only buildings, but also interiors, decorative arts, landscapes, and so many other elements that comprise our built environment. Robert Adam, Sir William Chambers, William Kent, Charles Percier, and Benjamin Henry Latrobe: these historically significant figures are emblematic of “the multi-talented architect.” For example, Latrobe’s genius for furniture is currently on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the magnificent exhibit, Classical Splendor: Painted Furniture for a Grand Philadelphia House.

The splendor of contemporary classicism at its very best was recently witnessed and applauded at a special discussion (co-hosted by the ICAA and Architectural Digest) with British designer Ben Pentreath, a multi-talented practitioner who in the 21st Century continues to work in the traditions established by Adam, Chambers, Kent, Latrobe and others. Pentreath’s comprehensive approach to architecture, urbanism, and interiors is influencing the way communities are designed and built today.

Latrobe furniture on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (left) and a stunning Robert Adam ceiling design at Lansdowne House in London (right)

Latrobe furniture (left) and a stunning Robert Adam ceiling design from Lansdowne House (right) both on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art


Ben Pentreath with Bunny Williams and ICAA President Peter Lyden
(Image Source: Sean Zanni/PMC)

During the talk, which many ICAA members are supporters attended, Pentreath spoke about his recent book, English Houses: Inspirational Interiors from City Apartments to Country Manor Houses, as well as his firm’s work, which includes everything from architecture to interior design and master planning. Pentreath is the epitome of the multi-talented innovator. In 2008, Pentreath opened a design store in Bloomsbury called Pentreath & Hall, which has since become one of the most influential small shops in London. Pentreath’s husband Charlie McCormick is himself a celebrated floral designer and gardener.

Ben Pentreath speaking with Mitch Owens, Architectural Digest Decorative Arts Editor (Image Source: Sean Zanni/PMC)

Ben Pentreath speaking with Mitch Owens, Architectural Digest Decorative Arts Editor
(Image Source: Sean Zanni/PMC)

A classical house in Oxfordshire, before renovation by Ben Pentreath (left) and after (right) (Image Source: Ben Pentreath)

A classical house in Oxfordshire, before renovation by Ben Pentreath (left) and after (right)
(Image Source: Ben Pentreath)

The interior of the Oxfordshire house, designed by Ben Pentreath (Image Source: Ben Pentreath)

The interior of the Oxfordshire house, designed by Ben Pentreath
(Image Source: Ben Pentreath)

Classical architect and legendary urban planner Léon Krier reminded attendees of the 2015 Arthur Ross Awards celebration that designing a house in isolation is not always enough to truly impact the built environment. Pentreath’s own work confirms this, having benefited whole communities not just with exquisite designs of private houses, but also with affordable housing, municipal buildings, and open space for gardens and public squares. The positive effects of Pentreath’s work are immeasurable; he is influencing how we live within our built environment, while bringing beauty back into our communities so that it can be seen and experienced by many.

Look no further than Poundbury, a planned community with the support of Prince Charles, an Arthur Ross Award winner; Pentreath’s firm has been an integral contributor to Poundbury’s masterplanning and development for years.


Poundbury (Image Source: Ben Pentreath)


Poundbury (Image Source: Ben Pentreath)

After the talk a small group gathered for dinner in Pentreath’s honor, where ICAA Board Member Bunny Williams toasted the evening’s exhilarating discussion. Pentreath himself designed the table settings, which included his personal glassware and silverware that travelled with him from England, as well as a beautiful patterned tablecloth designed by Soane Britain. In a full recap of the dinner for Architectural Digest, Pentreath said that he wanted to “create a feeling of relaxed informal grandeur using mismatched antique pieces that all related well to one another.” Charlie McCormick, who also attended the lecture and dinner, brought his own decorative touch, arranging an elegant floral design for the table.

The evening was a spectacular success, vividly illustrating to those in attendance how Pentreath is following in the footsteps of history’s greatest multi-talented innovators and, as a result, is making our built environment more beautiful and livable. I hope he inspires others to follow the same path.


