This weekend, the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art celebrated its ambitious new Bulfinch Awards program. For the first time we invited competition entries from across the nation for work performed in New England. This, we thought, was a good excuse to push the chapter’s annual party to a new level.
We feted this year’s laureates and Platinum-level sponsors with cocktails at the Eliot Hotel, on Boston’s Commonwealth Avenue. We brought in Justin Shubow, of the National Civic Art Society, to discuss the future of classical and modern architecture at the nearby Algonquin Club, and finally, at the Harvard Club, we hosted a gala dinner soirée for the laureates, the sponsors at all levels, their friends and colleagues – and for ourselves. Almost twice as many people came since our last celebration at the Massachusetts State House.
Most important, everyone seemed to have a rollicking good time. Events such as this one, with reservations costing $200, often attract winners, sponsors, board members, and few others not more or less directly connected with the event. But nobody here stood around pulling their chins at the forces arrayed against classical architecture. The hope is to turn the Bulfinch gala into a sort of mosh pit for the sophisticated set, a big annual see-and-be-seen evening for Boston. Our chapter president, Sheldon Kostelecky, emcee’d in a very come-on-in-the-water’s-fine tone, setting up vice president Dave Andreozzi’s juicy jury quotes, tossing off Bulfinch medals to some very chatty and evocative artists and architects. The entire venue was abrim with good cheer. The difficulty of making one’s way through the hall suggests that the chapter is heading in the right direction – though maybe a strategic withdrawal of the mosh-pit simile is in order, at least for now.
A good party is a good thing in and of itself, as the philosophers say. But the point of this good time is to raise the visibility of the primary organization working on behalf of classical architecture and its allied arts. When more people know that someone is working to maintain and revive the beauty they love but thought had been lost, then the first step to recovery, as the psychiatrists say, has been taken. That it can be so much fun is just icing on the cake, or, as the architects say, pediment on the architrave.
More to come when photos of the event come in, and when Justin Shubow sends a text from which I can quote some spicy lines from his excellent lecture on how classical architecture expresses democracy better than modern architecture (which doesn’t even try, and even finds the idea kind of sketchy). The chapter certainly is pushing the envelop on the revival of a great tradition. Find out more at the chapter’s website, where, along with the website of the national ICAA in New York City, you can join or just read about a fine crusade to bring beauty back to civic life.
Great architecture plus great sponsorship and stewardship add up to a chapter on a roll, not to mention a new burst of energy for a lovely old gal.
(The ICAA symbol is Diana, Roman goddess of the moon and of the hunt, and the symbol atop the second Madison Square Garden, in Madison Square, designed by Stanford White of McKim, Mead & White. Diana aiming a bow, by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, can be seen inside the top of the wooden box with the Bulfinch medallion in the middle photo above.)