Jane Jacobs’ Greenwich Village

On Saturday, October 7, a group of designers, architects, engineers, and enthusiasts met at Washington Square Park in order to examine both the general principles of traditional urbanism and the specific history of Greenwich Village through the The Urbanism of Greenwich Village walking tour.

The tour took place on a mild, sunny day, perfect for enjoying the sights of Greenwich Village. Instructors Michael Geller and Rodrigo Bollat Montenegro began with a discussion of Washington Square Park and, as with the other destinations on the tour, its interesting history. They noted, for example, how the area was a bastion of Jane Jacobs’s campaign against Robert Moses’s development plans, which included an effort to replace the park with thoroughfare space. The discussion then turned to how the park has been masterfully designed to fit into Greenwich Village as a whole. Their instruction was supplemented by both handouts showing the historical layout of the Village and the real-life surroundings of the tour.

Instructor Rodrigo Bollat Montenegro discusses the history of Washington Square Park.

Instructor Rodrigo Bollat Montenegro discusses the history of Washington Square Park.

Much of the tour focused on the importance of transitional spaces in creating coherent urban landscapes. Among many other sites, the tour visited the entrance to the NYU School of Law. The instructors spoke about how the classical styling of the entrance, including an arcade, stairs, and a forecourt, brought out its transitional nature. While each individual archway and set of stairs provides only a subtle cue as to the nature of the space, together they build up to a strong perception of a tangible transition from the public street to the semi-public outdoor court to the private interior. Classical elements such as base moldings also create a transition from the street to the building itself. These elements are essential to urban planning, as they allow people to clearly parse the meaning of urban space.

Students observe the transitional elements of the NYU School of Law entrance.

Students observe the transitional elements of the NYU School of Law entrance.

During the pleasant walks between destinations, students were encouraged to discuss the sites with each other and ask questions to the instructors. At several locations, such as the Washington Mews, students completed observational sketches to help them understand key spatial relationships in urban planning, such as how the relative sizes of roads, sidewalks, and buildings synthesize to elicit specific impacts on different kinds of streets. The class gave the participants both a better understanding of the specific architectural history of Greenwich Village and a better appreciation of how the principles of urban planning are used to create beautiful cityscapes.

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Daily Inspiration from the Christopher H. Browne Paris Drawing Tour

Follow the ICAA daily from October 7-14 as we study the classical architecture, interiors, and landscapes of Paris through observational drawing and painting. Based on the ICAA’s annual Christopher H. Browne Rome Drawing Tour, the Paris program is led by prominent architect Kahlil Hamady and designer Leslie-jon Vickory, alongside renowned watercolorists, Bernd Dams and Andrew Zega. Daily blog posts are provided courtesy of ICAA staff and participants of the program.

Connor Moran's watercolor wash of Sacré Cœur from Rue du Chevalier de la Barre

Connor Moran’s watercolor wash of Sacré Cœur from Rue du Chevalier de la Barre

October 14th, by Connor Moran: On Saturday, the final day of the tour, the group was given time to practice sketching techniques learned throughout the week in a location of their choice. I used this free day to climb Montmartre and study the tower of Sacré Cœur. Making my way up the western side of the hill, I ran into the Montmartre Harvest Festival parade. Musicians, performers, and tourists crowded the winding, narrow streets of painter’s shops and artist’s residences, ideally setting the tone for a spirited drawing.

Student Works being viewed at Saturday's final dinner and review

Student Works being viewed at Saturday’s final dinner and review

I finished the climb and posted up at a bustling cafe on Rue du Chevalier de la Barre with a perfectly framed view of Sacré Cœur’s towering northern spire. Here I worked on capturing the scene for almost two hours before packing up and heading back towards the Zega & Dams atelier for the tour’s farewell dinner.

Elevations of Petit Trianon by Cindy Black, one a studio rendering in full watercolor, the other, plein air in watercolor wash

Elevations of Petit Trianon by Cindy Black, one a studio rendering in full watercolor, the other, plein air in watercolor wash

Once at the atelier, the tour’s participants exhibited their sketches and renderings completed over the course of the week, highlighting the lessons that impacted them most and receiving comments from the instructors and colleagues. The review was followed by an incredible home-cooked French meal and words from our instructors, bringing the tour to an inspiring close.

