Friday, 27 September 2013

Allan Greenberg. New Classical Architect.

Allan Greenberg (born September 1938), is an American architect and one of the leading classical architects of the twenty-first century. He was the originator and leading practitioner of "canonical classicism," one of many design responses to postmodernism emerging in the mid-1970s. According to Paul Goldberger, architecture critic for The New York Times, Greenberg's “life’s work has been a mission to establish the validity of classicism as an architectural language in our time.” In addition to his architecture, Greenberg’s articles, teaching, and lectures have exerted a strong influence on the study and practice of contemporary classicism. In 2006, he was the first American to be awarded the Richard H. Driehaus Prize for Classical Architecture in recognition of his major contributions to architectural design and scholarship. The prize is awarded annually "to a living architect whose work embodies the principles of traditional and classical architecture and urbanism in contemporary society and creates a positive, long-lasting cultural, environmental, and artistic impact." George Hersey, author and professor of Art History at Yale University, wrote:
Greenberg is the most knowing, most serious practitioner of Classicism currently on the scene in this country. . . . Greenberg belongs in the succession of Charles Follen McKim, Daniel Burnham, Henry Bacon, John Russell Pope, and Arthur Brown. And above all he belongs to the succession of Greece and Rome, of Vignola and Sanmicheli, of Vanvitelli, Ledoux, and Labrouste, to the visionary company of those who play the great game of Classicism.
Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, Greenberg was educated at the University of Witwatersrand, where he studied classical and Gothic architecture. He attributes his thorough grounding in architectural history to the rigors of his study there. Professors required students to memorize and draw the plans of famous buildings at will. Following a short working career in South Africa, Greenberg moved to London with the intention of studying there, and briefly considered taking a job with Le Corbusier. After a short stay in England he left for Denmark to work in the studio of the leading Scandinavian modernist architect Jørn Utzon during the design of the Sydney Opera House. He subsequently took a job in Helsinki with Viljo Revell, perhaps the best known Finnish architect after Alvar Aalto, whom Greenberg admired greatly.
In 1963 the architect moved his Danish wife and young family to America. He was admitted to the demanding architecture program at Yale, headed by the young genius Paul Marvin Rudolph. Like fellow foreign students Norman Foster and Richard Rogers, Greenberg sought a fresh approach to Modernism in a country that was advancing faster than Europe in technology and architectural theory. After receiving his Master of Architecture degree from Yale University in 1965, he spent two years in the City of New Haven’s Redevelopment Agency and later served as Architectural Consultant to Connecticut’s Chief Justice from 1967 to 1979. He taught at Yale under deans Charles W. Moore and Herman Spiegel, watching the student upheavals of the late 1960s, and helped to develop the school's undergraduate major in architecture. It was during the early 1970s that Greenberg became disillusioned with orthodox Modernism, turning instead to postmodernist critiques offered by Yale colleagues Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown.

Greenberg's work in the mid-1970s was influenced both by the American "grays" (Moore, Venturi, Robert A.M. Stern, et al.) with whom he became associated, and by modern classicists such as Edwin Lutyens and Mott B. Schmidt. But as he came to better understand the achievements of these 20th-century masters, he increasingly pushed his work toward a more traditional vocabulary. His breakthrough projects came in the early 1980s with his design of a large country house for Peter and Sandra Brandt in Greenwich, Connecticut (a commission wrested from Venturi), and George Schultz's extensive classical suite at the State Department in Washington, D.C. After their publication Greenberg's office flourished, and many students interested in traditional design came to New Haven to work with him. No architect in America has had a more profound influence on the younger generation of traditional architects who are practicing today.

Simons Medal to Be Awarded to Allan Greenberg
By MCCAULEYN | Published: MARCH 21, 2013 /

The Historic Preservation and Community Planning program in the Department of Art history presents the Albert Simons Medal of Excellence to classical architect Allan Greenberg, author of George Washington, Architect.
 The Simons Medal of Excellence was established in honor of the twentieth anniversary of the College of Charleston School of the Arts. Albert Simons pioneered the teaching of art at the College, and the medal honors individuals who have excelled in one or more of the areas in which albert simons excelled, including civic design, architectural design, historic preservation and urban planning. Please join us in honoring Greenberg on Thursday, March 21, 2013, when he will also give a lecture on his work.
Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, Allan Greenberg was educated at the University of Witwatersrand, where he trained in classical, Gothic, and modern architecture. He worked for leading Scandinavian modernist architect Jørn Utzon, with whom he worked on the Sydney Opera House. After receiving his Master of Architecture degree from Yale University in 1965, he spent two years in the City of New Haven’s Redevelopment Agency and later served as Architectural Consultant to Connecticut’s Chief Justice from 1967 to 1979. He received his U.S. citizenship in 1973.

