Students at Alamo Heights Junior School take on Classical Architecture

Alamo Heights Junior School students sketching outside

Alamo Heights Junior School students sketching outside

New Height Texas is currently at its halfway point of its first semester. The New Heights program, which first launched in New York City, introduces classical architecture and the related fields to students at a young age. A class of 30 students at the Alamo Heights Junior School has participated in a few weeks of architectural education by ICAA Texas Chapter member Mac White’s roster of talented instructors. The students have shown graeat enthusiasm settling into drawing exercises in their sketchbooks, and have readily engaged with the curriculum.

Mac White leading an introduction lecture for New Heights Texas at the Alamo Heights Junior School

Mac White leading an introduction lecture for New Heights Texas at the Alamo Heights Junior School

Growth and progress manifested immediately–students grasped key concepts of classical architecture and were very vocal, asking many questions that demonstrated their facility with the material. They showed exemplary knowledge and enthusiasm, bringing their own personal connections to architecture, with some drawing connections with Roman sculpture, curious about relationships between past school curriculum and classical architecture. One student came up to instructors after class and spoke about his personal relationship to architecture, sharing that his grandparents had lived in a Frank Lloyd Wright house. The enriching benefit of a space to learn and discuss architecture was apparent to all who attended the New Heights sessions and witnessed the vast breadth of prior knowledge that students have applied to classical architecture.

Students tour an historic interior

Students tour an historic interior

The curriculum has varied in focus and method throughout the course of the program. This past week, students each presented an analytique that they were assigned by instructors, students were asked to share their case studies on architects during a walking tour. The following week’s curriculum will follow up on the orders of classical architecture and students will participate in hands-on activities such as making plaster casts with veteran New Heights instructor Adrian Taylor. The class will delve into architectural representation and rendering in watercolor before moving on to finishing their public monument designs assigned as a final project.

Students explore the urban architectural environment

Students explore the urban architectural environment

Each design team will come up with some kind of monument using what they have learned of classical architecture and iconography. This design will be realized in limestone by Materials Marketing and presented during the final reception. The excitement and hopes for the future held by the school’s art teacher, instructors, and students, is a true sign not only of the program’s educational efficacy, but of its invaluable impact on the academic expression of New Heights students.

Mac White leads a walking tour into a courtyard

Mac White leads a walking tour into a courtyard

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The ICAA Fellows: A Brief History

Tom Matthews, a regional Fellow from the Rocky Mountain Chapter, describes the Fellows as the “keepers of the flame.” The group includes some of the earliest and most passionate advocates for the study and practice of classical architecture. Steve Bass, Marty Brandwein, Stephen Chrisman, and Seth Weine have all been Fellows since the early 1990s.

Fellow William Bates in the top row poses with students from the 2001 Summer Program students. Fellow Emeritus Gil Schafer is in the second row, third from right.

And on the list of Fellows Emeriti are people who helped shape the Institute: Gil Schafer, whose three-person office was just a few floors from the Institute’s first official space on Spring Street in SoHo; Missy Del Vecchi and Gary Brewer, now partners at Robert A.M. Stern; Bill Brockschmidt and Courtney Coleman, who were Fellows before they started their successful design firm together; Francis Morrone, noted author and architectural historian; and interior designer David Netto, among many others.

Today the 22 Fellows active in the College of Fellows continue to serve on national committees and volunteer their skills and expertise on initiatives across the country. When the Institute expanded to include Chapters, the College of Fellows did, too, welcoming a valuable new resource in the form of regional Fellows representatives into its ranks.

From the early days, the Fellows were the core body of volunteers for the Institute, producing the Classicist, the 10th Anniversary exhibition, and annually planning and programming dozens of public and academic programs, helping the Institute grow into the organization it is today.

Most recently, Clay Hayles was appointed as Fellows President in 2017. View a list of Fellows of the Institute and Fellows Emeriti.

Fellow Emeritus John Woodrow Kelley giving a lecture in the Portico of the Pantheon in Rome on the basics of light and shadow for the 2010 Rome drawing tour. “That morning some of the students requested some instruction on the subject, so during the lunch break I prepared some demonstration drawings and used the plinth and torus of one of the pilasters in the Pantheon portico as a study model,” John reminisced.