Elaine Rose's sketch of Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève

Elaine Rose’s sketch of Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève

Birch Coffey showing an architectural detail from his sketchbook

Birch Coffey showing an architectural detail from his sketchbook

The group sketches the facade of the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève from across the street by the Panthèon

The group sketches the facade of the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève from across the street by the Panthèon

October 13th, by Elaine Rose: On Friday, the group met in the neighborhood of the Panthèon to commence a day of library tours. We visited and sketched three sites – Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève, Bibliothèque nationale de France, and Bibliothèque Mazarine.

The group looking at Labrouste's drawings at Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève

The group looking at Labrouste’s drawings at Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève

The first site was Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève: following a tour led by Mme. de La Mure the Bibliothèque’s archivist, before opening hours, we viewed architect Henri Labrouste’s original drawings, a collection that includes preliminary design sketches, furniture drawings, and final watercolors. 

Kahlil Hamady instructing Carol Guthrie at Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève

Kahlil Hamady instructing Carol Guthrie at Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève

The next few hours were spent sketching the soaring reading room which we gained access to with our newly minted library cards.

Madison Head, Kahlil Hamady and Christian Arndt compare Labrouste's later work to his first library at Bibliothèque nationale de France

Madison Head, Kahlil Hamady and Christian Arndt compare Labrouste’s later work to his first library at Bibliothèque nationale de France

Our second trip was to the Bibliothèque nationale de France, where we saw additional spaces designed by Labrouste. The reading room was an incredible, skylit space populated with elegant iron columns supporting a nine-square of sail vaults.

The group, including Geoffrey Barnes, Madison Head, Christian Arndt, and Cindy Black, drawing at Bibliothèque Mazarine

The group, including Geoffrey Barnes, Madison Head, Christian Arndt, and Cindy Black, drawing at Bibliothèque Mazarine

We ended the day with a tour of the Bibliothèque Mazarine, located within the Palais de l’Institut de France. A complex sequence of spaces culminated with an ascent up an oval staircase to a private reading room. Many students drew measured plans to decipher the progression of spaces there.

Connor Moran looks up from his work at the Palais de l'Institut de France's stairs to Bibliothèque Mazarine as group members Elaine Rose, Ryan Hughes, and Madison Head sketch their surroundings

Connor Moran looks up from his work at the Palais de l’Institut de France’s stairs to Bibliothèque Mazarine as group members Elaine Rose, Ryan Hughes, and Madison Head sketch their surroundings

 

M. Francois Jourdan leads the group through the Fondation de Coubertin’s sculpture garden

October 12th, by Geoffrey Barnes: Outside of Paris is a foundation dedicated to traditional craft and artistry as well as to the value and importance of honest labor. Established in the 1950s with the generosity of Yvonne de Coubertin and the collaboration of the director, Jean Bernard, The Fondation de Coubertin educates the next generation of artisans and experts in traditional craft. It takes great advantage of the Coubertin grounds and Chateau, with thoroughly modern workshops and sculpture gardens alongside centuries-old buildings and reference material.

Cindy Black, sketching one of the steps of the lost wax method of casting bronze

Cindy Black, sketching one of the steps of the lost wax method of casting bronze

On a clear, early fall day we arrived and walked the drive to the Chateau. After a breather and some coffee, we began the tour, which would include visits to the various ateliers and lunch with the artisans. We were able to visit with stone masons, blacksmiths, carpenters, and gilders, who were working on contemporary jobs in addition to prestigious cultural restorations such as the Louvre and Versailles. Each of them impressed the importance of preserving the cultural heritage of craftwork, not just in textbooks and videos, but in the real act of doing. They shared their drawings and sketches and demonstrated techniques for creating beautiful, lasting works of art.

