2003

Tuesday, January 21
THE ARCHITECTURE OF NINETEENTH-CENTURY INSANE ASYLUMS: VICTORIAN PSYCHIATRY AND THE ENVIRONMENTAL CURE
Lecture by Carla Yanni, Associate Professor, Rutgers, State University of New Jersey
The stately towers of insane asylums were once a common sight at the edge of American towns.  Nineteenth-century asylum superintendents maintained that insanity was 80% curable if treated early in carefully planned purpose-built structures. The Quaker Philadelphian Thomas Story Kirkbride developed a set of guidelines for asylums that dominated American hospital architecture for decades. This lecture traces the development of the Kirkbride (or linear) plan, from the modest asylums of the 1840s to the sprawling 800-bed neo-Gothic, Second Empire Baroque, and Romanesque Revival asylums of the 1870s.  H.H. Richardson's Buffalo State Hospital for the Insane showed innovative planning that responded to the needs of nineteenth-century psychiatry.  While followers of Kirkbride preferred large aggregate institutions, other superintendents supported the so-called cottage plan, a system that broke the monolithic hospitals into smaller parts. For example, the Illinois Eastern Hospital for the Insane at Kankakee (1878) included domestically scaled buildings with pitched roofs, porches, and front steps. Original research in hospital archives, public libraries, drawings collections, and nineteenth-century newspapers indicates that psychiatrists considered the architecture of their hospitals, especially the planning, to be one of the most powerful tools for the treatment of the mentally ill.

Wednesday, February 12
DISCOURSE OF CIVILIZATIONS: "ISLAMIC" ARCHITECTURAL FORMS AND CONCEPTS IN WESTERN ARCHITECTURE AND DECORATION, 1800-1950
Lecture by Mehrangiz Nikou, Independent Scholar

Artistic exchange between the Islamic world and the West has existed throughout history. Beginning in the nineteenth century, as colonization of the East by the West intensified contact, artistic reciprocity also increased. The impact of Islamic architecture and design in Europe and the United States after 1800 was extensive and multifaceted. This lecture will examine two such cases. "Islamic" architectural forms came to be associated with certain construction materials as well as a number of building types, among them synagogues. Numerous synagogues were constructed in the Islamic style throughout the Western world. The ethnological, cultural, religious, and aesthetic reasons behind this choice will be explored. But the influence of Islamic design went beyond formal contributions. There was a burgeoning interest in Western architectural circles in the principles and concepts underlying Islamic architecture and decoration, with a view toward their use in the formation of a "new architecture." One such example was architectural polychromy. The widespread impact of this concept and its diverse interpretations was examined.

Saturday, March 8 and Sunday, March 9
MID-CENTURY MODERNISM IN WASHINGTON
Fifth Biennial Symposium on the Historic Development of Metropolitan Washington, D.C.

"Mid-century modernism in Washington," the fifth biennial Symposium on the Historical Development of Metropolitan Washington, D.C., organized by the Latrobe Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians, took place on Saturday, March 8, 2003. Noted local and national scholars described the important role Modernism played in architecture, urban planning, and landscape design in an area usually regarded as a stronghold of conservatism. Discussions of commercial and government buildings, planning, and the work of Hilyard Robinson, one of the city's most important African American architects, traced the gradual acceptance of the new style in the 1940s and 50s.

The 1960s was the heyday of International-style Modernism in Washington. Papers on this period covered important architects working in the city--Marcel Breuer, Philip Johnson, and Charles Goodman--and individual landmarks--the Metro system, the Modern landscape of Reston's Lake Anne Village, and the still debatable designs of L'Enfant Plaza and the Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library. Finally, papers on D.C. public school buildings, speculative suburban residential developments, and institutional and community buildings in the Maryland suburbs demonstrated how Modern design moved into the architectural mainstream.


