Remembering Michael Graves

A word from ICAA Chairman, Mark Ferguson

My fellow members and I at the ICAA are deeply saddened by the death of our teacher, mentor and longtime advisor Michael Graves. His passion for teaching and his erudition and artistry were legendary. These qualities drew me and my future colleagues, the founders of the Institute, to the Graduate College at Princeton in the early 1980s. His prolific output of drawings and, later, of buildings, furniture and household objects, was deeply influential on an entire generation of architects. It was an extraordinary time to be his student. He made ancient design principles relevant by making evident, in his critiques and in his work, the endless possibilities for invention embodied in simple ideas. His use of metaphor to connect buildings to the humanist tradition laid the foundation for our careers. We are thankful for his counsel and will always draw inspiration from his work.

Michael Graves at the ICAA’s Reconsidering Postmodernism Conference, 2011. Photo © Sterne Slaven.

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ICAA Members Visit the Edward S. Harkness House

By Anthony Del Aversano

The Edward S. Harkness House

Interiors of the Harkness House

On Saturday, February 21, 2015, ICAA members were given a tour of one of Manhattan’s true hidden gems, the Edward S. Harkness House. Situated on the corner of 75th Street and Fifth Avenue, this seven story, neo-Italian Renaissance building was constructed between 1907 and 1908 for Edward Harkness and designed by James Gamble Rogers of the architecture firm Hale and Rogers. It was a wedding gift to Edward from his mother Anna. Harkness was the sole heir to his family’s fortune, which was derived from his father Stephen V. Harkness’ investments in John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company. Harkness was a passionate philanthropist, donating vast sums of money to a variety of educational and artistic institutions.

After Edward’s death and the death of his wife Mary, the house was donated to the Commonwealth Fund, which still owns the Harkness House today. The Commonwealth Fund was founded by Anna Harkness in 1918 as a non-profit organization focusing on improving healthcare for society’s most vulnerable people,. The ICAA is grateful to Paul Wentworth Engel, Co-Building Manager and Harkness House Curator, for leading the tour through some of the houses beautifully preserved rooms.

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Inspired Places & Spaces – February

The cold and dreary month of February is the perfect time to dream of travel escapes near and far. With travel on the mind, we turned to William Brockschmidt and Andrew Tullis, two members of the ICAA’s Travel Committee, to seek inspiration from their favorite places and spaces.

Duomo di Siracusa

William Brockschmidt, Designer: Incorporating Ancient Greek temples, gleaming baroque churches, gelato-hued palaces, and a raised garden with orange and palm trees, Siracusa’s graceful crescent-shaped Piazza Duomo is glorious for its architecture – and the briny sea air, bold Sicilian sky, and happy crowds make it as joyous as it is inspirational.

The Farmstead, 1931. Gordon Kaufmann, architect

Portuguese Bend Riding Club, 1928. Gordon Kaufmann, architect

Andrew Tullis, Architect: Sometimes Travel takes us to a newly discovered corner of our own local area. South of Los Angeles, on the Palos Verdes peninsula overlooking the Pacific, are remnants of a grandiose never-completed housing tract from the late 1920’s. The vision was Italianate villas and gardens with a master plan design by the Olmsted Brothers and buildings by Los Angeles architect Gordon Kaufmann. The remaining buildings and the rural setting possess the romance of a past era and of a way of life that hasn’t changed much in nearly a century.

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The Grand Tour for All

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

Lord George Byron contemplating the Colosseum in Rome by Arthur Willmore or James Tibbets Willmore, after the original composition by William Westall. © The British Library Board, Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archive.

First coined in Richard Lassels’ The Voyage of Italy in 1670, “The Grand Tour” was an educational rite of passage for Europe’s privileged few.

“Go thou to Rome – at once the Paradise…” -Percy Bysshe Shelley

Beginning in the mid 17th Century, British young men (and in the 19th Century, women) traveled with stops perhaps in Paris or Venice to reach their ultimate destination – Rome. Rome was (and still is) the epicenter of classical teaching in architecture and fine arts, with unparalleled exposure to antiquities.