M. Serge Pascal, one of the chief restorers of the Statue of Liberty, shares his own full-scale hand drawings essential to his craft

M. Serge Pascal, one of the chief restorers of the Statue of Liberty, shares his own full-scale hand drawings essential to his craft

M. Serge Pascal, who is receiving a Medal of Honor for his work, showed us how he takes a flat millimeter-thick piece of iron and transforms it into a piece of foliage with curves in all directions, a technique called repoussé, which no computer or CNC machine could recreate. He told us how his anvil and hammer were his musical instrument and he pinged out clear notes while deftly shaping metal. Monsieur Remy showed us a wrought-iron bannister whose panels were so complex that he produced a 1 to 1 hand-drawn template, as often happens at the Fondation.

A metalsmith working at his forge

Apprentices from all over France come to the fondation as part their tour of compagnonnage.  Their education, in addition to their craft, also includes philosophy, language and liberal arts coursework. They live and work at the fondation to practice and advance their connaissance, or “know-how” that the Fondation represents. The Chateau houses their reference library, with one of the earliest French translations of Vitruvius.

Participants review historical drawings used by the metal craftsmen of the Fondation in their restoration of les Grilles de Nancy

Participants review historical drawings used by the metal craftsmen of the Fondation in their restoration of les Grilles de Nancy

This transmission and preservation of knowledge, with respect for those who came before, and hope for those to come, are the hallmarks of the compagnonnage and it allows them to produce works of cultural importance and beauty that far exceed the sum of their parts.

The Christopher H. Browne Paris Drawing Tour group at Fondation de Coubertin

The Christopher H. Browne Paris Drawing Tour group at Fondation de Coubertin

 

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Watercolorist and Christopher H. Browne Drawing Tour Instructor Andrew Zega demonstrates how to render the Petit Trianon with his tire ligne (left); Madison Head mixes watercolors per Andrew Zega’s instruction for her watercolor rendering (right)

October 11th, by Madison Head: Wednesday was dedicated entirely to studio watercolor sessions. Twelve seats spread between two tables and a fresh pot of hot coffee greeted us at the Studio of Andrew Zega and Bernd Dams in the morning along with a prepared drawing of a partial elevation, plan, and section of the south elevation of the Petit Trianon, stretched and stapled on watercolor board, courtesy of Kahlil and Leslie-jon. I was seated amongst professionals from LA, Rhode Island, and Chicago — this group could not be more fun and interesting!

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A Petit Trianon watercolor work in progress

With Andrew at the helm, we learned step-by-step how to prepare our drawings for the base washes and execute color variations in stone. After a baguette sandwich and a quick jaunt to the famous Berthillon ice cream parlor over lunch, we returned to studio to apply shadows, render columns and carefully draw and paint in the color of our window panes, the last step in a watercolor rendering. Andrew also shared some exclusive tips on rendering the natural wear and soot of a building.

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Connor Moran’s progress on a watercolor rendering of the Petit Trianon at the end of the day’s session

Time flew! At the end of the day, we walked away with a partially completed watercolor of the exterior elevation of the Petit Trianon — a clean print with details of a mantle to complete in our own time, and, most importantly, the invaluable know-how and confidence to take on another watercolor of another building in another city.

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Participants Elaine Rose and Connor Moran sketching the interior of the Belvédère

October 10th, by Maggie Jones: Today we went to visit the Petit Trianon which is located on the grounds of the Palace of Versailles. This was truly a one of a kind experience as we had the whole grounds to ourselves and could wander about freely and even go into areas that are typically closed to the public including the Pavillon Français, Théâtre de la Reine, and the Belvédère.

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Birch Coffey measuring a detail on the Southern facade of the Petit Trianon

Besides learning about the history of the place, we were also there to study its architectural details and specifically the South facade, which we will later render with watercolors.

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Elaine Rose sketching the south facade of Petit Trianon

I chose to do a value study of the façade. This entails a quick ink sketch of the elevation with some quick washes over that. This helps me to understand not just the building, but also the light and shadows that cover the façade; elements that will be truly important when beginning our final rendering. I also drew a few details around the grounds to help me gain more knowledge about what kind of a space this was as a whole.

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Ceiling detail of the Belvédère

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A “behind the scenes visit” to the Théâtre de la Reine

Overall this was an incredible day that I will never forget! I look forward to taking my studies and using them to develop a more detailed rendering of the beautiful Petit Trianon.

