B&L discuss "Designing in Historic Districts" with the ICAA

 
 

Designing in Historic Districts: A Vision for Civic Conservation

"Internationalist architecture and decades of car-centric planning have failed to produce places of local character, and as the demand for walkable, charming places outpaces the supply, historic districts around the world are under extreme development pressures.  Yet new developments are often incompatible with historic neighborhoods.  In “A Vision for Civic Conservation,” Charleston-based designers, Jenny Bevan and Christopher Liberatos, explore how the preservation community could increase their efficacy in guiding growth in historic districts.  They argue that we should treat historic districts not as museums but as living models for future growth and development and bulwarks against globalized homogeneity.  Please join Jenny and Christopher as they present how the principles of Civic Conservation can promote a socially, environmentally, and economically sustainable model for historic districts."

 
 

Townhouse renovation featured in Southern Living Magazine

"To make sure their condo felt solid and rich in McAlpine-approved architectural tradition, Sallie worked with Charleston-based interior designer Buff Coles and architectural designers Bevan & Liberatos. Together they filled out the hollow condo shell with high-quality materials like custom millwork, functioning window hardware, and solid wood interior doors."

"Architectural designer, Christopher Liberatos gave this lofted living room character by enclosing most of the second story stair landing and dressing up the walls and ceilings with paneling and millwork.  The newly coffered ceilings, the applied arch around the stair balcony, and the room's moldings balance out its height."

Click here for more photos of this Sea Island Townhouse.

Let's do it again: City's oldest park needs your help.

Steve Bailey in Sunday's Post and Courier:

Charleston loves a party, and yesterday we threw one for the ages: About 18 months after it was closed, Colonial Lake, a true icon of Charleston, was officially reopened with a celebration that will not be forgotten soon. Even the splendors of the 40th Spoleto Festival could not outshine the glory of Colonial Lake reborn.

The $5.9 million revival of Colonial Lake — financed mainly with tourism and hospitality taxes and $1.5 million raised privately by the Charleston Parks Conservancy — has produced a stunning public space that is already attracting kids with cast nets and all the rest of us to ogle the wonders of the flower beds planted by an army of volunteers.

Colonial Lake is such a magnificent success we should do it again. And Hampstead Mall should be next.

Even Charlestonians who know the city well don’t know Hampstead Mall by name, if they know it at all, and certainly don’t know that it is the city’s oldest park — older than Hampton Park, Marion Square or Colonial Lake. It is the park that time and the city forgot.

Located at the intersection of Columbus and America streets on the Eastside, Hampstead Mall is a jewel in the rough, waiting to be reclaimed. It dates to 1769 when Henry Laurens — Revolutionary war patriot, rice planter and financier of the slave trade — created Hampstead Village, patterned on London borough of the same name.

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Originally planned as a suburb for wealthy planters who wanted to escape the grime of the city, Hampstead Village was started and burned during the Revolution and the public square was occupied by the military in the War of 1812.

Only when the British were finally persuaded to take no for an answer was Hampstead Village built out as a working-class neighborhood of whites and blacks.

Over the years the four-acre Hampstead Mall was cut in half first by Columbus Street and then by America Street, leaving the four quadrants we have now.

If once designed for wealthy planters, the message of the park today is unmistakable: Poor people live here, and we don’t care.

The magnificent oaks remain, and a handsome statute of Philip Simmons, Charleston’s most storied ironsmith, is in the center of one square, but all around there is neglect. One square is surrounded by a locked six-foot chain-link fence and sign that says “No Dogs Allowed, Violators Will Be Prosecuted.”

In the other squares, large areas have no grass. There are no plantings. The playground equipment is dated.

Maybe worst of all:  The park is largely empty.  We must do better.

To get a conversation started, I recruited Jenny Bevan and Christopher Liberatos, a husband and wife team who run Bevan & Liberatos, a Charleston firm that specializes in modern traditional architectural design and planning, and we’ve put together a plan to remake Hampstead Mall. We want to hear your ideas.