In Rome, these students would study under an organized tutorial system, staying for several months, up to several years. Their studies included visits to the studios of great artists, meeting the masters first-hand. Their tutors’ lessons would also include walking tours to see the great classical buildings and ruins, and along the way, learning how cities were built.

Portrait of Francis Basset, 1st Baron de Dunstanville and Basset by Pompeo Girolamo Batoni.

It was a vibrant time for creating. Artists painted and copied great works of the masters. Most of these copies, along with the original treasures themselves, were scooped up by the wealthy students or by the Dilettanti, to fill the walls and halls of their stately homes. The overall experience was enriching for those few who could participate (though the practice became more democratic with the arrival of steam-powered transportation around 1825).

To a large degree, we have abandoned a successful teaching method such as the grand tour, adopting instead the more mundane classroom, learning from books rather than firsthand experience. However, cultural institutions are trying to fill this gap, opening their doors to students so they can learn from the priceless masterpieces housed in their own cities and participate in more “hands-on” learning opportunities.

The ICAA is expanding its “Grand Tour” style offerings, including our new high school program – Just Look Up. Set to launch in the fall of 2015, Just Look Up will consist of lectures and drawing classes taught by ICAA educators and architects on architecture, history, placemaking, and building practices. The program will also lead students on architectural walking tours, museum visits, and field trips to buildings under construction to witness the building process first-hand. We want to expose middle school and high school students to the classical architecture all around them in cities and neighborhoods across America. With early exposure to hands-on experiences, we hope to excite the minds of the next generation of creators.

I also encourage our current practitioners to embrace mentorships and tutorial teaching to further engage young people and encourage future careers in architecture and the allied arts.

It is my hope that there will be a social movement for all young students to be exposed to classical architecture and arts in their home cities, through hands-on experiences, and interactions with great masters – opening up a Grand Tour for All!

– Peter Lyden, ICAA President

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Calder Loth

Calder Loth

by Calder Loth

Senior Architectural Historian for the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Member of the Institute of Classical Classical Architecture & Art‘s Advisory Council.

For this Classical Comments piece we will deal with some architectural minutiae—the transition from Roman-style moldings to Greek ones that took place in the late 18th century. Until the publication in 1762 of the first volume of James Stuart and Nicholas Revett’s The Antiquities of Athens virtually all 18th-century molding profiles in both Britain and America adhered strictly to ancient Roman versions as depicted in the Renaissance treatises of Palladio, Vignola, Scamozzi and others. For their sources these architects measured and published the examples close at hand, which were in abundance in the Roman ruins around them. High-style Greek ruins were all but inaccessible for study, Greece having succumbed to unwelcoming Ottoman rule with the fall of Constantinople in 1453.

Figure 1. The Tuscan order. Andrea Palladio, The Four Books on Architecture (1570) Tavernor and Schofield edition, 1997, Book 1, p. 28.

Using Palladio’s Four Books as a primary source, 18th-century British treatise and pattern book authors maintained the authority of Roman moldings except for their rare indulgences in Gothic and Chinese-style designs. Palladio’s plate of different versions of the Tuscan order clearly demonstrates his observation that Roman moldings were simple segments of circles, each curve having a single center point and a single radius. (Figure 1)

Figure 2. James Gibbs, Rules for Drawing the Several Parts of Architecture (1732), Plate XXIV.

In Rules for Drawing the Several Parts of Architecture, a standard textbook for the Anglo-Palladian movement, James Gibbs presented a diagram defining the moldings appropriate for each of the five orders. Shown with a dotted line, his single radius for each segment is consistent with Palladio’s interpretation of Roman moldings as basic segments of circles. (Figure 2)

Figure 3. Abraham Swan, The British Architect (1745), Plate II.

As with Palladio’s Tuscan, Abraham Swan’s plate of the Tuscan order reveals the straightforward character of typical Roman moldings. (Figure 3) Beginning with the cyma recta in the crown molding, each curve of the S-shaped molding has only a single radius. This pattern is followed in the bed moldings, consisting of the convex quarter-round ovolo and below it the concave, quarter-round cavetto. In the capital, the echinus takes on a quarter-round contour, and the astragal has a half-round profile. Likewise, in the base, the torus is a bold, half-round molding, providing visual support to the weight of the columns and entablature.

