Classical Comments: Greek Architectural Treasures in the British Museum

Calder Loth, 3 B&W1-3




Senior Architectural Historian for the Virginia Department of Historic Resources and Member of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art Council of Advisors.




The British Museum, London

The British Museum, London

As many know, Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin, achieved permanent notoriety for removing the Parthenon sculptures in 1801-03 and bringing them to England. They were purchased by the British Museum in 1816 and have been known ever since as the Elgin Marbles. Elgin’s act was controversial at the time and remains so today. Their removal was questionable even though Elgin claimed he had received permission from the Turkish authorities, sparking discourse on the difference between retrieving vulnerable fragments lying about, and removing in situ elements from the Parthenon, such as its sculpted metopes.

Figure 1: Parthenon, 1687 bombardment. (Atene Attica-, Francesco Fanelli; 1701)

Figure 1: Parthenon, 1687 bombardment. (Atene Attica-, Francesco Fanelli; 1701)

Nevertheless, the marbles have been preserved, viewed, and enjoyed by millions of visitors to the British Museum ever since. And we can be reasonably assured that many of the fragments Elgin obtained were spared being burnt by the locals for lime, particularly those that had been dislodged in 1687 when the Parthenon was blown apart by a Venetian artillery shell hitting the munitions then stored in the temple (Figure 1).

Figure 2: Duveen Gallery, British Museum, London

Figure 2: Duveen Gallery, British Museum, London

In addition to extracting the Parthenon sculptures, Elgin also helped himself to intact architectural artifacts, not only from the Parthenon but from other structures on the Acropolis and nearby. These and many other ancient architectural objects are also on display in the British Museum, where they receive much less attention than the Parthenon sculptures. The Parthenon’s famous sculptures are handsomely displayed in John Russell Pope’s regularly packed Duveen Gallery (Figure 2). The architectural artifacts are scattered throughout the British Museum’s other galleries.

Figure 3: Parthenon capital and column drum

Figure 3: Parthenon capital and column drum

Elgin was not the only individual to enrich the museum’s collection of Greek antiquities. Architectural fragments from other ancient sites are displayed along with Elgin’s. This Classical Comments essay deals with these precious relics, worthy of study and contemplation, if not veneration, by scholars, architectural historians, and architects.

Among the largest and most conspicuous of Elgin’s architectural objects is a Doric capital and its shaft’s top drum, both originally part of the Parthenon’s peristyle (Figure 3). It’s uncertain whether Elgin’s team took these from an upright column or found them among items toppled over by the 1687 explosion. Even so, the capital offers close-up examination of its exquisitely subtle echinus and annulets (Figure 4). The fabricated section of the Parthenon’s entablature demonstrates the temple’s impressive scale.

Figure 4: Parthenon capital detail

Figure 4: Parthenon capital detail

An additional capital from Elgin’s trove came from the Propylaea, the monumental columned structure forming the entrance to the Acropolis (Figure 5). As with the Parthenon capital, it is difficult to know whether it was taken from an intact column or found on the ground; the latter is more likely since the Propylaea was severely damaged in 1656 by an explosion when the Turks were using the building as a powder magazine. The capital’s dark surface may be a vestige of the blast. The free-standing positioning of the capital permits detailed observation of the gentle flare of the fluting as it meets the annulets (Figure 6).

Figure 5: Propylaea, east elevation (Sandyblue)


Figure 6: Doric capital from the Propylaea

The temple of Athena Nike, completed ca. 421 BC, stands perched on the edge of a high bastion adjacent to the Propylaea (Figure 7). The Turks dismantled it in 1686 in order to use its material to build the Acropolis fortifications. Many of its pieces were extracted following Greece’s independence from the Ottoman Turks in 1832.

They were subsequently incorporated into an anastylosis reconstruction on the temple’s original site. The temple has since been rebuilt twice in order to correct structural deficiencies, the most recent rebuilding being completed in the past decade. Figure 7 shows its present incarnation.

Figure 7: Temple of Athena Nike (Creative Commons)

Figure 7: Temple of Athena Nike (Creative Commons)

Elgin helped himself to one of the temple’s capitals during his Greek sojourn (Figure 8), never definitively disclosing how exactly he got it. Did he pull it from the fortifications or did he find it lying about? The damaged capital is now unceremoniously displayed on a shelf among other ancient architectural artifacts. The diagonally projecting stump of its missing volute indicates that it was one of the temple’s “two-sided” corner capitals.