HOUSING

That’s right, our plan for the park starts with building housing and some retail space, not on the park, but on the vacant and under-utilized edges. Why? Because the peninsula desperately needs affordable housing, and more people living in the neighborhood will bring more activity to a better defined park.

The housing will also help finance the park improvements. Just across the street is Fraser Elementary, which was built in the era of segregation and has been empty for years.

With the school district bleeding money, the county doesn’t need the maintenance bill and should sell it for $1 for development and an agreement to build mixed-income and workforce housing and contribute to remaking the park.

In addition, Trident Tech should consider turning a portion of its surface parking lots into housing along the park’s edge, bringing still more people and activity to the district.

Trident could also use some of the new space for its own needs. But where are the students to park if you build on the parking lots?

PARKING

We knew you would ask that. Rather than the surface parking lots, we should build a parking deck to be shared by Trident and the now-thriving Cigar Factory, which is going to need more parking.

Trident’s lots are empty on the weekend, a good place to provide for the needs of Friendship Baptist Church, which currently uses the fenced-off park square on Sundays.

THE PARK

“This is a really beautiful space, and the bones of a great park are right there,” says Harry Lesesne, the executive director of the Charleston Parks Conservancy, which in less than a decade has become a city treasure. “It is crying out for a really good plan and a really big investment. You ought to be thinking big.”

Start with what the Conservancy does so well: grass, flowers and updated playground equipment. Then make it a destination, not a crossroad on the way to someplace else.

Once upon a time, William Pitt the Elder stood on a pedestal at the center of Meeting and Broad streets. Building on the heritage of the Eastside, put Philip Simmons on a pedestal at the center of the park, the intersection of America and Columbus. He will announce to all that they are at a place that matters — and slow down traffic while he is at it. Unify the park by carrying the Simmons legacy across all four squares, using his graceful style in fences, gates, bike racks and the like. Put up a map to his house and forge that still stand a block away. Gateway banners over Columbus Street on either end of Hampstead Mall will welcome all.

Provide more uses for more people.

Imagine:

No one would be happier than Franciscan Sister Maigread Conway, who cared for the poor for more than 30 years, if we expanded the fountain dedicated to her into a smaller version of the one at Riley Waterfront Park, allowing kids to cool off on hot days.

The Trident Test Kitchen, a cafe operated by the students of the school’s top-notch Culinary Institute in the new retail space. Have breakfast or lunch in the diner or out on a table on one of the squares.

One square could have room for events such as a farmers market or craft shows. Neighborhood churches could use it for weddings and other events. You could throw a Frisbee out there.

The odds are stacked against any of this happening, of course. Some will see it as an engine of gentrification, forcing the poor out of the neighborhood. Other projects will be competing for money and attention, including plans to replace DeReef Park at Morris and Smith streets, the proposed Lowline project down the center of the peninsula and yet another proposed park on the U-Haul site on King Street.

But there are compelling reasons, too, that Hampstead Mall should be at the front of the line, not the back of the bus. At this moment when we are daily debating the balance between tourists and residents — them vs. us — Hampstead Mall is all about us.

This is a park for the locals in the most underserved section of the city. And it is the locals — black and white — who are getting cheated by the neglect, the disinvestment, that has gone on here for too long.

Now it’s your turn. How would you fix Hampstead Mall?

Steve Bailey is a former Boston Globe columnist who has returned to his hometown. He can be reached at sjbailey1060@yahoo.com.

Inaugural European Summer School in Classical Architecture

INTBAU is inviting you to attend a European Summer School in Classical Architecture in Sweden

Sweden | 4-30 July 2016

In partnership with the Ax:son Johnson Foundation

 

We are delighted and honored to be teaching at this four-week course, which will be based in the idyllic setting of Engelsberg, a World Heritage Site centered around historic steel processing works in a wooded rural setting two hours northwest of Stockholm. The site, owned by the Ax:son Johnson Foundation, has been converted to provide comfortable residential accommodation and a conference centre newly constructed in an old steel works. In the final week the course will move to Stockholm.