Figure 4. Second-floor mantel, Drayton Hall, Charleston, South Carolina.

Figure 5. William Salmon, Palladio Londinensis (Second edition, 1738), Plate XXIX (detail).

A detail of the moldings on a second-floor mantel in Drayton Hall (ca. 1750) reveals how closely its joiner adhered to the accepted rules for classical profiles. (Figure 4) Among the architectural books in John Drayton’s library, for whom Drayton Hall was built, were the Isaac Ware edition of Palladio’s The Four Books on Architecture (1738), William Salmon’s Palladio Londinensis (2nd edition, 1738), and Batty Langley’s The London Prices of Bricklayers Materials and Works (1749).[1] We can compare the mantel’s moldings with those shown on a plate in Palladio Londinensis containing similar standard Roman moldings, all likely based on moldings shown in Palladio’s Four Books. (Figure 5)

Figure 6. James Stuart & Nicholas Revett, The Antiquities of Athens, Vol. 1, 1762, Chapter II, Plate VI (detail).

Britons were introduced to the elegance and complexity of Greek moldings with the appearance in 1762 of the first volume of Stuart and Revett’s The Antiquities of Athens. This monumental undertaking, with its numerous engravings of plans, elevations, details, and conjectural restorations, made an indelible impression on the British architectural community and marked the birth of the Greek Revival movement. Pictured in the first volume were several plates pertaining to the Ionic temple on the Ilissus River in Athens.[2]  In a detail of the temple’s capital and entablature, the abacus has the profile of a quirked ovolo instead of the straight-sided slab typical of Roman orders. (Figure 6) A quirked ovolo is an ovolo that takes the form of an ellipse and turns inward towards the top, leaving a small space between it and the member above it. Since the curve of an ellipse is complex, requiring several radii to define it, it can take many different profiles from boldly curved to tightly compressed. Another quirked ovolo is seen supporting the taenia.

Robert Adam was among the first British architects to incorporate Greek moldings and other Grecian details in his designs. In Volume I of The Works in Architecture of Robert and James Adam, Esquires (1778) Adam stated his partiality for Greek moldings.

The mouldings in the remaining structures of antient Rome are considerably less curvelineal than those of antient monuments of Greece. We have always given preference to the latter, and have even thought it adviseable to bend them still more in many cases, particularly in interior furnishings, where objects are near, and ought to be softened to the eye. . . [3]

Figure 7. Robert and James Adam, The Works in Architecture of Robert and James Adam, Esquires, Vol. 1, plate 59 (detail).

Adam employed a personalized Greek Ionic order for the exterior of London’s Lansdowne House. The detail of the order shown here is dated 1765 and was published in Adam’s Works in 1778. (Figure 7) While the abacus follows Greek precedent by being an ovolo rather than a straight-edged slab, its profile is a Roman-style ovolo. The moldings separating the frieze from  the architrave, however, incorporate what is definitely a Greek quirked ovolo supporting a fillet. The source for Adam’s Greek details was likely The Antiquities of Athens.  He also derived Greek details from engravings by Giovanni Piranesi, who published prints of Greek Ionic capitals copied from Julien-David Le Roy’s Ruines des plus beaux monuments de la Grèce (1758). Piranesi worked with Adam for a time, executing some of the engravings for Works.

Figure 8. Asher Benjamin, The American Builder’s Companion (1806) plate 15.

Boston architect Asher Benjamin can be credited with being America’s earliest and most energetic promoter of Greek classicism. In the 1806 first edition of The American Builder’s Companion, Benjamin offered an interestingly curious illustration to demonstrate the visual superiority of a cornice of Greek moldings over Roman moldings. (Figure 8) He elucidates as follows:

A is a Tuscan cornice copied from Langley, [A is the dotted line] and seen at an angle of forty five degrees from the horizon, (Fig. 2) which is the angle cornices are commonly seen at. B is a modern cornice, which is only two thirds of the height. This experiment proves, that a cornice, when seen at the angle of forty five degrees, may be diminished one third of its height, and appear to the spectator to be diminished only two elevenths; and when seen at an angle of fifty degrees, (Fig. 3) which is a little nearer to the building, it may be diminished one third, and appear to be diminished one sixth . . . which will make a saving of at least one fourth of the expense, beside having so much of the height of the wall of the whole building, and at the same time have a lighter and better appearance.[4]