Figure 8: Temple of Athena Nike capital

Lord Elgin took a particularly cavalier approach towards the Erechtheion, the complex Ionic temple next to the Parthenon (Figure 9). The Erechtheion lost most of its interior over the centuries, but, its basic exterior, save the roof, was intact when Elgin arrived on the scene in 1801.

Figure 9: Erechtheion, showing east portico and Caryatid porch

Figure 9: Erechtheion, showing east portico and Caryatid porch

Few realize today that the right corner column of the Erechtheion’s east portico is a prosthesis. Elgin took the whole column to London, where it is now set up in the British Museum. Its elegant capital is the richest, most complex version of the Greek Ionic order (Figure 10); it can easily be appreciated by viewing from a nearby upper-tier gallery. The column’s distinctive base is also accessible for close inspection (Figure 11). In a separate gallery, we find a section of the temple’s intricate anthemion frieze (Figure 12). Elgin even helped himself to a length of the Erechtheion’s architrave with its subtle overlapping fascias (Figure 13).

Figure 10: Erechtheion, east portico capital

Figure 10: Erechtheion, east portico capital

Figure 11: Erechtheion, east portico column base

Figure 11: Erechtheion, east portico column base

Figure 12: Erechtheion, anthemion frieze fragment

Figure 12: Erechtheion, anthemion frieze fragment

Figure 13: Erechtheion, architrave fragment

Figure 13: Erechtheion, architrave fragment

Not content with these pieces, Elgin focused his sights on the Erechtheion’s prize feature—the Caryatid porch, certainly one of the most famous porches in existence. There he removed the second from the left Caryatid and packed it off to Britain, where it decorated his country home until his collection was sold to the British Museum.

Figure 14: Erechtheion Caryatid.

Figure 14: Erechtheion Caryatid.

The lady now stands by herself in the museum with only the Erechtheion’s column nearby to remind her of home (Figure 14). Elgin attempted to take another Caryatid by sawing it in pieces, but the sculpture fell and broke apart, so Elgin left it. It has since been restored.

Elgin was not the only one to quarry Greece for architectural antiquities to the ultimate benefit of the British Museum. In 1811, the noted nineteenth century British architect Charles Cockerell was part of a team to make a study expedition to the Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae, a remarkable work located high in the rugged mountains of Greece’s Peloponnese (Figure 15). The temple’s design is ascribed to Ictinus, one of the architects of the Parthenon. It is known for being the only Greek temple to employ all three Greek architectural orders: Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian.

Figure 15: Temple of Apollo Epicurius (Wikipedia Images)

Figure 15: Temple of Apollo Epicurius (Wikipedia Images)


 Figure 16: Temple of Apollo Epicurius, conjectural interior view by Charles R. Cockerell, 1860. (Wikipedia Images)

Figure 16: Temple of Apollo Epicurius, conjectural interior view by Charles R. Cockerell, 1860. (Wikipedia Images)

We must credit Cockerell for producing detailed drawings of the temple. Shown here is an engraving of his restoration drawing of the cella with a single Corinthian column on axis and Ionic capitals topping masonry fins (Figure 16). But Cockerell’s expedition also attracted others’ attention to the temple. The next year, a group of British antiquaries set about extracting the temple’s sublime interior sculpted frieze, along with other objects. In 1815 the items were sold to the British Museum, where they have been on display ever since. A section of the frieze shown here depicts the Greeks’ mythological battle with the Amazons, a scene of intense vigor and violence (Figure 17).


Figure 17: Temple of Apollo Epicurius, section of the interior frieze

Figure 17: Temple of Apollo Epicurius, section of the interior frieze

Among the small items retrieved from the temple was an antefix—a decorative termination of a roof tile (Figure 18). The object has unusually delicate relief carvings of stems and foliage, signaling the importance given to the temple’s every detail. A very important salvaged artifact is a fragment of one the distinctive Ionic capitals that topped the cella fins (Figure 19).

Figure 18: Temple of Apollo Epicurius, antefix

Figure 18: Temple of Apollo Epicurius, antefix


Figure 19: Temple of Apollo Epicurius, Ionic capital fragment

Figure 19: Temple of Apollo Epicurius, Ionic capital fragment

The capitals are unusual in that the volutes are connected by a continuous curve rather than being flattened under the abacus, as are nearly all other Ionic capitals. We see its design in Charles Normand’s restoration drawing (Figure 20).

