News on the Advocacy Front

Paul Gunther

A message from our President, Paul Gunther

The recent chorus of ICAA constituent responses to the pending memorial to General Dwight D. Eisenhower along the Mall in Washington DC was led by the Washington Mid Atlantic Chapter in concert with the National Civic Art Society. Together they announced a design competition alternative to the official and closed one sanctioned by the General Services Administration at the behest of the official Memorial Commission.

Unlike so many major national design competitions, which, despite official regulations to the contrary, are de facto off-limits to classicists by virtue of the well-known prejudices of the pre-settled jury, there was no question that any and all tradition-and contextually-primed submissions would be greeted with requisite respect.

And so the debate continues….

What this matter brings to mind is the fact that while advocacy work cannot be the focus of our labors nationwide at this juncture due to the mission-driven emphasis on education for practitioners, students, and an appreciative clientele alike, it is nonetheless a role that we can and do fill occasionally. This is possible thanks to your support and engagement and is undertaken therefore when we believe the stakes are highest not only for the specific site or project at hand, but also when it seems that policy ramifications transcend the individual advocacy effort. In sum, broad impact is the present watchword.

BKSK Rendering

Photo Rendering of Proposed Design for 30 Henry Street, BKSK Architects

That is why at the beginning of the year the ICAA weighed in with like-minded others before New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission for a building proposed by BKSK Architects at 30 Henry Street in the seminal Brooklyn Heights Historic District. The crux of our opinion was,

The Institute’s point of view stems from what we believe is the proposed building’s contextual integrity combined with “of its time” distinction from the existing historic fabric. This building in terms of overall volume, materials, and subtle contrast of each to any structure either contiguous or nearby renders it duly contemporary. Denial of such a solution overlooks the diversity of contemporary design as sought by the marketplace and as practiced by those who over the last generation have rediscovered the possibilities of traditional precedent including, of course, the now 100-year old advent of modernism. All styles evolve over time in accordance with available materials, methodologies, functional technologies, and resident needs; the design pending at 30 Henry Street illustrates the fact well…

As according statues preclude any formal or stylistic preference or preordained exclusions for proposed construction in landmark districts, the BKSK solution strikes an ideal balance between continuity and modern accommodation as well as future resident demand and overall community strengthening.

This is a building of the 21st century in embrace of all its creative diversity and non-hierarchical effusiveness. Distinction instead of dissonance inflects its nod to the past. The Historic District will be the lasting beneficiary accordingly.

The Commissioners reported that it was one of the most rigorous and honest discussions ever held, especially in the face of decades-old tropes confusing modernist typologies with modernity itself. And as a result the BKSK plan was approved. This is a case where we believe advocacy intervention helped set a precedent for forthcoming ecumenism of style vocabulary among Landmark enforcers nationwide.

We encourage sharing of possible advocacy position ideas with the chapters as well as with the headquarters office, bearing in mind this current and necessary focus only on widespread ramifications.

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P.S.  I hope you’ve had a chance to read Dean Lykoudis’s interview with Richard H. Driehaus on the 10th anniversary of his Awards program in the Spring/Summer issue of The Forum.  Note too that David Bagnall’s fine illustrated story of his restoration of Chicago’s Samuel M. Nickerson House, An American Palace (University of Chicago Press), is now available and well worth adding to your design library. To secure a copy and all our Classical America Series’ titles visit the Classicist Bookshop online.

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Recent Developments in Proposed Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial

Dear Members and Friends:

There are two recent developments in the ongoing official discussions and review of the proposed Dwight D. Eisenhower memorial on the Mall in Washington DC that I wanted to bring to your attention:

1) A prominent opinion piece from yesterday’s Washington Post by ICAA board member and Chicago financier and philanthropist Richard H. Driehaus, which wisely advocates a national design competition in the spirit of America’s competitive best. To read the article in its entirety, click here; and

2) A pathway for watching the Congressional hearing live tomorrow, March 20, 2012 at 10:00 am, which features among others testifying Susan Eisenhower and ICAA trustee emeritus Rodney M. Cook. The hearing can be viewed at http://naturalresources.house.gov/Live.