Ben Pentreath with the evening’s table setting (Image Source: Architectural Digest)


Table setting with floral arrangements by Charlie McCormick
(Image Source: Architectural Digest)



Gil Schafer with ICAA Board Members Suzanne Tucker and Russell Windham


ICAA Board Member Steven Gambrel with Rizzoli Publisher Charles Miers and ICAA Board Chairman Mark Ferguson


James Anderson, Gene Meyer, and Frank de Biasi


Carol Strone, ICAA Board Members Russell Windham and Alexa Hampton, and Dan Strone


Mitch Owens and Audrey Gruss


Lulu Lytle and Valentina Rice


Anne Fairfax, Ben Pentreath, and Lucy Whitfield


Ben Pentreath and Charlie McCormick

First image: Ben Pentreath
All event photos: Sean Zanni/PMC

Posted by Peter Lyden on | 2 Comments

Edith Wharton and The Villas of Rome, With Cece Haydock


On November 10, the ICAA in partnership with Garden Conservancy offered a lecture by CeCe Haydock on Edith Wharton and the Villas of Rome. CeCe Haydock, landscape architect and historian, took the audience through eight Roman villas and their gardens as seen through the eyes of Edith Wharton, author of the influential book Italian Villas and their Gardens.

Villa Borghese (image source: CeCe Haydock Lecture)

Villa Borghese (image source: CeCe Haydock Lecture)

Haydock’s lecture touched on two main themes, the first being the Mediterranean practice of connecting the house with the garden, and the second being Mrs. Wharton’s dislike of the 18th century school of naturalistic gardening. She explored these themes by analysing Villa Madama, Villa Giulia, Villa Medici, Casina Pia, Villa Borghese, Villa Doria Pamphili, Villa Aldobrandini, and Villa d’Este, all described by Wharton in her book, as well as the Mount, the author’s residence.


Villa Giulia (image source: CeCe Haydock Lecture)

Villa Medici (image source: CeCe Haydock Lecture)

Villa Medici (image source: CeCe Haydock Lecture)

Haydock analysis’ of the Roman villas relies on Wharton’s devotion to Italian classical design. Wharton’s book, Italian Villas and their Gardens, written while visiting with her husband eighty villas in Italy, provides invaluable snapshots on the historic context and aesthetic value of the buildings, and thus remains today one of the most important scholarly resources on Italian Villas.

Casina Pia (image source: CeCe Haydock Lecture)

Casina Pia (image source: CeCe Haydock Lecture)

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New Heights at the Marymount School: Designing for the Future

Students touring the Met with Francis Morrone

The ICAA recently concluded its week-long New Heights architecture education program at the Marymount School of New York. Eighth grade students at the all-girls school engaged in a dynamic study of classical architecture, urbanism, and the allied arts through hands-on studio experiences, immersive field studies and meaningful observation. The program draws from the ICAA’s core curriculum in Continuing Education and includes interactive elements — from gilding to plaster cast creation — and culminates in a design challenge that engages students with the architecture of their school and surrounding area.

Adrian Taylor leading a course on Classical Moldings

Monday marked the first day of New Heights and commenced with a morning introduction by Michael Romero, an instructor in the program and Executive Director of Atlas Collaborative Foundation. He set forth the goals of the week, introduced the culminating Classical design project, and assigned groups for the week. The girls broke off into three sections: one section joined Adrian Taylor, Principal at Hyde Park Mouldings, for plaster casting, while another began an architectural elements classroom session with Michael Romero. The third section got to enjoy the atypically warm and sunny October day on a walking tour with Liz McEnaney, Columbia Graduate Studies professor. For the latter activity, the girls visited and got a brief history of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s construction–the group had an impressive working knowledge of some of the basic classical elements already and expressed their thoughts on how the Museum’s architecture made them feel very articulately. The girls drew elements of the iconic building that they admired, storing their sketches for design challenge plans.


Students taking advantage of the daily allotted design time

On Tuesday, the students enjoyed yet another warm day with their walking tours. The abundant sunlight was also perfect for the gilding exercise that one group completed with Alexander Kellum of EverGreene Architectural Arts. In the sunlit art room, the students mastered the art of gilding with the classical molding models set out for them to work with, and learned a little bit about the preciousness and value of the materials involved. The girls seemed to really appreciate both the  history and present value of gilding—at one point even suggesting that they gild the art room ceiling, resulting in a few anxious glances from the teachers!