Figure 20: Temple of Apollo Epicurius, Ionic capital detail (von Mauch & Normand, Parallel of the Classical Orders of Architecture, Acanthus Press reprint, 1998, plate 33)

Figure 20: Temple of Apollo Epicurius, Ionic capital detail
(von Mauch & Normand, Parallel of the Classical Orders of Architecture, Acanthus Press reprint, 1998, plate 33)

The museum’s fragment is one of the very few surviving pieces of the capitals. None of the capitals remained in situ when Cockerell visited the temple; they may have been shaken off by one of the earthquakes that often hit the region. Nevertheless, the Bassae Ionic became popular for Neo-Grec buildings throughout Britain and the United States. Most famously, Cockerell employed the order for the portico and other columns on Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum.

Whatever we might think about the appropriateness of these and many other architectural fragments being in the possession of the British Museum, the objects are remarkable relics of an ancient heritage that belongs to everyone. The museum has made these artifacts accessible for admiration and study for 200 years.

Unless otherwise credited, all photographs are by the author.


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Inspired Places & Spaces: A Tribute to Female Architects

In honor of Women’s History Month, I spent some time contemplating the contributions of women to the profession of architecture over the course of history, and specifically to traditional and classical architecture in America. There are many significant female practitioners today, but that was not always the case; and women remain scarce in architectural history courses and textbooks.

The 1936 Neptune Pool at Hearst Castle designed by Julia Morgan

Julia Morgan (1872-1957) is perhaps the best known historical female architect, and she was certainly a trailblazer as the first woman to graduate from the École des Beaux-Arts and the first woman in the state of California to become a licensed architect. She had a prolific career, working on an estimated 700 buildings. Although she preferred to stay out of the public eye during her career, many of her beautiful buildings are still standing and have helped to establish her legacy.

Julia Morgan’s office at Hearst Castle with some of her drawings

Another woman that had a prolific practice, but is not as widely recognized today is Leila Ross Wilburn (1885-1967). Wilburn was the first woman to become a licensed Architect in the state of Georgia and had a successful practice in Atlanta. However, what is most notable about Wilburn is the great number of Pattern Books that she published. In one of these Pattern Books, she wrote, “What we need most in America is a better class of small domestic architecture, one which shall provide us with homes more wholesome in their exterior appearance and more satisfying in their internal arrangement and finish.” Her drive to provide quality design to a larger number of people was admirable and has helped to establish her legacy in the history of traditional American architecture.


A plan from Leila Ross Wilburn’s Pattern Book

Louise Blanchard Bethune (1856-1913) was one of the first professional female architects, the first woman admitted to the American Institute of Architects (AIA), and the first to be named an AIA Fellow. She had a successful practice in Buffalo, NY focusing on public buildings. Unlike Leila Ross Wilburn, Bethune disliked working on residential projects because she felt that they did not pay well. She also gained notoriety when she refused to enter a design competition for the Woman’s Building at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago because she felt that it was unfair that women were paid one tenth what a male architect would be paid for designing a building at the World’s Fair.

Lafayette Hotel in Buffalo, NY

Lafayette Hotel in Buffalo, NY

Bethune’s refusal to enter the design competition for the Chicago World’s Fair left an opening for another female architect: Sophia Hayden (1886-1953). Hayden won the design competition for the Woman’s Building at the World’s Fair when she was only 21 years old. She had recently become the first woman to graduate from MIT with a degree in architecture.  Unfortunately, Hayden’s design for the Woman’s Building was compromised through numerous changes by the construction committee. This experience proved very frustrating for Hayden and discouraged her from working as an architect.

woman's building

The Woman’s Building at the World’s Fair

The women mentioned in this essay were able to contribute to the beauty of our built environment and enrich our architectural heritage, despite the fact that the architectural profession was not welcoming to women during their lifetimes. As a woman practicing architecture today, I am thankful for the work that my fore mothers did to open the doors of the architectural profession to women. It is encouraging to see that there are an equal number of women (to men) entering architecture school today, and more of them than ever before are continuing on to professional practice and leadership roles. It is also encouraging to see more women gaining recognition for their design work through major prizes and publications, and I am hopeful that future textbooks and syllabi will include more women’s names.

This is certainly not an exhaustive listing of the women who deserve recognition for their contributions to traditional American Architecture, but hopefully it has piqued your interest. If you would like to learn more, Wikipedia has compiled a list of Women Architects, and that may be a good place to start.

About the Author
Elizabeth C. Dillon is a Principal at Historical Concepts, where she manages an assortment of large custom residential projects and leads a New York-based design studio. She has served as both the Treasurer and the Vice President of the Southeast Chapter of the ICAA and currently serves on the Finance Committee of the Institute’s national board.