Tuesday, March 18
THE LEGACY AND MYTH OF ST. PETERSBURG: MODERNITY'S CHALLENGE
Lecture by Anatole Senkevitch, Jr., Associate Professor of Architectural History and Theory, University of Michigan
The lecture was held in cooperation with the Russian Cultural Centre, Embassy of Russia

Founded by Peter the Great in 1703 as Russia's new capital and "window to the West," St. Petersburg reflects a bold effort to transform parochial Russia into a competitive European empire. Its integration of buildings, open spaces, and waterways emerged through a strategic planning process mandated by sovereigns and carried out by architects whose dynamic urban ensembles consolidated the city's physical and spatial fabric. But St. Petersburg fell from grace shortly after the Russian Revolution, when the seat of government was transferred back to the ancient capital of Moscow.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the city, determined to revive its once-glorious standing as Russia's gateway to Europe, inaugurated a bold new plan to revitalize its historic center. The lecture profiles key aspects of St. Petersburg's singular architectural and urban legacy and assesses the city's struggle to sustain that legacy while seeking to modernize its cultural and physical infrastructure for the 21st century.


Tuesday, May 6
THE PERSISTENT CHALLENGE OF HISTORIC PRESERVATION IN WASHINGTON
Lecture by Richard Longstreth, Professor of American Civilization and Director of the Graduate Program in Historic Preservation, George Washington University

This lecture marked the publication of the second edition of Capital Losses: A Cultural History of Washington's Destroyed Buildings by James M. Goode.

The first edition of Capital Losses, published in 1979, catalyzed the historic preservation movement in Washington with its account of demolished landmarks, especially of those razed in the post-World War II era. The newly issued second edition, expanded by 18 buildings, is a reminder that, despite major progress over the past quarter century, preservation in Washington still faces formidable challenges. James Goode's introduction to this program recounted the stories of several of the additions to Capital Losses. Richard Longstreth's lecture explored the persistent problems that endanger the city's historic fabric—demolition by neglect, unapproved alterations to properties, and façadism—as well as inroads on traditional patterns of land use ranging from commercial encroachment in residential areas to overdevelopment more broadly. Measures taken in the name of security threaten the character of a growing number of public spaces. In addition, the city needs to take stock of its rich and generally unrecognized legacy of buildings and landscapes from the mid-20th century.


Sunday, June 1
The McMILLAN RESERVOIR: AN "ARCHAEOLOGICAL RE(EN)VISION" AS A WATER PARK
Tour and discussion with Miriam Gusevich, Associate Professor School of Architecture, Catholic University of America

The McMillan Park Reservoir was constructed in the1880s by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to receive Potomac River water via the Washington Aqueduct and Georgetown Reservoir. A water treatment facility, consisting of the McMillan Reservoir Slow Sand Filtration Plant, pumping stations, gatehouses, and other structures, was added in 1904-1905. The entire complex, renamed McMillan Park, was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. from 1906 to 1913 to be a major component of the city's park system. In 1913, the McMillan Fountain was donated by the citizens of Michigan; it stood in the park until 1941. The sand filtration plant was decommissioned in 1986 and the site purchased by the District of Columbia in 1987. Since then, many proposals have been considered for the reuse of the site, and its fate is uncertain.

Miriam Gusevich of the School of Architecture, The Catholic University of America, participated in city-sponsored workshops devoted to the future of the site. She and her colleagues worked with citizen groups and municipal officials to find creative solutions to varied needs and desires for the reuse of the park. She lead a tour of the site and then discussed their findings and proposals at the School of Architecture.


Saturday, September 13
TOUR OF CONGRESSIONAL CEMETERY
Tour led by members of the Association for the Preservation of Historic Congressional Cemetery

Originally established as a neighborhood cemetery not far from the Capitol in 1807, Congressional Cemetery was renamed in 1816 when burial sites were set aside for the internment of members of Congress. Benjamin Latrobe designed the distinctive cenotaphs, reminiscent of 18th-century visionary architecture, that mark these burial sites or honor members who are buried elsewhere. The cenotaphs were in use until 1877, when Arlington National Cemetery became the national burial ground.