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A view of the Grand Trianon

October 9th, by Isabella DeBenedetti: Monday morning we met at Place de Vosges for a series of drawings. We spent the entire morning studying the building through quick, loose ink drawings, laying on watercolor to study shadows, and completing a few measured drawings. These three methods I found very helpful for quick sketching.

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Leslie-jon Vickory demonstrating a technique of using ink pen to study the composition of the Place des Vosges

After lunch we reconvened at the Studio of Andrew Zega and Bernd Dams for an introduction and practice in architectural watercolor rendering. Andrew Zega led us through a step-by-step instruction of how to cache, create precise lines, and mix colors for shadow, reflected light, and many different surfaces on our test building. The difference in techniques between the morning’s plein-air drawing session and the studio session was valuable to see and experience.

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Ink and wash drawings by Ryan Hughes

In the evening we were warmly received at Atelier Rinck for a cocktail reception. I was fascinated by the level of dedication to craftsmanship and in awe of the incredible pieces they had on display. It was truly amazing to see some of the work they do and hear about some of their current projects.

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Leslie-jon Vickory summarizing the morning’s drawing session in preparation for the next day’s visit to the Petit Trianon

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Connor Moran in the Monday afternoon watercolor session at the studio of Andrew Zega and Bernd Dams

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Participants learn about the history and range of expertise of Atelier Rinck, a 175 year old firm specializing in architectural interiors, millwork, furniture, and cabinet making

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The ICAA Christopher H. Browne Paris Drawing Tour group taking the scenic route to a welcome
dinner at Café Marly

October 7th and 8th, by Alexa Marshall: Over the weekend, the ICAA’s Christopher H. Browne Paris Drawing Tour group began their studies, meeting for the first time on Saturday evening at the Studio of Andrew Zega and Bernd Dams. The many young professionals in the group, from firms including Ferguson & Shamamian Architects and Peter Pennoyer Architects, mingled with undergraduate students from Benedictine College and other established professionals with backgrounds in academia, landscape design, and more.

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The group admiring the Musée du Louvre’s exterior on their way to dinner

The group attended orientation presentations from all four instructors, including Kahlil Hamady and Leslie-jon Vickory from the ICAA’s New England Chapter in Boston and Paris residents and watercolorists Bernd Dams and Andrew Zega. Everyone enjoyed a toast and more time for introductions before heading out to a welcome dinner at Café Marly. The restaurant seated the group in a room that overlooked the Musée du Louvre’s French sculpture court, giving participants a preview of the sculptures they would be drawing the following afternoon.

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The group working on figure sketching exercises in the Louvre’s French sculpture court

The next morning, the Studio of Andrew Zega and Bernd Dams continued their presentation with a more in depth orientation of their watercolor expertise before going to lunch. After the break, students returned to the studio for a quick intro to sketching and wash with Kahlil Hamady and Leslie-jon Vickory. From there the group migrated to the Louvre, settling into the french sculpture court for figure sketching.

Participant Cindy Black's studio ink drawing, Hubert Robert method

Participant Cindy Black’s studio ink drawing (Hubert Robert method)

The group remained until the museum closed, capturing details of a sculpture selected by Instructor Kahlil Hamady and Leslie-jon Vickory.

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Students working on their figure drawing

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Watch Now: “Formality & Informality,” a Lecture with Landscape Designer Arne Maynard

Watch Landscape Designer Arne Maynard’s recent lecture focusing on the balance between formal and informal elements in his landscapes and gardens. The discussion, which was filmed in its entirety, was co-hosted by the ICAA and Architectural Digest in New York City.

Arne Maynard is an international landscape designer with a portfolio of high profile clients. He is an RHS Gold Medal and Best in Show winning designer, and is hailed by his profession as one of the most important landscape designers working today. He is also the author of several books including his latest, The Gardens of Arne Maynard.

The lecture was generously sponsored by Hollander Design Landscape Architects, Howard and Nancy Marks, and Karen Pascoe. Filming of the discussion was made possible thanks to Kane Brothers Water Features.