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The ICAA Announces Winners of the 2017 Arthur Ross Awards for Excellence in the Classical Tradition

The Institute of Classical Architecture & Art (ICAA) announces the winners of the 2017 Arthur Ross Awards for Excellence in the Classical Tradition. In a dinner to be held on Monday, May 1st at the University Club, the following will be honored, by category:


ARCHITECTURE | Peter Pennoyer Architects


House in Millbrook (2013), Millbrook, NY, Entrance Façade (Photo: Eric Piasecki)

Peter Pennoyer Architects is internationally-renowned for its practice inspired by traditional and classical architecture. The firm has built a substantial and varied body of work over the past twenty-seven years and advocates for the relevance of classical architecture in contemporary practice. Principal Peter Pennoyer, FAIA, established the firm in 1990 and leads today alongside his partners Jennifer Gerakaris, AIA; Elizabeth Graziolo, AIA; Thomas Nugent, AIA; and James Taylor, AIA; as well as the firm’s Director of Design, Gregory Gilmartin. The diverse projects of Peter Pennoyer Architects include the restoration of historic properties, institutional commissions, and private residences worldwide. From the Shingle style of New England, to the Arts and Crafts tradition of the Pacific Coast, the firm absorbs the history and the vernacular of an area and remakes it to become its own.


EDUCATION | Thomas Gordon Smith

American Wing Classical Gallery, Metropolitan Museum of Art

American Wing Classical Gallery, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Thomas Gordon Smith’s career combined the practice of architecture and teaching. Mr. Smith taught at UCLA, Southern California Institute of Architecture, Yale University, and the University of Illinois, Chicago before he was appointed chairman of the School of Architecture at the University of Notre Dame, 1989-1998. At Notre Dame, he worked to transform the School into a place where classical architecture would be the foundation of the program. His publications include Classical Architecture: Rule and Invention, Vitruvius on Architecture, and books related to early 19th century American architecture and furniture. He received a Bachelor of Arts in Art and a Master of Architecture from the University of California, Berkeley. He won the Rome Prize in Architecture at the American Academy in Rome from 1979-1980. His façade and architectural designs contributed to the Strada Novissima Venice Biennale exhibition, The Presence of the Past, in 1980.



Interior of a Private Home

Interior of a Private Home

One of the world’s most distinguished and respected architectural and interior designers, John Saladino’s timeless work continues his philosophy of mixing “old with new” and appeals to both traditional and modern clients. His full maturity as an artist and a master of scale allows him to blend easily with his historical references, from the Villa of Mysteries in Pompeii, through Palladio and William Kent. His work is always layered with historical knowledge, whether implicit or explicit. In 1972, he formed Saladino Group Inc., which today leads as a prominent architecture, interior design, and landscape design firm with projects both nationwide and abroad. He has won numerous interior design and furniture awards, lectures worldwide, and appears regularly in books, magazines, and on television in the United States, England, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan.


PUBLISHING | Kevin Lippert and the Princeton Architectural Press


Cover of Letarouilly’s Edifices de Rome Moderne

As the founder and publisher of Princeton Architectural Press, Kevin Lippert has made a unique and lasting contribution to architects, historians, scholars, designers, the interested public, and authors of works on the built and visual environment. This 35-year legacy has produced nearly 1,000 intelligent and stimulating publications on classicism, architectural design, landscape design, history, urbanism, theory, American architecture, sustainability, and innovative materials.

An architectural graduate student at Princeton when he created the Press, Mr. Lippert’s impetus came from the creation of a full-size facsimile reprint of J. N. L. Durand’s Recueil et parallèle des édifices de tout genre, anciens et modernes, for his and fellow students’ use, which included reduced-scale reprints with graphic fidelity that is still unrivaled. The Press’s Classic Reprints, including Ledoux’s 1847 L’Architecture; Hegemann and Peets’s The American Vitruvius; and a student version of Letarouilly’s Edifices de Rome Moderne co-published with the ICAA remain an inestimable resource for historians, architects, planners, and students alike.