Many public and private figures are buried in Congressional Cemetery, including architects William Thornton and Robert Mills, photographer Mathew Brady, musician John Philip Sousa, and FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. Also notable is the 1835 receiving vault or Public Vault where several presidents and other notables were interred pending removal of their remains to their home states. The monuments are an extensive collection of 19th- and 20th-century sculpture, and the landscape represents two centuries planning and effort.

The Association for the Preservation of Historic Congressional Cemetery, formed in 1976, now leases the site and is responsible for operating, developing, maintaining, preserving and enhancing the cemetery grounds. The Association has approximately 1,000 members who contribute annually towards the maintenance and restoration of the cemetery and is helped by numerous volunteers.


Thursday, October 23
WASHINGTON "DOWN UNDER": L'ENFANT, THE GRIFFINS AND THE DESIGN OF CANBERRA
Lecture by Christopher Vernon, Design Advisor, National Capital Authority, Commonwealth of Australia; and Senior Lecturer in Landscape Architecture, University of Western Australia

For Chicagoans Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahoney Griffin, Australia provided an opportunity to apply the lessons of what they perceived as America's shortcomings. As they refined their 1912 prizewinning design for Australia's new capital city of Canberra, the couple drew upon the spatial and symbolic lessons of Pierre Charles L'Enfant's 1791 plan of Washington, D.C.--in particular, on L'Enfant's placement of landscape vistas at the ends of a cross-axial composition. The Mall, projecting west from the hilltop Capitol, focused on a scenographic view toward the nation's vast interior, beckoning the fledgling democracy's expansion. Perpendicular to this corridor, a cross axis extended south from the President's House to capture the convergence of the branches of the Potomac River in its prospect.

L'Enfant's sophisticated landscape effects were obscured, if not erased, by the city's early-20th-century redesign by Daniel Burnham and the Senate Park Commission. Monuments and other architectural objects began to usurp landscape features as axial terminations. In designing Canberra, for a site they imagined as a "wilderness," the Griffins resurrected L'Enfant's aspirations , employing his technique of axial projections to re-value landscape as a spatial container and present nature as a symbol of democratic national identity. The slide-illustrated lecture will explore this and other resonances between L'Enfant's Washington and the Griffins' Canberra.


Tuesday, November 18
AN ESTHETICS OF RECONCILIATION: CULTURAL IDENTITY AND MODERN ARCHITECTURE IN LATIN AMERICA
Lecture by Susana Torre, Architect and Independent Scholar

The lecture examined two distinct currents of nationalist thought and practice that reshaped Latin American architecture during the first decades of the 20th century. One, promoted by groups of young intellectuals, writers, painters, and architects seeking to define a national identity through neo-colonial and Hispanic-American styles, acknowledged the colonial mix of indigenous craft and European iconography. The other, advanced by Latin American artists and architects and members of the economic and cultural elite familiar with European developments, aimed to introduce forms that evoked essential national attributes. In the 1920s and 1930s, Latin American architects, in contrast to the European architectural avant-garde, sought an "esthetics of reconciliation" between the modern present and the historical or mythical past and between urban and rural life, sometimes for opposite ideological purposes. Thus the paired houses of artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera in Mexico City celebrate the colorful aesthetic traditions of Indian peasantry, while the residences of the aristocratic Victoria Ocampo, in Buenos Aires and Mar del Plata, reflect a refined, all-white modernist vocabulary.

The lecture also followed the interaction of nationalist ideas and modern architecture in subsequent decades: the 1940s and 1950s, when it produced a synthesis of architecture and monumental exterior mural painting in Mexico, and the 1960s, when Latin American architects and cultural critics began a discourse on "appropriate" modernity, no longer seeking national identity in an idealized past but in forms that redefined the earlier esthetics of reconciliation.

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