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In my architectural history class, we spend an inordinate amount of time on the architecture of the Renaissance and its influence; the ripples of consequence that are oddly present in our own time. Like bad fettuccine, the styles of antiquity return again and again to haunt us. But as with any historical phenomenon, the reasons for both their inception and their recurrence vary, often with dramatic contradiction. That may be more obvious of the Gothic than the Renaissance, but it is that classically-based spawn of Humanism which interests me these days.

One of the minor treasures of my library is a battered copy of The American Vignola by William Robert Ware—required reading for undergraduate architects a century ago (circa 1904). This may seem strange, since Ware and his architectural partner of Henry Van Brunt (Ware & Van Brunt) produced some of the 19th century’s most aggressive Victorianisms. Ware’s handbook on the elements of Classicism, then, might have been penance for the wretched excesses of his earlier career. This is not to imply that the Victorian Gothic of the post-Civil War era was without its own ordering principles, but the pendulum had certainly begun to swing in the direction of reserve and reform. And with reform often come guidelines. Whence cometh the discipline of this North Carolinian bank, about which I would like to know much more.

As a lover of most things mathematical, the Classical Revival should be my natural habitat. I wonder why it’s not.

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