FINE ARTS | Carl Laubin

Befreiungshalle, 110x190cm, oil on canvas, 2016

Befreiungshalle, 110x190cm, oil on canvas, 2016

With over 30 years of experience, Carl Laubin’s architectural paintings exquisitely incorporate classical elements. He has created architectural paintings for several noted architects, including Sir Jeremy Dixon, John Simpson, Sir Terry Farrell, Léon Krier, and John Outram. Mr. Laubin has produced several capriccio paintings, including two for the National Trust, another for the Centre Pompidou, and two pieces for the 500th anniversary of Palladio’s birth. The Palladian paintings were the centerpieces of an exhibition at Plus One Gallery in London entitled Celebrating Palladio, which he also helped curateHis most recent exhibition, A Sentimental Journey, honored the architect Leo von Klenze and his significance in relation to British architecture.


STEWARDSHIP | Stephen Byrns

Walled Garden, Untermyer Gardens

Walled Garden, Untermyer Gardens

Stephen Byrns founded the Untermyer Gardens Conservancy in 2011, to restore what was called “America’s Most Spectacular Garden” in the 1920s, now a municipal park owned by the City of Yonkers, NY. The Walled Garden and Temple of Love have seen substantial restoration, with the Vista due to be re-dedicated this year. Annual visitation has grown from 3,000 to 60,000 people in five years. The press has responded with major coverage in the NY TimesWall Street Journal and Martha Stewart Living. Samuel Untermyer opened his private garden to the public on a weekly basis from 1917-1940. His expressed wish to architect William Welles Bosworth was that it be the “finest garden in the world.” 30,000 people visited the Garden during a single day in 1939. On the centennial of the Garden’s construction, it is the desire of the Untermyer Gardens Conservancy that it be restored to its rightful place among the great American gardens.


PATRONAGE | John H. Bryan

Crab Tree Farm

Crab Tree Farm

John H. Bryan, the retired CEO of Sara Lee Corporation, is a cultural leader, philanthropist, and preservationist. He is past Chairman of the Board of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chairman of Chicago’s Millennium Park, and he led efforts to preserve and restore Daniel Burnham’s Orchestra Hall and the Lyric Opera House in Chicago. Mr. Bryan and his wife live in a landmarked and conserved 1926 Colonial Revival home by David Adler. It is located on Crab Tree Farm, a preserved and repurposed early 20th century dairy farm by Solon S. Beman. Mr. Bryan is a collector of English and American decorative and fine arts, and he is currently working with Illinois’ First Lady, Diana Rauner, on the preservation and restoration of the Illinois Executive Mansion in Springfield.


BOARD OF DIRECTORS AWARD | Norman Davenport Askins

A tall upward sweeping staircase (Photo: Susan Sully)

A tall upward sweeping staircase
(Photo: Emily Followill)

In the fall of 1977, Norman Davenport Askins established his practice in Atlanta, Georgia. Now in his 40th year of private practice, Mr. Askins has specialized in a range of services from historic preservation, period residences, vacation cottages, and plantations, to innumerable additions to existing homes. Aided by longstanding relationships with builders, artisans, and clients, Mr. Askins has had the opportunity to work throughout the American South. In addition to his substantial body of built work, he prides himself in his mentorship of the next generation of traditional architects as evident in his eighteen former employees who have started their own successful design studios. In fall 2014, Inspired by Tradition: The Architecture of Norman Davenport Askins was published highlighting his practice’s work.




The 2017 Arthur Ross Award winners were selected by a jury that included Andrew Skurman (Jury Chair), Stanley Dixon, Phillip Liederbach, Barbara Sallick, and John Sebastian. Co-Chairs of this year’s Arthur Ross Awards include Gilbert P. Schafer III, Suzanne Tucker, and Bunny Williams. Honorary Chairs include Janet C. Ross, Suzanne R. Santry, and Ambassador William J. vanden Heuvel.

Established in 1982 by Arthur Ross and Henry Hope Reed, the Awards recognize the achievements and contributions of architects, painters, sculptors, artisans, interior designers, landscape designers, educators, publishers, patrons, and others dedicated to preserving and advancing the classical tradition.

Of this year’s Awards, ICAA President, Peter Lyden, said: “The ICAA sincerely looks forward to recognizing and celebrating the outstanding achievements of the winners of the 36th annual Arthur Ross Awards. The 2017 Award winners have all made a significant and tangible impact on the continuation and preservation of the classical tradition today, and therefore fully embody the ICAA’s timely mission.”

The 2017 Arthur Ross Awards celebration at The University Club on May 1st will commence with cocktails at 7 PM. The Awards dinner and ceremony will follow at 8 PM. The dress code for the event this year is black tie (floor length or cocktail dresses for ladies).

To inquire about attending this event, please email, or call (212) 730-9646 x 106.