The course will be taught by leading practitioners of modern classical architecture and academics with specific expertise in the subject. There will be lectures on the classical architectural Orders, their history, mythology, details and application in design.  There will also be lectures on the conventions of classical composition in architecture and different ways of using and adapting the Orders and their details. 

Hands-on skills in measured and freehand drawing and three-dimensional modeling will be taught as well as hand-drawn architectural draftsmanship and the application of computer aided design. There will be two design projects, one theoretical and the other based on real sites in the locality. Drawing practice and the choice of sites for design will take place on excursions into the surrounding area.  

On selected evenings with visiting lecturers there will be open debates on contro­versial subjects associated with classical architecture such as modernity, technology and symbolism. Students will be free to participate. The course will include tours of Stockholm and its highly original and influential early-twentieth-century classical architecture and there will be a measured drawing project to understand and record some of the unique architectural details. On the last day lecturers, visitors and students will discuss and evaluate their experiences and join in a farewell dinner. 

Contributors to the programme include: Robert AdamJenny BevanChristine FranckChristopher LiberatosHugh Petter, George Saumarez SmithScala ArchitectsRussell Taylor and more.

Course fee is €1500 (covers tuition, accommodation, meals and excursions).  Further information is available - click here to request booklet
Application via registration form - click here to request application form.  Please email Lauren.banks@intbau.org if you have any queries.

 

- Registration Closed - 

La Habana, La Ciudad de las Columnas

B&L recently presented "Calling for a New Preservation Charter: A Declaration of Place" at INTBAU Cuba's conference, “Resilience and the Value of Heritage: Learning from Historic Cities” in the beautiful city of Havana.  Left speechless by this incredible city, we'll let Alejo Capentier speak to her beauty:

 

"In the beginning was the mason, but houses began to grow and large mansions completed the layout of plazas, and the column - no longer the conquistadors’ gallows - appeared in the city.  But it was an interior column, born elegantly in the shadowy patios, garnished with vegetation, where the trunk of the palm tree coexisted with the Doric shaft; consider the image of the haughty patio of the San Francisco monastery as an eloquent illustration.  At the outset, in houses with a solid layout (a bit rough in their exteriors), like the one in front of Havana’s cathedral, the column resembled an object of intimate refinement, destined to uphold the arcade of interior porticoes.  Except for the cathedral’s plaza, the Plaza Vieja where buildings devoted to the islands administration were erected, this was logical in a city whose streets were intentionally narrow; narrowness is a propitiator of shadows, where neither twilight nor dawn blinds the pedestrian with direct sunlight.  Thus, in many of Havana’s old palaces, in a few affluent mansions that have still preserved their original layout, the column is an element of interior decoration, luxury, and ornamentation.  This was before the nineteenth century, when the column moved to the street, thus creating - even in days of evident architectonic decadence - one of the most extraordinary constants of the Havana style: the incredible profusion of columns in a city that is an emporium of columns, a jungle of columns, and infinite colonnade, the last city to possess columns in such amazing excess, columns that, moreover, having abandoned original patios, began to retrace the column’s decadence through the ages."

- Alejo Carpentier, La ciudad De Las Columnas

 

B&L Discuss Preservation & Growth in Traditional Building Magazine

 

"Because decades of car-centric planning and internationalist architecture has failed to produce places of local character, the demand for walkable, charming places outpaces supply. And since globalized finance requires a homogenized building product, what gets built in one place must be the same as what gets built everywhere else, be it in Dallas, Columbus or Charleston.  Consequently, contemporary developments within and adjacent to historic districts are often incompatible with existing neighborhoods..."  

