The Classicist, No. 13: The Tradition, Influence, and Vibrancy of Southern Architecture

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“From the colonial era to the present, the South has been at the forefront of classical architecture in America,” observes David Gobel in his opening letter for the latest edition of the Classicist. The 13th volume of the Classicist, for which Gobel was guest editor, is the first of a series of forthcoming issues to feature a regional theme, the American South. Why begin this exploration in the South? As anyone who’s visited Charleston, Savannah, or Natchez might tell you — there are few other regions in the country where classical architecture is so thoroughly ingrained. Importantly, the cultural and architectural influence of the South transcends regional boundaries and can be seen in buildings, towns, and cities across the United States.  

Look no further than the 35 firms represented in the Professional Portfolios section of the Classicist to appreciate the depth and breadth of Southern classical design, which is more alive than ever. Many of the country’s most renowned firms work in or are based in the South: Historical Concepts, D. Stanley Dixon Architect, Norman Davenport Askins Architect, Harrison Design, and Robert A.M. Stern Architects, to name a few. Scroll through the slideshow below to view a selection of projects.

 

Also for the first time ever, the Classicist features expanded slideshow portfolios for each professional project online at classicist.org/portfolios. Anne Kriken Mann, ICAA Board Member and Co-Chair of the Classicist Committee, commented that a new emphasis on digital technology is crucial to providing “greater distribution and access as well as supportive information to the contents” of the Classicist. I could not agree more.

While the Classicist has made a leap into the digital realm, the publication remains at its core an academic journal; the six essays in volume 13 explore the origins, expression, and impact of Southern classicism. “Architecture on a North-South Axis” is one that especially resonates with me. Written by Margize Howell and Peter M. Kenny — Co-Presidents of Classical American Homes Preservation Trust (CAHPT) — the piece beautifully illustrates the cross-pollination of architectural influences between the South and the North.  Howell and Kenny focus specifically on homes that are part of CAHPT, which was founded by my dear friend Richard H. Jenrette.

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Edgewater Exterior
(Photo: Classical American Homes Preservation Trust)

Born in Raleigh, NC, Mr. Jenrette acquired homes in the South and the North that exemplify the best of Southern architecture.  Edgewater in the Hudson River Valley is a perfect example. Though the house is located in New York, its design is attributed to the Charleston-born architect, Robert Mills. Mr. Jenrette has generously opened Edgewater to the ICAA for educational visits, and it is one of the highlights of the four-week Summer Studio in Classical Architecture program. 

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Edgewater’s Octagon Library
(Photo: Classical American Homes Preservation Trust)

We also look forward to celebrating the launch of the Classicist No. 13 this Fall at the Roper House, another exquisite CAHPT home in Charleston, SC. The city of Charleston is revered for its advocacy and preservation of classical architecture and urbanism, and is the perfect setting to celebrate the Classicist’s  Southern theme.   

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Roper House
(Photo: Classical American Homes Preservation Trust)

The Classicist, No. 13 was the product of brilliant teamwork by all those involved. To quote Anne Kriken Mann: “Every single person on the Classicist Committee and the ICAA staff are all very participational. This is really a team effort, and it’s inspirational to me the way that people work together on it.”

The Classicist Committee also includes ICAA Board Members Gary Brewer (Co-Chair), Alexa Hampton, Michael Mesko, and Suzanne R. Santry, to whom we are grateful for their tremendous contributions to the newest volume. We are all looking forward the 14th edition of the Classicist, which will focus on the historic and present-day classically inspired buildings and landscapes of New York. The issue will feature a special introduction by Robert A.M. Stern with Charles Warren serving as Guest Editor.

We are also grateful to all those who sponsored the Classicist and especially for the support of the Beehive Foundation, a wonderful friend of the ICAA and the publisher of the magnificent 10-volume series Architecture of the Old South.  

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Students sketching during an on-campus workshop at the University of Miami,
which was generously sponsored by Historical Concepts

Despite the Classicist, No. 13’s range, it is a mere glimpse into the practice and appreciation of classical architecture in the South and our involvement there. The ICAA is more active in the region than ever. Recently, we hosted a two-day architectural tour at the University of Virginia. We have also held on-campus workshops at Mississippi State University and the University of Miami and are hosting similar programs this Fall at Tuskegee University and Southern Methodist University. Additionally, our Southeast Chapter will host their 11th Annual Philip Trammell Shutze Awards in Atlanta, GA in March. Of course, these are just a few highlights.    

As David Gobel notes, “The extraordinary breadth, depth, and resiliency of Southern classicism not only continues to the present day, but it appears to be entering a period of renewed vibrancy.” The ICAA community — including members, practitioners, and enthusiasts — are not only participating in this resurgence. We are leading it.

 

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