We are grateful for your shared interest.

Best regards,
Paul Gunther

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AWARDS SEASON RETURNS TO THE REALM OF CONTEMPORARY CLASSICISM

Paul Gunther

A message from our President, Paul Gunther

All of us here salute the winners of the tenth annual Richard H. Driehaus Prize and the Henry Hope Reed Award: Michael Graves and Elizabeth Barlow Rogers respectively.  Visit the Notre Dame School of Architecture website to learn more as well as my recent blog post about Betsy and the history she has with the legacy of her Prize namesake and our co-founding scholar-in-residence. We are pleased too that Dean Graves was recently featured in our seminal Reconsidering Postmodernism conference of which a DVD recording by our esteemed colleagues at Checkerboard Films is in the completion phase as soon as we raise funds to so proceed. Thanks go to Gary Brewer for a lead seed grant to that worthy end. A video trailer of the upcoming DVD can be viewed by clicking here.

Likewise we salute all those who received recognition last month in Atlanta at the Southeast Chapter’s Sixth Annual Philip Trammel Shutze Awards, where I had occasion to help present the awards along with our peerless historian colleague Calder Loth, whose regular blog postings I hope you are taking advantage of as an ongoing educational classical resource. The winners of this year’s Shutze Awards can be found and celebrated here.

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ELIZABETH BARLOW ROGERS

The 2012 Henry Hope Reed Award laureate
accorded by the
University of Notre Dame School of Architecture
and its
Richard H. Driehaus Prize Jury

Elizabeth Barlow Rogers

A message from our President, Paul Gunther

In the year 1978, I went to work straight from college at New York City’s Department of Cultural Affairs, which had just separated from the Department of Parks And Recreation as a distinct agency of city government.

We were housed in an overcrowded yet spirited wing of the Parks Department’s Arsenal building in Central Park, which frames the namesake zoo, before moving in 1980 to the beautifully-restored Edward Durrell Stone building at Two Columbus Circle (conceived for the ill-fated Huntington Hartford Gallery of Modern Art), which was later denied consideration as a modernist landmark and destroyed.

Back in the Arsenal…a few months later in 1979…then Mayor Edward I. Koch created a new position called the Central Park Administrator and installed as its first office holder, art historian, urban planner, and writer addressing landscape and the meaning of place: Betsy Barlow Rogers. She worked at this auspicious outset in the tiniest of tiny offices (Was it a transformed closet? Memory suggests maybe so), where she conceived and launched the Central Park Conservancy. I was thus lucky enough as just a wide-eyed assistant to witness the essential genesis of a force so endemic to American culture that it is of second nature today. The park itself (like our adjacent zoo) was a dangerous, derelict, muddy blight that New Yorkers tried mightily to take advantage of even as they began  to take fuller stock of its egregious and rapid loss of form and functions.

The Conservancy model with its countless constituents and donors who have together made it soar these ensuing 35 years have enriched not only the City of New York and its fabled Olmsted and Vaux grid- relieving landscape, but also cities and towns across all 50 states, where such public private partnerships are the common cornerstone of contemporary civic operation and maintenance of our precious parks regardless of their style, size, or vintage.  In their collective wake comes public appreciation and engagement, along with the green spaces and natural habitats maintained in place regardless of the artifice of their man made advent.

In sum, Betsy’s civic contribution and impact on America’s built environment is second to none, classical and otherwise. It extends far beyond the Central Park Conservancy itself.

And it carries forward today with publications along with her vital role as founding president of the Foundation for Landscape Studies, whose academic and related professional pursuits assure the rigorous underpinnings of future landscape integrity both in preservation and invention.

Writing the GardenAbout a decade prior to Ms. Rogers appointed to the new Administrator role, her prize namesake, Henry Hope Reed, was himself named what was the first “Curator of Central Park”. In 1966 as the newly-elected Mayor Lindsay took office almost no one even understood the Park as the hand of man (let alone a design masterpiece) or why and the how to sustain it. Henry ‘s curatorial title arose from the announced intention to write a book published just a year later as “Central Park: A History and a Guide”— another example as revelation evolving into what is second nature to us now.

