Lovely house on N.J. coast

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Sketch of house under construction on N.J. waterfront. (David Rau)

David Rau has sent to TradArch his sketch of a house he has designed along the intercoastal waterway of New Jersey. I am assuming that the grayed-out structures to the left and the rear are the neighbors of the eventual owners of the house. It is under construction now.

Rau writes: “On a related, but wider note, we’re searching for a handmade, organic, local, and natural approach that represents what architecture should be ‘in our own time.’ This is my attempt at the Fifth Recall. [It] needs work.”

A recall is a return to order after a period of architectural dispersion in relation to the classical canon. The Fifth Recall is what Andres Duany, in his treatise Heterodoxia Architectonica (still under construction now), says must happen if the classical revival is to avoid being bogged down by an overly strict adherence to the classical canon – what he calls Palladiophilia. I think he overstates the case, but it is certainly a valid concern. Rau’s house above may suggest that classical architects are already taking Duany’s warnings seriously. My take is that they have been for many years.

Yes, there are classicists who design houses and other buildings that take a “strict constructionist” view of the canon and how it is to be applied. And let us hope there always will be. Let’s not forget that a creative approach to the canon will become chaotic if the entire classical revival becomes unmoored from the canon. And let’s also not forget that a strict adherence to the canon is almost sure to produce beauty.

The canon can produce such a variety of forms that (notwithstanding my own warning just above) that we needn’t fear being bored by whole swaths of very canonical classicism. Be that as it may, work such as that of David Rau as shown above ensures that the conversation among classicists will continue to be lively, and sometimes even elegant.

About David Brussat

For a living, I edit the writing of some of the nation's leading architects, urbanists and design theorists. This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. My freelance writing and editing on that topic and others addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, and a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to invest your prose with even more style and clarity, please email me at my consultancy, dbrussat@gmail.com, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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