In 1972 Greenberg established his firm which currently has offices in New York City, Greenwich, Connecticut, and Alexandria, Virginia. The firm has an international reputation for combining contemporaryconstruction techniques with the best architectural traditions to create solutions that are both timeless and technologically progressive.  Projects include master plans, feasibility studies, new construction, renovations, restorations, and interior and furniture design for academic, institutional, religious, commercial, residential, and retail clients. Completed projects are found throughout the United States, as well as in Europe and the Middle East.

Greenberg’s articles, teaching, and lectures have exerted a strong influence on the study and practice of classical architecture. He has taught at Yale University’s School of Architecture and School of Law, the University of Pennsylvania, the Division of Historic Preservation at Columbia University, and the University of Notre Dame. He has written books and articles, both scholarly and popular, on the dynamic and enduring qualities of traditional architecture and design. A monograph of his work was published in 1995, followed by George Washington, Architect, in 1999. His recent books include The Architecture of Democracy: American Architecture and the Legacy of the Revolution, published by Rizzoli in July 2006, and Lutyens and the Modern Movement, released by Papadakis Publisher in 2007. In the October 2013, Rizzoli will publish a monograph of his recent work.

In 2006, Greenberg was the first American to be awarded the Richard H. Driehaus Prize for Classical Architecture, in recognition for built work and scholarship that has enriched the American architectural and cultural landscape

Mid-18th-Century Modern: The Classicists Strike Back

 THE early 1990's did not seem the moment for a revival in classical architecture. On the contrary, from Manhattan to Berlin, museums, hotels, developers and wealthy individuals were clamoring to sign up Richard Meier, Jean Nouvel and other celebrity modernists, hoping that the style and substance of radical design would lure visitors and buyers in droves.

In many cases that strategy worked. Frank Gehry's Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, has attracted more than seven million visitors since 1997, and Ian Schrager's boutique hotels changed the industry. So one could understand why the design world might dismiss the earnest and tweedy souls in horn-rimmed glasses who founded the Institute of Classical Architecture in 1992. Who needs Ionic columns when you can have Rem Koolhaas?

What a difference a decade makes. Since 2002 the institute has made sweeping changes to its once-fusty agenda, and the design world is scoffing no longer. The group appointed its first full-time president, Paul Gunther, two years ago; merged with Classical America, another traditional scholarship organization; and has fanned the appetite for traditional architecture. In the last 18 months, its membership has more than doubled, to 1,500, and the group (now called the Institute of Classical Architecture & Classical America) has opened five new regional chapters for a total of seven.

Its program of classes, tours and lectures teaching the concepts and practices of traditional architecture - a curriculum largely vanished from architecture schools - earned last year's largest design grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Its lectures in New York have drawn speakers like Martha Stewart and crowds as large as 300, even on staid topics like a new translation of Vitruvius.

"Their contribution to the awareness of architecture and design has become enormous in the last few years," said Chase Rynd, the executive director of the National Building Museum in Washington. Even decorators who like their modernism, like Miles Redd and DD Allen, are showing up for the institute's lectures and classes on subjects like ornamental pilastering and theories of proportion. It has started regional programs aimed at developers and builders. While the institute was sustained for more than a decade by pure classicists like Gil Schafer III, Anne Fairfax and Richard Sammons, their preaching did not find a great audience. Now the institute, which last year finally found a permanent home in a neo-Classical style 1890 building on West 44th Street, has opened up the discourse to include traditional architectural styles, including Georgian and Greek Revival, Arts and Crafts, Gothic Revival and shingle style.

"They're really expanding the definition of what constitutes classicism," said Bunny Williams, the Manhattan decorator and a fellow on the institute's board. Last year the institute gave its Ross Award for excellence in architecture to Merrill & Pastor, a Florida firm, whose work ranges from classical to early modern.

"The purists on the board are not ascendant," Mr. Gunther said. While he deflects praise to the institute itself, he is responsible for much of its recent success, members say. Mr. Gunther, a socially well-connected former vice president of the New-York Historical Society, has become a kind of Karl Rove for the classicist movement. "He's a huge factor in their success," Ms. Williams said.

Ever on the lookout for ways to expand the institute's scope and prestige, Mr. Gunther last month announced that in partnership with Habitat for Humanity it would design classically styled affordable homes for use in historic neighborhoods across the country. Prototypes will be built in Savannah, Ga.; Norfolk, Va.; and Rochester.

"It was a well-thought-out and practical collaboration," said Jeff Speck, the director of design at the National Endowment for the Arts, which contributed $50,000. "Nothing is more attractive to an N.E.A. panel than seeing artistic means used toward social ends."