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Endurance of Pencil Rendering

In a two-part studio course, ICAA instructor Joseph Zvejnieks shared his expertise on the minimalistic art of pencil rendering. The studio classes incorporated brief lectures and video viewing in addition to hands-on instruction.

Instructor Joseph Svejnieks

Instructor Joseph Zvejnieks provides students with an introduction

Several students expressed that pencil renderings had all but died at their firms and they hoped that in learning a new skill they could preserve the art to a small degree. The class gathered around to observe a demonstration of Zvejnieks’ technique before beginning their own drawings. 

Students were provided with vellum and an image to trace in the first studio class. They were tasked with the additional challenge of incorporating elements not pictured in the referent document, such as landscaping. In the second studio class, students graduated from vellum and tried their hands at drawing without the aid of trace paper. 

Student begins a rendering with the assistance of trace

Student begins a rendering with the assistance of trace

At the opening of the second studio, students engaged in a round table discussion on what struggles they had faced during the first. Avoiding perfectionism and ‘photorealism’ was a common theme that several voices expressed.The beautiful drawings produced by students bode well for the endurance of pencil rendering by means of a small number of dedicated practitioners.

A student diligently practices his mark making

A student diligently practices his mark making

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Announcing the Award for Emerging Excellence in the Classical Tradition, a Collaboration between the ICAA, PFBC, and INTBAU


The Award for Emerging Excellence in the Classical Tradition recognizes exceptional talent exhibited by one young professional in classical and traditional architecture, landscape and interior design, building crafts, urban design and planning, and the allied arts. Launched in 2017, the Award is a collaboration between the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art (ICAA), The Prince’s Foundation for Building Community (PFBC), and the International Network for Traditional Building, Architecture & Urbanism (INTBAU).

The relevance and importance of skills in these subject areas grows each year, as the rise of homogeneous globalization and standardization threatens our individual cultures of building and craft. The Award aims to shine a light on exceptional talent and reward young people in the industry. The Award is open to applicants from across the world and the winner will be formally announced at the internationally known and established Arthur Ross Awards each year. View eligibility and submission requirements here.

The Award for Emerging Excellence in the Classical Tradition will be bestowed on April 30th at the ICAA’s headquarters in New York City. To match the level of prestige of the Award, the ICAA will cover the cost of travel and accommodation for the winner. Additionally, the Award winner will be invited to attend the ICAA’s Arthur Ross Awards – which annually recognize and celebrate excellence in the classical tradition – on Monday, May 1st and will be acknowledged before the audience.

According to ICAA President Peter Lyden, “The ICAA is honored to collaborate with PFBC and INTBAU on bestowing this important new Award, which honors the essential role of the next generation in advancing the classical tradition.”

Simon Sadinsky, Head of Education at the Prince’s Foundation, said “We are very supportive of efforts to develop and recognize the next generation of skilled architects, designers, planners and craftspeople and are pleased to be partnering with the ICAA and INTBAU in presenting this award recognizing emerging talent within this living tradition.”

The application deadline for the 2017 Award is March 31st.



About the ICAA
The Institute of Classical Architecture & Art’s mission is to learn from the past to build for the future. The ICAA is the leading nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the classical tradition in architecture, urbanism and their allied arts. It does so through education, publication, and advocacy. The Institute is headquartered in New York City with regional chapters across the United States. It offers a wide array of programs that are designed to promote the appreciation and practice of classical and traditional design, including classes, travel, lectures, and conferences. It publishes an academic journal called the Classicist as well as the acclaimed book series called the Classical America Series in Art and Architecture.  The ICAA’s Arthur Ross Award annually recognizes and celebrates excellence in the classical tradition internationally. The ICAA was honored to bestow an Arthur Ross Award on HRH The Prince of Wales in the Patronage category in 1990.

Visit to learn more.


INTBAU works under the patronage of its founder, HRH The Prince of Wales, to promote traditional building, architecture, and urbanism. Its 5,000 members are a global force for the continuity of tradition in architecture and building and the promotion of traditional urban design. 27 national chapters have been formed, and work to develop programmes tailored to local needs on every continent. INTBAU is a worldwide organisation dedicated to the support of traditional building, the maintenance of local character, and the creation of better places to live. INTBAU is creating an active network of individuals and institutions who design, make, maintain, study, or enjoy traditional building, architecture, and places. By education and training in traditional architecture, urbanism, and the building crafts, INTBAU encourages people to maintain and restore traditional buildings, and to build new buildings and places that contribute to traditional environments and improve the quality of life in cities, towns, and villages around the world.

