By David Brussat
Thursday, March 22, 2012
The world’s leading classicist architectural historian will be in Boston to speak to the chapter and its guests this coming Monday. The event will unfold at the Algonquin Club, 217 Commonwealth Avenue, at 6 pm – the lecture begins promptly at 6:30. The event is sponsored by the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art. Professor Watkin will discuss “The Classical Language, Past and Present.”
Mr. Watkin was the first architectural historian to challenge the historicist ideas that reigned when his controversial book “Morality and Architecture” was published in 1977. It reigns to this day, and it will be interesting to hear him reflect on how the prospects for a classical revival have changed, for better or worse, over three and a half decades. One hopes he will discuss his perception of the differences between the modernist architectural establishment in Britain then and now, and between that of his nation and our own.
Last week I wrote a column about Professor Watkin’s attack on historicism – it can be read here – which is often mistakenly taken to mean the act of building anew in old styles. Doing that, which so many of those who attend the lecture make their living at, is looked down upon by adherents of the historicism that Mr. Watkin attacked – that is, the theory that architecture must reflect a so-called “spirit of the age.” In practice, that means any design that builds upon the best architectural principles of the past, however inventive, is inauthentic, downright bogus, and even immoral. Fortunately, the professor is still out their on the hustings trying to take that theory down.
[Dr. Watkin has published many books, including A History of Western Architecture (5th ed. 2011), The Classical Country House: From the Archives of Country Life (2010), as well as monographs on Thomas Hope, ‘Athenian’ Stuart, Soane, Cockerell, Quinlan Terry, and John Simpson. His growing interest in antique precedent led to his book, The Roman Forum (Harvard 2009; paperback ed. 2011).
[He is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, and Vice-President of the Georgian Group. He has taught at the Prince of Wales’s Institute of Architecture, the School of Architecture, University of Notre Dame, the Bard Graduate Centre, New York, and has been a member of the Driehaus Award jury in Chicago.]*
Reservations for the event can be made here, but may also be secured at the event. Admission is $25 for ICAA members, employees of its professional membership, and members of the Boston Society of Architects.
* Excerpted from material about David Watkin provided to the chapter.