But as Henry wrote in the introduction, “ Many otherwise well-informed persons believe that one day in the last century the city fenced off 840 rocky acres of Manhattan Island and declared them as ‘park.’ ”  In other words, our co-founder essentially revealed what was hidden in plain site in extremis –like no other place in town. It was becoming a parking lot for city workers and a tabula rasa for Robert Moses at a time when the past was simply of no worth whatsoever.  As Pennsylvania Station goes why not Central Park? Not with Henry around!

It was even Henry who in that fateful first year proposed and prevailed in the removal of cars from the Park at least on weekends. An astonishingly radical contribution that few recall: Henry Hope Reed as alternative transportation visionary! An initiative that is still rippling through the corridors of elected and appointed officials, where so many still squeal about any perceived disruption of the vehicular hegemony.

It seems especially fitting that Richard Driehaus and his colleagues at Notre Dame recognize Betsy Barlow Rogers with an award bearing Henry’s unique imprimatur in this his 97th year.

Just as Betsy stood on Henry’s shoulders, so have tens of thousands stood on hers in active policy emulation just as tens of millions have reaped the daily rewards as dwellers of American cities.

Due praise to one and all.

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CLASSICAL COMMENTS: ARCHITECTURAL ETYMOLOGY

Calder Loth

by Calder Loth
Senior Architectural Historian for the Virginia Department of Historic Resources and a member of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art’s Advisory Council.

The study of classical architecture introduces us to a multitude of terms for the various parts of the orders. For many it is a completely new vocabulary, one often difficult to learn. An investigation of the etymology of the words can be helpful for remembering many of the terms and understanding their rationale. As with so much specialized terminology, numerous objects received their names because they reminded people of familiar, similar-looking things. We see this happening in scores of different categories. For instance, we call the control device on an instrument panel a button. The glass vacuum vessel encasing an incandescent electric light is a bulb. The name given to the symbol for a program on a computer screen is an icon. (And don’t forget the mouse.) This naming phenomenon is particularly prevalent in classical architecture. For this month’s essay, I have taken terms for elements of the entablature and capital of the Tuscan order and explored why they are called what are and where their names came from. I hope this simple exposition will serve to foster a more informed appreciation of the classical language of architecture. I hope also to explore the etymology of additional classical features and details in future Classical Comments essays.

The image I have used for this investigation is a detail of the Tuscan order illustrated in Abraham Swan’s The British Architect (1758), which offers some of the most precise and beautiful depictions of the classical orders.

*  Denotes that the word is a term defined in the list.

Abacus

Figure 1. Abacus

ABACUS (Figure 1): The abacus is the slab topping a capital*. The term derives from the object’s resemblance to the square wooden board on which ancient students sprinkled dust or sand in which they did figuring using their finger. We more commonly associate the word abacus for the frame holding rows of beads used for mathematical calculation, mainly in third-world areas.  In either case, an abacus is primarily a device on which one performs calculations. Abacus is a Latin word and comes from the Greek, abax, meaning slab, and ultimately from the Hebrew, abhaq, for dust. The architectural abacus is square in plan in all the orders except the Greek and Roman Corinthian, and the Composite, where the sides of the abacus are concave. Other than the Greek Doric, where the abacus is plain, the abacus can be composed of various moldings and can be enriched with carved decorations

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Call for Projects: The Classicist No. 10

Current issue, The Classicist No. 9

Architects and designers of classical and traditional projects are invited to submit up to three examples of their recent work for consideration for inclusion in the portfolio section of The Classicist No. 10. Preference will be given to completed buildings, although competition entries, whether successful or not, are also welcome. Firms associated with one of the 15 local chapters of the ICAA are particularly encouraged to submit in the hope that the forthcoming issue will have a broad geographical coverage reflecting the strong national presence of the Institute.

Please email a brief description of each project (including date of completion and a list of participating team members) with up to four digital images per project (jpegs preferred, each no larger than 500 KB) to the Editor, Dr. Richard John at rjohn@miami.edu by Wednesday, March 14, 2012.

Click here for more information about current and past issues of The Classicist.

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