I enjoyed presenting this brief lecture at the 24th Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) on the panel discussion “Architecture of Urbanism,” along with panelists Vinayak Bharne, Gary Brewer, Ellen Dunham-Jones, John Massengale, Steve Mouzon, Stefanos Polyzoides, Dan Solomon, Paddy Steinschneider, Galina Tachieva, and Samir Younés.
The panelists examined the specific means by which architecture, one building at a time, forms the urbanism of a place. The issue of the role of architecture and architectural style and character has been a long-running debate in the CNU.
The Congress for the New Urbanism is an international nonprofit organization working to build vibrant communities where people have diverse choices for how they live, work, and get around. For more information see www.cnu.org.
When designing a new building, how can we use historical precedent to guide us? Which precedents should we select? How should we study and apply them to our designs? Enjoy my powerpoint presentation exploring these issues for the AIBD’s First Tuesday @ 2:00. Full recorded version with audio will be forthcoming from the AIBD.
This place of my home and heart, Williamsburg, often remembered by visitors in images of white clapboarded colonial houses surrounded by lush green boxwood under brilliant blue skies, holds a different magic in the gray quiet of winter. When the touring crowds thin, I meet my hometown again and find in her still somnolence moments that warm my soul. While all sleeps, waiting to wake in the riot of spring, I wander the empty streets and hidden gardens, conjuring times long-past, recalling happy moments of youth, hoping for the days to come.
Architecture tells us about ourselves. Whether it is academic architecture guided by refined aesthetic traditions or vernacular architecture designed and constructed by the layperson, it can reveal aspects of our history, our culture, or a particular place and time.
All architecture reflects its place, but vernacular architecture is inseparable from it because it relies on regional materials, simple forms, and local labor. For example, a building design will respond to the area’s climate: porches, large windows, and high ceiling are common in the hot and humid South, whereas small windows and low ceilings are typical in the cold and windy North. Because vernacular architecture speaks of its place and people, it allows us to experience diversity that, in turn, enriches us.
In 1608, Henry Hudson, an English sea explorer sailing for the Dutch East India Company in search of a shorter sailing route to the Far East, discovered the great North American river that still bears his name. Though the prospect of a western route to the Asian subcontinent soon faded, the enterprising Dutch saw an opportunity to develop a lucrative fur trade in the New World. From 1613–14, Captain Adriaen Block was the first to map the area between Virginia and Massachusetts, which he named New Netherland. In the 1620s, thirty-some families were settled on the island of Manhattan, Long Island, and Connecticut. Though few examples of their earliest homes exist, their architectural legacy has survived.
From the middle to the end of the nineteenth century, the landscape of American domestic architecture was a kaleidoscope of revivals of European historic styles. Gothic Revival, Italianate, Tuscan Villa, Second Empire, Queen Anne, and even Egyptian Revival houses were being built around the country. Out of this cacophony a new, uniquely American style emerged: the Shingle Style.
If any architectural style defines the Victorian era it is the Queen Anne style, so much so that we often refer to Queen Anne style houses as Victorian. However, the term Victorian refers not to a particular style but to the era of the reign (1837-1901) of Great Britain’s Queen Victoria.