Two of three principals from the firm of Albert, Righter & Tittmann demonstrated, on Feb. 17 in Boston, how classicism and creativity are two sides of the same coin. And in a spirited dialogue after the presentation, John Tittmann and Jacob Albert suggested that coins in superabundance were not necessarily required to bring forth one’s own house. A book signing followed.
Tittmann is a member of the board of the ICA&CA chapter in New England; Albert and Righter are chapter members. Chapter President John Margolis introduced the architects to a full house in the salon of the chapter’s headquarters at the College Club, on Commonwealth Avenue.
The event was designed to publicize a new book, New Classic American Houses, showcasing the firm’s work, written by Dan Cooper and published by New York’s Vendôme Press, 224 pages of text, color photographs and architectural plans and renderings. The forward by Robert A.M. Stern, dean of the School of Architecture at Yale, opens with this description of the work, mostly private houses for wealthy people, by Tittmann, Albert and the third partner, James Righter (all three are Yale graduates): “At first glance the work of [the firm] seems about as far from ‘cutting edge’ as one can get. Yet, in the context of its time — our time — it is radical, refreshingly so.”
Acting as a tag team, Albert and Tittmann traded off in describing images that first traced the classical examples that inspired their work and then the work itself, each example of which showed how twisting and tweaking the rules created houses with personality that doffed their caps to the past, devotedly so, but existed in the present for clients of today, offering great promise for the future.
The presentation was followed by questions about their work, its inspiration, its place within current architectural trends, and whether you needed to be a millionaire to afford a house by AR&T. The answer to that last question was intriguing. Most people assume that hiring an architect to design a house is something only rich people can afford. Tittmann insisted that a house that is affordable to many could be built. It might not benefit from hours of labor in the original design of window surrounds, brackets, wall paneling, moldings and other fine detail work that takes up much of the cost of more ambitious homes. But such original detailing can be reproduced to bring down costs, and a house of modest proportions but considerable utility can be an inspired place to live. Several of the images in their presentation suggested that this could be delightfully accomplished at a reasonable cost.