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Examining the Rich History of Architecture in New York

The architecture of New York City is beautiful and complex. While many people enjoy New York’s buildings, few have a full appreciation of the architectural history that sculpted such an intricate landscape. Over the course of four Wednesday evenings in September, instructor Francis Morrone unveiled that history in the lecture series 20th Century Architecture in New York (and the World): An Inclusive History.

Thomas Hastings and Shreve, Lamb & Blake, 26 Broadway, 1921-28

26 Broadway (the Standard Oil Building), 1921-28, designed by Architects Thomas Hastings
and Shreve, Lamb & Blake

The first lecture started the series off with a discussion of the forces that shaped early 20th Century architecture, such as the impact of the garden city movement; the Standard Oil Building, Forest Hills Gardens, and numerous other examples were discussed. Mr. Morrone also spoke about the famous yet nebulously defined Art Deco style of the late 1920s and early 1930s, which influenced many buildings, such as the Chrysler Building, throughout New York City.

The Chrysler Building. Architect: William Van Alen. Francis Morrone discussed its exterior and interior as among the finest in Art Deco design. Note the modern interplay between the Chrysler Building and an adjacent glass curtain wall building, highlighting how the New York City landscape has been altered by a variety of styles and eras.

The Chrysler Building, designed by Architect William Van Alen

The lectures continued to trace the path of New York’s distinctive architecture through the influence of the Bauhaus and the rise of modernism. Major European modernist architects like Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier shaped the architecture of New York City, both directly (though buildings such as Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram Building) and indirectly (through projects such as Stuyvesant Town, which was inspired by Le Corbusier’s Plan Voisin). Famed New York architects and their schools of thought, such as the sharply modernist “New York Five” and the more postmodernist and New Classical “Grays”, were discussed alongside examples of their work.

Francis Morrone lecturing

Francis Morrone lecturing

The lectures illuminated a broad selection of buildings, from the myriad forms of churches throughout the city to residences and commercial buildings. Mr. Morrone also discussed the origins and major examples of well-known trends that developed in the 20th century, such as the preponderance of white buildings, the rise of the glass curtain wall, and the elimination of ornament that later gave way to a fascination with experimentation with shapes and form. Throughout the series, he emphasized the role that distinctive coexisting architectural styles, often found together on a single block, play in forming the unique landscape of New York City.

Station Square, Forest Hills Gardens, 1912-16

Station Square, Forest Hills Gardens, 1912-16

Accessible to both experts and enthusiasts, the series drew a large crowd, and students left every class with a greater appreciation of the development of New York’s distinctive architecture.

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Building Craft: Ornamental & Architectural Metal Design

On Saturday, September 23, a group of students gathered at Covax Atelier in Clifton, New Jersey, excited to learn about the process of traditional metalworking and how it is put into practice today. Covax Atelier and the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art co-hosted a half-day course Building Craft: Ornamental & Architectural Metal Design. Participants traveled from several surrounding states to attend and enlivened class conversation based on their knowledgeable backgrounds as architects, artists, and hobbyists.

Zoltán Kovács teaches students about ironworking methods.

Zoltán Kovács teaches students about ironworking methods.

After the screening, instructor and professional blacksmith Zoltán Kovács gave a presentation on the basic tools, methods, and materials of metalworking as well as Covax Atelier’s own work on a set of ornamental iron gates commissioned by Yale University, which were created entirely using traditional blacksmithing techniques. He discussed the process he used to create these gates, as well as design considerations valuable to blacksmiths and those working with them alike: the importance of creating samples and mock-ups; the necessity of understanding the color, texture, and chemical properties of the metal used; and the need to take both aesthetics and practicalities, such as the use of card readers on college campus gates, into consideration. In preparation for the project, his team traveled extensively in order to study the works of old masters. Mr. Kovács emphasized the importance of preserving traditional techniques, which were handed down from master to apprentice for generations.

Carl Close shows Foster Lyons how to forge iron.

Carl Close shows Foster Lyons how to forge iron.