Wednesday, one group joined Adrian Taylor from Hyde Park Mouldings in the art studio to cast three of the the five orders.  The girls loved the casting process, some adding color to the gypsum with some water based ink, creating a lovely marbled effect on some of the columns. In the afternoon, the girls were introduced to the plan, elevation, and section drawing formats that they would use to present their own original designs of their school’s entryway.

Gilding with EverGreene Architectural Arts

Thursday, one of the groups departed again with Liz McEnaney for a tour of 5th avenue. Their first stop was the Cooper Hewitt , appropriately mobbed with tents and people hustling about for a Design Awards Gala, as the girls were observing its elements for their own Design projects to be judged Friday. They were just across the street from the adjacent residences of the Vanderbilt sisters, Emily and Florence Adele.  The group expertly parsed each architectural detail of the buildings, demonstrating how each home reflected the personality of the sisters and showcasing their fluency in architectural language throughout the discussion. Most of the girls correctly identified Florence Adele’s home: the third floor featured the massive windows of what could have only been a ballroom–a room that they proposed could only belong to, and would have gotten much more use in, the famously more outgoing sister’s home.

On Friday, the girls finalized their design projects to be presented to the judges that afternoon. The girls had come up with some very creative elevations, plans and sections of their entryway to the new facade of Marymount 97th street–they all had time to practice their presentations, and it showed. They all spoke so eloquently to the panel which included Mark Ferguson, ICAA Board Chairman and Principal at Ferguson & Shamamian Architects, ICAA President Peter Lyden as well as a number of other established professionals.

Liz McEnaney leading a design group


Each group had such incredibly detailed drawings, and rationalized their aesthetic choices very convincingly. They demonstrated extensive knowledge of iconography and the impact of architectural environment, each ensuring that the design was inviting in its aesthetic and function with details like extra space where students could be greeted by teachers, and glass doors, which show that the modern can exist with the traditional and employ the welcoming quality of a transparent entryway. The girls settled into their seats at the end of presentations for the final awards in creativity, presentation and drawing, which were hard to give out to just one group apiece, as they all succeeded in their own way.

Finally the girls were able to say goodbye to their design coaches; the room was filled with heart felt thank yous to ICAA Instructors and students alike, both having incredible things to say about their experience with the program:

A design group reviewing their ideas

Instructor, Michael Romero: “Participating in the New Heights was such a heartening experience. The students’ enthusiasm and openness to jump right into the week was extraordinary. Teaching them about the inherent beauty of Classicism, hearing about their favorite cities, and guiding them through the design process as they worked on the Design Challenge were highlights.  Each student was unique, but they all were serious, thoughtful, and curious. While they might not all become architects one day, I sincerely hope the experience positively influences how they view the built environment. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to have taught on the course.”

Adrian Taylor, Principal at Hyde Park Mouldings: “It has been a true honor to participate in this initiative….This is very important work, and I believe good things will come of it – both for the Institute and for the kids who take away inspiration from it.  Hopefully, this is still only the beginning of a tradition that will endure to inspire many”

Many of the students also stopped to say a few words about what they had learned and the program itself:

“Walking down the streets of NYC is now so interesting because of the new knowledge given.”

“I am sure this will benefit me and my classmates in the future.”

“During the week, I learned so much about Classical Architecture and what it means to be an architect.”

“This architecture program has been a very good experience for me because I got to learn so many new things, and it has inspired me to do more work with architecture. I’ve been really really lucky to have done this, and it’s been a really fun week.”

This program was such a joy for all who were involved in it. The ICAA is so grateful to have partnered with Marymount School and so many others who have made this program possible. Initiatives like these are so crucial to enriching the arts community, ensuring that young girls get the encouragement that they so deserve. To learn more about New Heights and how to support the program, email or visit our website at

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Watch: Curiosity, Education, and Influence – Two Careers in Architecture

Gil Schafer speaks with ICAA Board Members Mark Ferguson and Russell Windham about their initial attraction to the architectural profession, their educational experiences, and what influenced their careers.

Posted by Richard McGovern on | Leave a comment