 Referring to Fig. 4 on that same plate, Benjamin writes:

A [the solid-line molding] is an ovolo, or quarter round, which is commonly used in the orders. The figure shows the advantage of quirked mouldings. Beside looking better, their size may be increased one third without increasing their height, as seen by B [left dotted line] ; or their height may be diminished one third, without appearing much less, as seen by C.[right dotted line][5]

Figure 9. Asher Benjamin, The American Builder’s Companion (Sixth edition, 1827), Plate I I [eleven] (detail).

In Plate eleven of the 1827 edition of The American Builder’s Companion, Benjamin illustrated several examples of quirked ovolos. (Figure 9) He noted that the molding can be part of an ellipse or a parabola. Benjamin praised Greek design ingenuity, stating:

In the Roman ovolo there is no turning inward, at the top; therefore, when the sun shines on its surface, it will not be so bright, on its upper edge, as the Grecian ovolo; nor will it cause so beautiful a line of distinction from the other moldings, with which it is combined, when it is in shadow, and when lighted by reflection.[6]

The various radii making up each molding in Benjamin’s plate are seen in the dotted lines and reveal the complex sophistication of Greek moldings.

Figure 10. Greek moldings, Tennessee State Capitol, Nashville (Loth).

William Strickland made use of quirked ovolos on the interior of the Tennessee State Capitol (completed 1859), one of the nation’s premiere examples of Greek Revival architecture. The stone piers supporting the vaults in one of the ground-floor committee rooms are topped with sharp, finely cut ovolos. The quirk forms the dark line above the ovolos and lends definition to the composition. (Figure 10)

Figure 11. The Rules of Work of the Carpenters’ Company of the City and County of Philadelphia (1786) Plate XVI.

Figure 12. James Newlands, The Carpenter’s Assistant (London, undated: ca. 1850) plate LXV (detail).

We can see the change in treatment of panel moldings from the 18th century to the 19th century by comparing a plate in the in the 1786 Philadelphia Carpenters’ Company Rule Book with one in James Newlands’ The Carpenter’s Assistant, (Figures 11 & 12) Though Newlands’ work is British, his illustrations are consistent with American practice starting in the early 19th century. In the Carpenters’ Company illustration, we see how typical Roman-style panel moldings are cut from the rails and stiles and that the fielded panels are sharply beveled on one face or both. Newlands’ moldings employ Greek quirked ovolos. Instead of being part of the rails and stiles, his moldings are separate members applied over the junction of the panels with the rails and stiles. Note too, the panels are not beveled. This change in panel treatment, employing applied moldings, became almost universal throughout the country in the 19th century.

Figure 13. Door jamb panel, Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind, Staunton, Virginia (Loth).

An example of applied panel moldings is seen in a door jamb at the 1846 Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind, designed by Baltimore architect Robert Cary Long, Jr. Here, however, the panel moldings are a simple flattened Greek cavetto. Note the lack of beveling in the border of the panel field. (Figure 13)

Figure 14. Mantel detail, Annandale, Buckingham County, Virginia (Virginia Department of Historic Resources).

The vigorous beauty of Greek moldings is evident in the mantel shelf of Annandale, an 1840s farmhouse in central Virginia.  The sharp edges of the quirked ovolos in the shelf board and bed moldings are typical of the period. Such profiles required carpenters to acquire special blades for their planes. (Figure 14)

Figure 15. Mantel detail, Glen Maury, Buena Vista, Virginia (Loth).

Figure 16. Minard Lafever, The Modern Builder’s Guide (1833) Plate 53.