Published in Traditional Building Magazine. Read on below:

Charleston's Choice: A Case Study for Civic Conservation

Charleston is home to one of architecture's unique contributions: the Charleston single-house. What is less known is that Charleston is also home to one of urbanism's unique contributions: side-yard urbanism. Although this type of urbanism works well with single-houses, it is not dependent on them, and it is used throughout Charleston even where there are no single-houses. It is characterized by clearly defined public streets and squares, deep lots, and the locating of the buildings, which are kept narrow to catch the breeze, on the side of the lot, creating spaces between buildings referred to in Gullah as the “gap.” It exists in no other place, even places equally hot and humid. It is as much a unique product of this melange of African and European cultures that is Lowcountry culture as is the way we speak and the food we eat. It is an ingenious solution to achieving an urban level density yet livable in this hot and humid climate. It allows for an architecture that is characterized by screens, loggias, courtyards, gardens, and of course porches: Charleston is a city of porches - not just our houses have porches but also our shops have porches, our churches have porches, our libraries have porches, our schools and our hospitals have porches, or at least used to -- it is no wonder that President Obama singled out Charleston in his inaugural speech by referring to our porches! Charleston's urbanism allows for a diversity of housing types and income levels, and a diversity of business types. It is a miracle of urban form, yet it exists only in Charleston

 
 

As both benyas and comyas know, Charleston’s unique brand of architecture and urbanism is so much in demand that locals of many generations can no longer afford to live here - the market now is international. And small, local businesses are forced to compete with out-of-town national brands, willing to have a loss-leader in hip Charleston, in an ever-decreasing supply of small retail shops. Right now, thousands of housing units are being built in Charleston, yet none are following the model set by Charleston’s unique and in-demand urbanism. They are either of the Anywhere, USA suburban sprawl type, or they are of the massive Texas-style lined parking garage type. Hundreds of thousands of square feet of large-scale retail space is being built,  none of it in the fine grained, human scaled pattern that characterizes Charleston.

 Instead of bringing in more people to compete for what little of Charleston style urbanism there is, we should be taking advantage of this unique type of architecture and urbanism by building more of it. We should be making Charleston more affordable by increasing the supply of Charleston. We should welcome people who love Charleston and who want to move here, and we should welcome the developers who want to take risks to build buildings to house them. But for the protection of her brand and for her older neighborhoods, Charleston should say has a right to say, we have a unique brand of architecture and urbanism - please follow the successful patterns that have been followed here now for over three centuries. This is how we live, you are welcome to participate all you want. If you love Charleston, help us to make more of Charleston. And we should be building more of the fine-grained Charleston not just because that’s how the city developed in the past, but because it is the superior thing to do, and because it will generate the greatest value.

 

Visit civicconservation.org/casestudy for the full case study.  

 

B&L present "Our Disposable Architecture" for TEDx Charleston

"Our Disposable Architecture" is now online!

Thanks again to all those who made TEDx Charleston such a success, and for the post-production crew for these wonderful videos.

Remember, the concept behind TED is "Ideas worth sharing." So, please, head over to YouTube, like, comment, and share!

CNU 23: Meeting the Demand for Walkable Places

The Congress for the New Urbanism held their annual meeting in Dallas this year.  Jenny spoke during the "CNU Is Burning" session, which was about whether traditional urbanism performs better with traditional architecture or not. Our many thanks to Paddy Steinschneider for the invitation and for making it happen, and a special thanks to Andrés Duany for encouraging the ongoing discussion. It's looking like it might even continue into CNU 24 in Detroit next year...

Sgt. Jasper Site Study

Dear friends,

Many are rightfully concerned about the proposal to put three mega-buildings at the foot of Broad Street, one of our main entrances into the City. We have been inspired to do a quick study to see what sorts of densities might be achieved on this site if instead the developers were to continue Charleston’s urban and architectural patterns as if this were a natural, organic extension of the neighborhood.  

If the site is currently zoned “Urban” - which allows 12 units/acre - at 6.4 acres, this site would be zoned for up to 76 units. This is probably the appropriate zoning for this part of the city. However, if the current existing 220 units are grandfathered in, or if the argument for increased density here is valid - and maybe it is - still, Charleston-style urbanism can more than accommodate these numbers, while at the same time providing porches, gardens, greater traffic-alleviating connectivity, and greater diversity of incomes, ages, and family life. While the density of units is greater, the density of buildings shown in our scheme is on par with that found in sections of Church Street, or on nearby Trapman and Short Streets, or on Savage Street - found, in fact, in sections of all the charming neighborhoods in the city.

