The Institute of Classical Architecture & Art has announced its Arthur Ross awards for 2015. The top award, for architecture, goes to Adam Architecture, the London firm founded by Robert Adam. His inventive classicism joins his peerless erudition in the attempt to lure the world back to building cities and towns with beauty. Beauty is part and parcel of functionality. Without it nobody would care enough about buildings to keep them up and running into a long future.
Peter Lyden, who joined the ICAA as its president last year, succeeding the inimitable Paul Gunther, summed up this year’s slate of awards, saying that they “illustrate the proud legacy of Arthur Ross and his vision of promoting the appreciation and awareness of the classical tradition. By honoring these individuals and organizations, we recognize the continued importance and relevance of classicism in our cities and communities today.”
The other Ross winners buttress the classical revival, some in surprising ways:
• The award for city planning goes to Moule & Polyzoides, Architects and Urbanists, of Pasedena, Calif. Elizabeth Moule and Stefanos Polyzoides, who helped found the Congress for the New Urbanism decades ago and have pioneered new towns and neighborhoods in the old urbanism now known as the New Urbanism, often in the Mediterranean style that came to California by way of Mexico and Spain.
• The award for fine arts goes to James Ivory for the many so-called “Merchant & Ivory” films directed by Ivory and produced by the late Ismail Merchant. They use craft and historical veracity to leverage cinema that helps we moderns feel the bliss that was once the birthright of all peoples and all classes by merely walking around and seeing. It is a bliss that could be easily recaptured today.
• The award for writing and editing goes to Elizabeth White and Samuel G. White, who write books on architecture that celebrate “the classical tradition, presenting the work beautifully and intelligently and revealing the intentions of the designer as clearly as possible in two dimensions.”
• The board of directors award this year honors the life work (not yet concluded!) of Léon Krier, whose architecture and town planning, especially as the masterplanner of Prince Charles’s new town of Poundbury, along with Krier’s playful but tart sketches of urbanism, and his books on the same vital subject, have brought to life a treasury of thoughts that have done so much to advance the dream of returning the world to the design of places that embrace, on behalf of a theoretically artful future, the best practices of a past going back hundreds and thousands of years.
Having mentioned the past, I had the honor of sitting on a Ross jury back in 2011. I committed the faux pas of writing about the process in a column I deep-sixed after I was informed that it was supposed to be secret! This year’s judges, imbued with more judicial savvy, were Gary Brewer, David Dowler, Michael Lykoudis, Andrew Skurman and jury chairman Robert Davis.