In some rural Greek Revival houses it is not unusual to see an assertive series of sharply projecting quirked ovolos forming a mantel’s bed moldings. A characteristic example of this ambitious treatment is found in Glen Maury, an 1831 plantation house in Buena Vista, Virginia. (Figure 15) Although it’s tempting to assume this is the product of a craftsman’s overzealous imagination, it’s more likely that these moldings were inspired by illustrations of arrises found below the echinus on the typical Greek Doric capital. We see these arrises on a detail of the Doric order published by the New York architect Minard Lafever in The Modern Builder’s Guide (1833), one of many American design books promoting the Grecian style. (Figure 16) In his preface, Lafever acknowledged his source: “Messrs. Stuart and Revett of London; from whose highly valuable and popular work entitled ‘The Antiquities of Athens,’ I have borrowed the article relating to the ancient Orders of Architecture.”[7]

Although Greek moldings continued in use into the third quarter of the 19th century, they soon passed out of fashion in favor of more complex Italianate and Gothic-style moldings. They all but disappeared from use in the early 20th century with the widespread popularity of the Colonial Revival movement, which brought about a resurgence of Roman moldings imitating 18th-century practice. Nevertheless, following Asher Benjamin’s observations, we should not discount the value of Greek moldings for adding a distinctive aesthetic quality to contemporary classical design.

[1] Partricia Ann Lowe, Volumes that Speak: The Architectural Books of Drayton Library Catalog and the Design of Drayton Hall (Clemson University and the College of Charleston Master’s Thesis. May, 2010).
The tiny temple has since been destroyed.
Robert and James Adam, The Works in Architecture of Robert and James Adam; (Dover Publications, 2006) p. 6.
Asher Benjamin, The American Builder’s Companion (Boston, 1806) p. 29.
Benjamin, p. 29.
Benjamin, The American Builder’s Companion (sixth edition; Boston, 1827) p. 20.
Minard Lafever, The Modern Builder’s Guide, p. 3-4.

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On Thursday, January 29, the ICAA was pleased to present a public lecture by Stephen Alesch and Robin Standefer, founders and principals of design firm Roman and Williams. The presentation, entitled Hidden Order and Disorder: a Discussion of Opposites and Contrasts, took place in front of a full house at the Library at the General Society. Highlighting some of Alesch and Standefer’s favorite design projects, the lecture discussed the process behind the pair’s designs focusing on the primary theme of the conflicting forces of order and disorder which can be found in all of the firm’s buildings and interiors.

Beginning with Roman and Williams’ very first projects born from their start as set designers for many well-known Hollywood movies, Mr. Alesch spoke to great length about the hidden struggle visible in all of the team’s work. He labeled this dichotomy, the “grandfather versus the youth” or a contrast between refinement and rebellion. Arranged within carefully constructed layers along predetermined centerlines and axes, these moments of disorder grant the spaces a certain dynamism and movement. Meticulous thought is put into how people will feel within the spaces designed by Roman and Williams. Alesch described how while clients may wish to feel a certain freedom within a seemingly chaotic and disorderly space, there needs to also be a certain level of careful order underneath these rebellious moments that create a feeling of warmth and comfort.

During both the lecture and following Q&A session, the importance of designing comfortable and warm spaces was discussed. The use of child-like disorder as a focal point along a central axis prevents those within the space from feeling a sense of intimidation when encountering the design, as opposed to traditional classical architecture or stereotypical modern design. Noting a movement towards a more comfort-oriented culture as a whole, Ms. Standefer discussed that even tech heavy clients of theirs such as Facebook are moving towards a taste centered around more earthy, natural warm tones and textures, which is again reflected within the designs of Roman and Williams.

Hidden Order and Disorder was co-sponsored by the ICAA New York Chapter* and presented in partnership with the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen. Alesch and Standefer presented slides illustrating the design processes of many of their projects including their design for the Ace Hotel NY, 211 Elizabeth Street apartments, and homes for private clients such as actor Ben Stiller. Roman and Williams have been the recipients of multiple honors and accolades over the years including the 2010 Palladio Award for 211 Elizabeth Street, the Lawrence Israel Prize in 2013, and the Smithsonian’s National Design Award for Excellence in Interior Design in 2014. We offer our fervent thanks to Stephen and Robin for their insightful discussion into their unique and fascinating design process.

If you have any photographs, audio, or video footage of this event that you would like to share with us, please email with the heading “Roman and Williams lecture.”


* Chapter in-formation

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