Everyone loves Charleston’s authentic architecture and urbanism - so much so that it is becoming unaffordable. Why not make more, and where is a better site? Perhaps there are appropriate places for mega-buildings, but district-scale preservation depends on urban and architectural consistency. The way to achieve this is by continuing those patterns and building the architectural typologies that have proven themselves so resilient, so flexible, so maintainable - in short, so valuable - in the first place. Charleston’s urban and architectural patterns have generated a city of internationally celebrated distinction. Why not continue those patterns?

We hope this might be of use and offer it as a contribution to the process of determining the best result for this site and for our City. Please feel free to share.

Christopher & Jenny

New Bicycle Stands: Hand-wrought in and for the City of Charleston

     Seeing that 1) the City of Charleston is in need of new bicycle stands; and that 2) Charleston has a 300+ year old tradition of wrought iron which is distinctively Charlestonian and famous world wide; and that 3) Charleston is home to the American College of the Building Arts, where they teach the noble art of wrought iron: in the name of Civic Conservation, B&L have designed new wrought-iron bicycle stands to be made by highly skilled artisan graduates of the American College of the Building Arts, giving them the opportunity to engage in a local tradition by applying it to contemporary needs, and giving you the opportunity to employ local craftsmen, support the local economy, and help beautify the city.

You can commission a single stand for $1500 or two for $2500. Please contact us at info@bevanandliberatos.com.

The New Preservation: A Vision for Civic Conservation

 

"By now we are all accustomed to the idea that local agricultural and culinary traditions provide more sustainable alternatives to the unhealthy and unsustainable industrial food systems. When it comes to architecture, the unhealthy, unsustainable industrial building systems still reign, while the traditional architecture movement, miscast by architects as conservative and nostalgic, is overlooked. Tradition is not the blind copying of some past culture’s artifacts; it is a progressive, multi-generational feat wherein useful ideas are retained and bad ideas are discarded or improved upon. Local building traditions, just like local culinary traditions, developed in response to the geography, climate, natural resources, and local economies.  Why not learn from them, not by riffing on them, or making abstract versions of them, but by directly engaging them?"    - CivicConservation.org

 

     It is with these ideas in mind that we have launched "A Vision for Civic Conservation" at CivicConservation.org.  The purpose of CivicConservation.org is to provide a framework of guiding principles with which to address growth, change, and progress in local communities, primarily from within historic districts.  An alternative to the academic preservation based on Modernist philosophy, CivicConservation.org is inspired by grass-roots organizations that support the local traditions of places and their cultures.  Environmental goals, economic goals, and civic goals are interrelated and must be treated holistically. 

     None of the ideas of CivicConservation.org are based on nostalgia or on a particular political ideology.  We are working from data, study, and common logic.  For the professional world, this is an avant-guard and counter-cultural movement, but for many we are simply putting words to things they already know through experience.  

     When you visit Civic Conservation, be sure to spend some time exploring the three main components of Civic Conservation - Town PlanningArchitecture, and the Buildings Arts - each linked from the homepage before going on to see What's the Matter with Historic Preservation and how Local Traditions Build Sustainable Communities.

     At Sign the Vision, you can read and become a signer of the Civic Conservation Standards.  We are also collecting signatures and stories from people around the world who are seeing the ill effects of Modernism in their villages, towns, cities, and countryside. If you have any stories, pictures, or questions, or if you would like to know how you can get involved, please write to: civicconservation(at)gmail.com.

Vitruviana 2014: The Legacy of Classicism in Charleston's Public Realm

 

"Classical influences were pervasive [in the southern library] including architecture through the Renaissance Italians and their British imitators."