Fellow Emeritus John Woodrow Kelley giving a lecture in the Portico of the Pantheon in Rome on the basics of light and shadow for the 2010 Rome drawing tour. “That morning some of the students requested some instruction on the subject, so during the lunch break I prepared some demonstration drawings and used the plinth and torus of one of the pilasters in the Pantheon portico as a study model,” John reminisced.

 

 

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ICAA Leads a Workshop in Classical Architecture at the Savannah College of Art & Design

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Workshop students drawing outside the Independent Presbyterian Church

On Friday, February 10th, architecture students and professionals attended a day long workshop in classical architectural design hosted by the Savannah College of Art and Design, School of Building Arts. The morning began with a breakfast and an introductory presentation led by ICAA Instructor Michael Mesko, and continued with a sequence of presentations by architects regarding the practice of classical design today. These presentations revealed the contemporary relevance of classical design and provided insight into its application, presenting case studies of new work.

Martin Brandwein draws an example of an Order

Martin Brandwein draws an example for the Classical Primer lecture

Each presentation addressed the various problems considered when adapting classical design to modern contexts. “Reflecting Region in Architecture and Planning” by Andrew Cogar, Paul Knight, and James Strickland explored the practice of synthesizing regional and classical design. The second lecture, with Greg Palmer, continued the discourse on adapting classical language to modern program requirements.

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Michael Mesko assists with measured drawing

Students were introduced to the “Classical Primer,” an introduction to the elements of classical language by Martin Brandwein and Michael Mesko as a way to prime them for the hands-on exercise that afternoon. The Primer gave students a detailed and historical background in the classical details they would subsequently render. Stephen Chrisman concluded the series of lectures with “Studying Precedent to Inform Practice,” a perfect segue into the afternoon’s drawing exercise of.

Students measure interior elements

Students measure interior elements

The rest of the afternoon was comprised of field work and measured drawing — students visited the nearby Independent Presbyterian Church, where they had abundant content to choose from and plenty of guidance in the process, instructed in measuring and drawing to scale by Stephen Chrisman. Their final drawings showed the great care with which students addressed classical details through the methods they had learned in the workshop. Coming from varying levels of professional and academic experience, each student produced truly exemplary work thanks to the day’s immersion and the expertise of the Workshop’s many Instructors.

A measured drawing completed by a workshop student

A measured drawing completed by a workshop student

To learn more about the ICAA’s workshops in classical architectural design or to bring a workshop to your college, email education@classicist.org

 

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Architect John Simpson on Sir John Soane’s Dulwich Picture Gallery

Editor’s Note: The ICAA is pleased to commence a new blog series, “My Favorite Building,” highlighting examples of classical and traditional architecture, art, and design that inspire leaders in the field. The inaugural post in the series was written by John Simpson, Principal at John Simpson Architects and upcoming speaker at the ICAA’s 16th Annual McKim Lecture on March 1st.

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Joseph Michael Gandy, Preliminary Design by Sir John Soane for
Dulwich College Picture Gallery: The West Front

One building that has always greatly fascinated me is Sir John Soane’s Dulwich Picture Gallery.  Built in 1812, it contains an unusual combination of picture gallery, almshouses, and a mausoleum for its benefactors Sir Peter Francis Bourgeois and his friend Noel Desenfans (who left their valuable collection of 360 paintings to Dulwich College). In his will, Bourgeois requested that ‘some little nook of the chapel be set apart’ for the body of his friend Noel Desenfans and that of Mrs. Desenfans. In addition, he specified that his friend Sir John Soane should be the architect.

Mausoleum Exterior

Dulwich Picture Gallery, Mausoleum Exterior

Judging by the number of drawings, sketches, and perspectives that survive in his Museum at Lincoln’s Inn, Soane clearly approached this commission with a great deal of enthusiasm — enough to overcome significant difficulties with the College Governors who rejected eight of his schemes before they settled upon a design. The project was also nearly abandoned due to a lack of funds, which put enormous pressure on Soane to provide value for money.  The Dulwich Picture Gallery, which Soane described as being designed  “in a plain and substantial manner,” was built largely of brick; this was a very courageous choice of material at a time when it was considered  that a public building, as this was, should be built of more lavish materials such as stone.

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Gallery Interior (Image: Flickr)

These issues seem to have honed Soane’s skills all the more to produce a building, which as it turned out, is one of his great masterpieces and a building well ahead of its time.  The Dulwich Picture Gallery was the first art gallery in Britain to be built as a public building and its long lofty top lit spaces with their octagonal skylights remain, even today, the model that continues to provide inspiration for the design of most gallery buildings worldwide.