Visit to learn more.

About PFBC
The Prince’s Foundation for Building Community evolved from The Institute of Architecture, established by HRH The Prince of Wales. It believes that sustainably planned, built and maintained communities improve the quality of life of everyone who is part of them. They help us live better at a local level, and start dealing with the broader global challenges of urbanisation and climate change.

By 2050, the world’s urban population will almost double to nearly 6.5 billion people. The Prince’s Foundation operates across the globe, building the capacity of the planners, architects, engineers, and communities that will be tasked with supporting a rapidly urbanising world. Its work puts people at the heart of creating resilient places – through community engagement and working with people who know their area best. Through educating future generations of practitioners, pioneering practises, and building places, the Prince’s Foundation endeavours to create sustainable, vibrant communities that leave a legacy for future generations.

Visit to learn more.

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Architecture & Design in Film


In a 2016 interview with Paste Magazine, acclaimed film director James Ivory of Merchant Ivory Productions explained the influence that architecture has had on the development of his own career. Ivory studied the subject at the University of Oregon School of Architecture and Allied Arts under the advice that the best way to become a film set designer is to “go to architectural school.” This education has clearly had a significant effect on Ivory’s body of work, with many of his acclaimed films seamlessly weaving stunning architecture into their scenes, including The Remains of the Day, A Room with a View, and Maurice, one of my own favorites. The ICAA was exceedingly proud to be able to name James as the recipient of the 2015 Arthur Ross Award in Fine Art, with his body of work communicating that the architectural setting of a film is just as important as its story.

The Remains of the Day (1993)

James Ivory is a personal hero of mine, and his attention to architectural detail reminds me of the many other great examples of architecture in film from both past and present. For instance, one of my favorite films featuring magnificent architecture is 2016’s Love & Friendship based on Jane Austen’s novel Lady Susan, which happened to have been filmed at one of my favorite estates, Russborough House in Ireland. Some other examples of exceptional use of architecture in film that stand out to me include Barry Lyndon, Gosford Park, and The Duchess.

Love and Friendship (2016)

Skillful incorporation of architecture in film serves to provide much more than historical context and a beautiful setting – it acts as a source of inspiration. This was made evident by what I learned from a number of members of the ICAA community when they were asked to share the examples of architecture and design in film that most influenced them. Their responses were diverse and enlightening, with the selection encompassing beloved classics, childhood favorites, and hidden gems.

Our ICAA members produced a host of examples of how architecture and design in film has instilled a deep appreciation of architecture, influencing the course of their own careers. Kellen Krause, of Historical Concepts, was greatly impacted by the 2008 film In Bruges. Kellen explained, “In Bruges has influenced my career in that it’s a story where Bruges, the extant medieval mercantile city, acts as a character to facilitate redemption. The movie articulates the nature of cities in that they exist to support human flourishing.” Sarah Magness of Magness Design referred to the iconic 1965 musical, The Sound of Music, as having fostered her interest in pursuing architecture. She wrote, “As a child, this was one of the first movies I can remember that had a strong impact on my desire to study architecture.”


Sound of Music (1965)

James Ivory has previously referred to the sets of classic MGM films from the late 1930s as great sources of inspiration, including The Wizard of Oz, Marie Antoinette, and Gone with Wind – set at the breathtaking Tara plantation. Similarly, John Murray, Principal of John B. Murray Architect, was impacted by an iconic 1959 MGM film, Ben-Hur. He explained, “When I think back on movies that had a profound influence on me, I am taken back to when I was five years old and saw Ben-Hur, an epic widescreen Technicolor film. I know I was greatly impressed with Charleton Heston! And perhaps MGM’s recreation of Roman architecture in the Circus depicted in the chariot race made a strong impression on me.”

Ben Hur

Ben Hur (1959)

ICAA Board Member and Partner of Robert A.M. Stern Architects, Gary Brewer, drew attention to the 1978 film Days of Heaven. Gary wrote, “Terrence Malick’s epic movie Days of Heaven is an elegiac story told with painterly images and an evocative score juxtaposing the hellish steel town of industrial Chicago against the limitless Texas prairie. This tale of drifters escaping from the city in search of a better rural life follows the tragedy, loss, and separation of its characters with a visually arresting and dream-like style used to illustrate a quintessential American story of reinvention.”