- Richard Beale Davis (Intellectual Life of the Colonial South)

 

Vitruviana 2014 has come and gone. We loved this year's theme - Civic Order: The Legacy of Classicism in Charleston's Public Realm.  It was a wonderful event where we met many lovely people, heard interesting lectures, and got the chance to offer our own thoughts on the legacy of Classicism in our lecture, "Practical Lessons in Classicism from Charleston's Earliest Sources: Pre-Revolutionary Architecture Books at the Charlestown Library Society."  

As we see it, the legacy of Classicism is its ongoing practice. Old buildings are legacies from previous generations, to be sure, but they are not legacies of Classicism in the sense that Classicism has died and left them as relics.  Relics are dead remains of formerly living entities.  Old buildings are not dead remains but rather living models with much to teach about architectural principles.  These principles can and do inform practice today.  No matter how well built, buildings cannot last forever.  If we are to ensure the legacy of Classicism for future generations, it will only be through its ongoing practice.  Vitruviana 2014 was a great opportunity to discuss how this collection of books might have assisted in transmitting principles of Classicism to pre-revolutionary Charleston and to share a few instances when we have applied similar lessons in our own modern Classical designs.


A summary of:


PRACTICAL LESSONS IN CLASSICISM FROM CHARLESTON EARLIEST SOURCES:

PRE-REVOLUTIONARY ARCHITECTURE BOOKS AT THE CHARLESTON LIBRARY SOCIETY

The collection of architecture books at the Charleston Library Society prior to 1776 was a carefully curated collection and includes highly celebrated designers such as Andrea Palladio, James Gibbs, Sir Christopher Wren, Fréart de Chambray, William Chambers, William Pain, and Francis Price.  To better understand the architecture books available to early designers in Charleston, we also expanded our study to include "supporting books" on topics such as Mathematics, Travel, Philosophy, Materials, as well as Magazines and Journals, all of which discuss topics of direct or indirect relationship to architecture.

 

PRACTICAL LESSONS IN CLASSICAL DESIGN:

PRINCIPLES

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In his A Book of Architecture, James Gibbs explores the infinite variety of design possibilities for a garden folly.  The commonalities in his designs help to reveal essential principles underlying them.  The garden folly at the Gabriel Manigault house exhibits similar design principles and yet is another entirely unique design.  Principles can also explain many of the reasons behind particular elements and details of Classical architecture.  In the image above right, The Builder's Dictionary gives three principles behind the corona and its drip, including principles of aesthetics, durability and sustainability.

 

PROPORTIONS

Proportion can be applied simplistically (as in the relationship of a facade's height to width) or with great complexity.  In a design with complex application of proportions, the pieces of a building relate to similarly to each other and to the whole.  In the introduction to Parallel of the Ancient Architecture with the Modern, John Evelyn explains the relationship between beauty and proportion in his discussion of harmony: "The true and essential Beauty of Architecture ... does principally result from the Symmetry and Oeconomy of the whole, which is the Union and Concourse of them all together, producing ... a visible Harmony."

 

BEAUTY

In his introduction to Charleston Architecture 1670-1860, Gene Waddell writes that, "So consistently high a level of achievement was made possible by talent, education and agreement about what constituted excellence."  This "agreement about what constitutes excellence" derives, in part, from a Classical view that beauty is objective and can therefore be discussed and debated.  The books in this collection, from authors such as Palladio, Gibbs, Hogarth and Lord Anthony Ashley Cooper support this view and tie architectural beauty to the designer's ability to resolve proportional relationships into a harmonic composition.


With gratitude to the many collaborators and sponsors of Vitruviana 2014, including:

Celebrating Creative Continuity and the Life of Donato Bramante

          Bramante was the first to make known that good and beautiful architecture which had been hidden from the time of the ancients till now. - Andrea Palladio

     The 500th anniversary of the death (life) of Donato Bramante - architect of the “New Antique Style” - did not go uncelebrated, at least not in Charleston. Last Tuesday evening we held a private exhibition to meditate with friends and alcohol on the man’s work, which includes St. Peter’s, the Tempietto, and the House of Raphael. Boldly employing Classical forms in Modern ways, unafraid of parasitic critics’ empty and unsupported accusations of “copying,” Bramante is a classical architect’s architect. We owe much to you Bramante. Requiescat in pace. 