Most significant of all, however, is the skillful way Soane manages to reconcile the conflicting uses inherent within his brief into a composition that works so well combining the formal and architectural with the practical and functional so that each element complements the other in a juxtaposition of the elements adding to the richness and picturesque quality of the overall design. Remarkably, despite the tight budget, the building appears to contain and reference so much that is unique and architectural.

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Dulwich Picture Gallery, Mausoleum Exterior (Image: Wikimedia)

Unfortunately the almshouses have long since gone, having been converted into more gallery space, but the clever way in which Soane combines the gallery and the mausoleum is still there for all to enjoy.  Instead of the mausoleum being a sombre affair at one end of the building, he turns it into an enticing architectural feature around which the composition of the exterior architecture and the internal organization of the building revolves. It is visible as you enter the building defined as a rotunda (or tholos) by eight Greek Doric columns and naturally lit from above by a large lantern using one of Soane’s favorite architectural devices – amber glass – so as to be a space brightly lit and one in which the sun always shines.

Mausoleum Interior

Mausoleum Interior

 

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A Fresh Look at the Tuscan Order

Drawing the Tuscan order After Gibbs with Martin Brandwein

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Martin Brandwein drawing an example

Eighteenth Century Architect James Gibbs’ book, Rules for Drawing the Several Parts of Architecture, guide today’s interpretations of Tuscan columns. In February 7th’s Drawing the Tuscan Order After Gibbs, taught by Martin Brandwein with assistance from Alexander Morley, students studied and reproduced elements of the Tuscan Order. The opening lecture explored Gibbs’ guiding inspirations, his sensibilities were drawn from Palladio, but his technique from Carlo Fontana under whom he studied.

Though Gibbs was an eminent architect during his time, his legacy was solidified by the enduring popularity of his publications. Brandwein pointed out that one facet that has made Gibbs’ treatises accessible and attractive to following generations was its liberation of the reader from having to deal with fractions. The title page of the treatise declares, “In a more exact and easy manner than has been heretofore practiced, by which all fractions, in dividing the principal members and their parts, are avoided.”

Students taking notes during the presentation

Students taking notes during the presentation

The Tuscan Order is considered the most masculine order for its simplicity and its broadness when compared with the other classical orders. The class proceeded with a step-by-step explanation of how to draw the base, capital, and entablature of the Tuscan Order. Brandwein identified and described the individual components of the column and their functions while demonstrating how to draw the Tuscan Order, providing a comprehensive view of the Order itself and, through his lecture, James Gibbs’ relationship to the Order’s history.

Students working on a drawing exercise

Students working on a drawing exercise

To learn more about the ICAA’s upcoming classes, please visit http://classicist.org/programs/courses/.

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The Elements of Classical Architecture: The Corinthian Order

Mason Roberts leads the opening lecture

Mason Roberts leads the opening lecture

On Saturday, January 28, architects and non-architects alike had the opportunity to try their own hand at drawing elements of the Corinthian Order. Instructor Mason Roberts began the course by sharing slides and explained the history of the five classical orders. He explained how each evokes a different character and detailed how the columns tend to align with the spirit of the building they support.

Mason discussed the specific identity and origin of the Corinthian Order, which included an origin myth by Vitruvius. Central to its design and historical narrative are the acanthus leaves on its capital. There are instances in which standard elements of the Corinthian Order are modified for the sake of reflecting a building’s character or function: one prominent example is the Capitol in DC which features Corinthian columns that incorporate tobacco leaves and corn cobs, two important American crops, instead of the acanthus.

Michael Mesko assists the class by drawing an example

Michael Mesko assists students with an example

After the opening lecture students the drawing exercise, which  consisted of three separate drawings. First was the layout of the Order which included the base, column, and capital. Next was a detailed drawing of the base. Finally, students were asked to tackle the intricate capital and its famous acanthus leaves. Both Mason and Michael Mesko, who was assisting, helped students at their desks as the tutorial progressed and the exercises became increasingly challenging. The class was accessible to all skill levels and students with little to no experience had no difficulty keeping up. It was a great success and everyone left more knowledgeable about one of the Orders of the classical canon.

A student’s final drawing

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