Following lunch, the students had the chance to gain hands-on experience with traditional forging skills. Students donned blacksmiths’ aprons, watched the forge come to life, and observed techniques for flattening an iron rod into the beginnings of a decorative shape. Everyone had the chance to heat up a piece of iron, place it on the anvil, and send sparks flying with each swing.

A Covax Atelier blacksmith teaches Elaine Rose how to twist iron.

A Covax Atelier blacksmith teaches Elaine Rose how to twist iron.

After each student had a turn, the instructors showed them the best way to use the shape of the anvil to the blacksmith’s advantage, flattening and attenuating the simple iron rod into a decorative leaf. Each student was invited to use a vise to turn a small plain rod into a piece of twisted iron, creating a palm-sized memento of a thrilling day studying traditional blacksmithing techniques and standing by the heat of the glowing forge.

Some of the students’ finished work, doubling as souvenirs of the class.

Some of the students’ finished work, doubling as souvenirs of the class.

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Arcadia in Acadia: Touring the Architecture of Bar Harbor and Mt. Desert Island, Maine

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Last month, as Summer drew to a close, I had the distinct pleasure of joining a group of ICAA members for a private tour of Bar Harbor and Mt. Desert Island, Maine. Nestled roughly halfway between New Hampshire and New Brunswick, Canada along Maine’s craggy coast, Mt. Desert Island is a natural delight with a rich architectural presence. It was on Mt. Desert Island that the Gilded Age’s wealthiest built spectacular summer cottages amidst the state’s bucolic splendor. Today, the Acadia region remains a destination for architectural historians, enthusiasts, and 21st Century rusticators alike.

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Rosserne, designed by Fred L. Savage

Among the many highlights on our trip were our enthusiastic and exceptionally knowledgeable guides, Sargent C. Gardiner and Willie Granston. Gardiner – who has been a partner at Robert A.M. Stern Architects since 2008 – is a lifelong summer resident of Mt. Desert Island where his family has spent generations. As such, his knowledge of the area’s history, including its earliest settlers, is expansive and his personal perspective invaluable. Our group visited Gardiner’s aunt’s home, named The Farm House, where we lunched in a beautiful garden designed by renowned landscape architect Beatrix Farrand.

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The Farm House, designed by Arthur McFarland

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The Beatrix Farrand designed gardens at The Farm House

Our second guide, Willie Granston, was born on Mt. Desert Island and is today a PhD candidate of the History of Art and Architecture department at Boston University. He is interested particularly in recent architecture and its relationship with the natural environment – undoubtedly inspired by his upbringing in Maine!

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The gardens at Garland Farm, Beatrix Farrand’s final residence before her death

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Redwood, designed by William R. Emerson

Central to the tour were, of course, our visits to an array of beautiful private homes and places – thanks to the careful planning of Classical Excursions who arranged the tour, with input from the ICAA Travel Committee including Board Members and other leading supporters of the organization.

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Skylands, the private home of Martha Stewart, designed originally for Edsel Ford by Duncan Candler

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Skylands

Visiting Skylands – the private home of Martha Stewart – was a particularly breathtaking experience. The house, designed for Edsel Ford by the architect Duncan Candler, is enchantingly entrenched within the surrounding landscape. Stewart’s personal touches serve to make a home, which is already picture-perfect, distinctively her own.

Over the course of four days, we examined work by a wide range of esteemed architects, including Peabody & Stearns, Delano & Aldrich, William R. Emerson, and many others. Among the more than 15 private houses that our group visited – in addition to civic buildings and churches – Rosserne was another home that left me distinctly impressed and inspired. Built for Rev. Dr. Cornelius Bishop Smith by architect Fred L. Savage, Rosserne is a shingle-style cottage located on Somes Sound that boasts a spectacular garden. Watch below a short video of Rosserne, which I published last week on Instagram.

Our visits were made even more memorable thanks to the company we shared with an enthusiastic group of ICAA members, including practitioners and enthusiasts alike. From forthcoming destinations including Lutyen’s New DelhiAiken, SC; and Florence, the ICAA is traveling to some of the most architecturally significant destinations in the United States and abroad. I encourage everyone to join the ICAA on our travel programs as we explore these incredible locations and develop everlasting experiences and friendships.

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