     “When the grandeur of the Roman Empire began to decline because of the ceaseless invasions of the barbarians, architecture, having abandoned its original beauty and sophistication, as did all the other arts and sciences at the time, deteriorated more and more until it could get no worse in the total absence of any information about beautiful proportions and the ornate manner of building. Since all human affairs are in perpetual motion, it happens that at one time things ascend to the pinnacle of their perfection and at another descend to an abyss of imperfection; but architecture, emerging from those shadows in which it was long buried, began to reveal itself in the light of the world during the time of our fathers and grandfathers. So, under the pontificate of Pope Julius II, Bramante, a supremely talented man and observer of ancient structures, built marvelous buildings in Rome.” - Andrea Palladio

Pier Carlo Bontempi Wins 2014 Driehaus Prize

“Sulla sostenibilità c’è un fraintendimento colossale... Va intesa in senso più ampio: un edificio che duri mille anni, sia flessibile, sobrio e renda felice la vita delle persone è certamente ecologico.”

                                                                                                                                           - Pier Carlo Bontempi

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     The pictures above are just a few projects designed by Pier Carlo Bontempi, this year’s winner of the Driehaus Prize. For those who don’t know, the Driehaus Prize is a big deal in the world of contemporary traditional architecture. It’s the traditional equivalent of the modernist Pritzker Prize. Some years ago I had the privilege to spend a summer working for Pier Carlo in Studio Bontempi. His office is in an old farm building in Emilio-Romagna, in the untouristed countryside near Parma. The windows look out over picturesque agricultural fields and countryside. There Pier Carlo and his team work on projects that range from modest middle-class houses to entirely new whole villages. In this peaceful setting, they produce very seductive drawings, such as these:

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     Bontempi’s is a restrained and sober architecture, and economical, with just enough detailing here and there to make a vernacular architecture that is classically informed. Arcades, bridges, towers and loggias are combined in diverse ways to make playful and interesting urban conditions, while the understated architecture is a visual relief from eyes tired from our technological society.

     The project I worked on was a new village and hotel in Emilio-Romagna called Fonti di Matilde. It was designed by a team of alumni of the Prince of Wales's Institute of Architecture. Traditional architectural education was decimated by modernism in Europe just as it was in the United States, and the Prince’s Institute was the only school teaching traditional architecture and urbanism in Britain. Pier Carlo was seeing the project through to completion including all of the architectural design. It’s an architecture not so different from what we have in Charleston, and with a restrained palette of stucco surfaces, arches, stringcourses, cornices, tiled roofs, shutters and little else, I felt right at home. More than anything else, it’s an architecture that seeks to please not by being flashy but through the use of good rhythm and proportion. Here’s one of the drawings I worked on before it was watercolored. It shows a small group of houses, a portion of the village:

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   Don’t get the wrong idea. These buildings are economically built with up-to-date modern construction techniques. The stucco is on reinforced concrete block, the floors of prestressed concrete beams with centralized underfloor radiant heating, the partition walls of hollow terracotta bricks finished with plaster. They are built to last, designed to be a permanent part of the landscape. Streets are given over to pedestrians; parking is below. Some pictures of the completed buildings: 

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“In Italy, for 3,000 years we continued to build a fantastic masterpiece formed of the fusion of architecture and landscape. In the 60 years following World War II, we have done everything to destroy that masterpiece with the aid of buildings alien to tradition. Unfortunately we still live in a post-war atmosphere, both of widespread desire for obligatory novelty at all costs, and of amnesia with regards to our great qualities in the field of urbanism and architecture.”

                                                                                                                      - Pier Carlo Bontempi

Pier Carlo Bontempi’s website: www.piercarlobontempi.it

The opening quote comes from this article in the Gazzetta di Parma.

And the last quote comes from this one in Traditional Building Magazine.