Mr. Gunther, for his part, accounts for the institute's popularity as a reassuring counterpoint to today's technological upheaval, and not an anachronistic clash. "All those high-tech guys on the West Coast, they're on the cutting edge of inventing the future," Mr. Gunther said. "But when it comes to home and hearth, they're building traditional houses. There's a marketplace of demand for this out there. So do you just ignore it or try and do something about it and make it better?"

Classicism's most zealous fans maintain that its tenets mark it as the great and timeless architecture of democracy, and they exalt it above all other styles. But even nonzealots have come to see its allure. "I'll have people who have lived in really fabulous modern apartments," Mr. Redd said. "But then they'll move into an apartment or house that has a lot of classical proportions and details, and they'll say, 'Now, I really feel like a grown-up.' "

Jane Rosenthal, Robert De Niro's partner in the TriBeCa Film Center, certainly had enough of contemporary loft living. Last year she and her family left their loft (and its Eames-chair décor) for the Dakota on Central Park West, hiring Peter Pennoyer, one of New York's premier classical architects, for the redo.

"I love the new, but I don't ever like to forget what came before," Ms. Rosenthal said. "There's such a sense of history here, and that inspires you to go forward and push boundaries when you can understand that historical context. So you're not trying to be new just for the sake of being new."

But detractors counter that today's traditionalism is more about class than classicism. Instead of recalling the noble aims of the golden age of Mount Vernon and Monticello, classicism today, they say, seems more likely to recall the glory days of Anglo-American aristocracy, a Ralph Lauren version of architecture. One need only look at the limestone-columned, 28,000-square-foot behemoth built in Atlanta by the architect William H. Harrison to get the point.

It doesn't help that many of the institute's members have a knack for speaking in lofty, unbroken expanses of prose studded with arcane details, and its lectures may be the only Manhattan soirées with more bow ties than Botox.

Yet, traditional styles of house building are on the rise, according to the American Institute of Building Design, an association that represents architects and developers, and there are also new markets for metal- and stoneworking methods and materials once nearly defunct.

In upscale subdivisions across the country, for example, the Palladian window has become a prominent architectural feature, letting plenty of light into double-height living rooms, while still summoning up echoes, however murky, of early-19th-century gentility. But paired with an eyebrow window, an off-kilter gable or two and a rambling ranch floor plan, the traditional look becomes something very different: what might be called neo-hodgepodge.

"We were putting the columns in all goofy," said W. A. Lawrence, the owner of Period Style Homes, a large home-design firm based in Fort Myers, Fla., who has attended courses at the institute in New York and has helped arrange for it to give similar classes in Florida for the state builders association. "We had them drawn wrong, spaced wrong. Once you get it right, it's amazing how much better it looks. It's almost mind-blowing."

After the success in Florida, the institute formulated a separate program of classes for home builders, which began last year with a five weekend course in five cities across the South. The Endowment for the Arts helped pay for the program with a $30,000 grant.

The institute's successes do not rub everyone in design the right way. Some of the debate has, not surprisingly, taken on political overtones. One institute staff member said that shortly after he started working for it, he received a furious note from a friend accusing him of having become a neoconservative stooge. He asked not to be identified so as not to reopen a wound.

The dialogue does not often get that heated, but tensions do simmer. David Dowler, an amiable portfolio manager, hired the Florida-based Merrill & Pastor Architects to build a house for him and his wife, Marsha, in Highland Park, Tex., a 1920's-era subdivision just outside Dallas. The house, finished in 2002, was far from classical, a clean, angular white stucco structure reminiscent of the Arts and Crafts style. But to members of the Dallas Architectural Forum, a loose-knit group of architects and architecture fans, which convenes for functions and lectures, Mr. Dowler said, "I may be a dissident."

Mr. Dowler, who also owns a house in the new urbanist community of Seaside, Fla., added, "It's always modernists who come lecture, and I would like to see more exposure to other styles."

He is not, he said, a fan of many modern houses. "They are much better photographed than lived in," he said. "I get mad at architects who overemphasize how something looks rather than how something works as a home."

But others are quick to point out that nostalgia for 18th-century buildings may have more to do with unspoken nostalgia for the 18th century than for the building. "Reviving the classical forms is not the same thing as reviving the culture," said Terence Riley, the chief curator of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. A 2000 Georgian mansion might be impossible to differentiate from an 1800 one, but the social climates that created the two are two centuries apart.

The institute's brain trust, for its part, argues that traditionalist styles are inherently better models for builders because they do not require a talented, cerebral interpreter, just a good copying machine. "It may be easier for amateurs," Mr. Riley responded. "That said, I don't necessarily buy that argument. Turning a green field into suburban parcels with perfect classical houses, I would argue, doesn't give us anything remotely recognizable within the language of classical architecture."

"The contemporary city is messy," he added, summing up a century of modernist architectural theory. "I don't know if classicism makes a lot of sense, but everyone should study it"

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