Days of Heaven (1978)

Jonathan Hogg of Ferguson & Shamamian Architects also discussed another fantastic example: the 1981 miniseries Brideshead Revisited, an adaptation of the 1945 novel by Evelyn Waugh of the same name. This miniseries is one of my favorites, and used the English estate Castle Howard as the setting of Brideshead. Jonathan refers to one of his favorite quotes from the novel to illustrate the impact that Brideshead’s architecture, both in the book and series, had on him: “More even than the work of the great architects, I loved buildings that grew silently with the centuries, catching and keeping the best of each generation…”

Castle Howard, featured in Brideshead Revisited (1981)

To my delight, Kathryn Herman, Principal of Doyle Herman Design Associates, fittingly acknowledged the significance of landscape in film and television: “While never the main character, landscapes help set the tone and flavor for the story. Some landscapes are grand, intricate or evocative while others are devoid of any intimacy.” She elaborated, “I particularly like period movies, especially those set in England. There are many grand gardens that still exist and it is always inspiring to see them used as a backdrop in films and shows – think Downton Abbey!”


Landscape surrounding Highclere Castle,
the setting for Downton Abbey (2010 – 2015)

 Adrian Taylor of Hyde Park Mouldings referenced a predecessor of Downton Abbey as particularly influential to him, the British series Poirot, which ran from 1989 to 2013. He described that “The show’s creators did an amazing job of establishing time and place through the use of elaborately-detailed costumes and sets as well as real, historic locations. Architectural interiors as well as exteriors are featured heavily as backdrops for these mysteries…the series forces one to take pause and consider a wide range of architectural styles and how human drama unfolds within and amongst them.”


Chavenage House, an Elizabethan era Cotswold stone mansion in Gloucestershire,
featured heavily in several episodes of Poirot (Series 1989 – 2013)

Doug Wright of Douglas C. Wright Architects listed several films that include noteworthy architecture and design, citing the 1996 adaptation of the Shakespeare masterpiece, Hamlet, which used England’s exquisite Blenheim Palace as Elsinore Castle. According to Doug, the architecture of the film “is grand, with an incredible intimacy in the detailing, and an inventiveness and quirky classicism that gets inside the minds of the characters.” I was also delighted by the mention of the 1964 Disney classic, Mary Poppins, by Doug, who acknowledged that, while the sets are quite obviously fabricated, when viewing the film, “you allow yourself to get swept back into 19th Century London, and you’re there – animated characters and all!”

Hamlet (1996)

It was an absolute pleasure to be able to learn more about the films and series that have made profound impressions on members of the ICAA community. The responses received reflect just how influential the settings of movies and television series can be for architects, designers, and allied artists when considering their aspirations and careers. Though I wish I could include all of the outstanding responses received, I have listed below all of the films and television series that were shared, and I encourage you to also share in the comments any of your own examples of great architecture and design in film. My April 2015 blog post, Architecture and Film, also lists even more movies and television shows with inspiring architecture and design.


Gary Brewer, Robert A.M. Stern Architects
Days of Heaven
The Last Picture Show
Taxi Driver
Doctor Zhivago
The Graduate

Kathryn Herman, Doyle Herman Design Associates
The Great Gatsby
Marie Antoinette
Doctor Zhivago
Barry Lyndon
Out of Africa
The English Patient
The Painted Veil
A Room with a View
The Shining
Edward Scissorhands
Mr. Turner
Downton Abbey

Jonathan Hogg, Ferguson & Shamamian Architects
Brideshead Revisted

Kellen Krause, Historical Concepts
The Mission
Shawshank Redemption
Tomorrow Never Dies
Breaking Bad
The Flinstones
The Jetsons
Legends of the Hidden Temple
In Bruges

Sarah Magness, Magness Design
House of Cards
The Crown
La Dolce Vita
Rear Window
Midnight in Paris
Roman Holiday
The Duchess
The Sound of Music

 John Murray, John B. Murray Architect
The Architect
A Little Chaos
Victoria (BBC series)
Downton Abbey
Pride and Prejudice

Adrian Taylor, Hyde Park Mouldings
A Room with a View
Julieta of the Spirits
Wings of Desire
Being There
The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover

Doug Wright, Douglas C. Wright Architects
The Leopard
Io Sono Amore
Mary Poppins

Additional Images and Clips

House of CArds

House of Cards (Series, 2013 – Present)

The Duchess

The Duchess (2008)


Photo of Bruges, Belgium by Kellen Krause (setting of the 2008 film In Bruges)

The Leopard (1963)

Io Sono Amore (2009)

Mary Poppins (1964)

Posted by Peter Lyden on | 1 Comment