Tour the national classical

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Bird’s-eye view of Federal Triangle, in Washington, from above the Mall. (loc.gov)

I grew up in Washington, D.C., and credit its robust and abundant classical and traditional architecture – the buildings themselves, not my upbringing among them – for my own taste in the architecture of civic beauty. I have no idea where else it might have come from.

My father furnished our house in D.C. with Scandinavian modern, the walls decked largely with modernist prints, framed modernistically. We even lived in a modernist house once, in the Maryland suburb of Wheaton. One winter, the tiny house’s small porch roof collapsed in a snowstorm: it was flat. As he was a city planner, my dad, William K. Brussat, was written up in the paper (not the Post) for moving from the suburbs into the city (man bites dog). My dad’s boss, who once headed the U.S. Urban Renewal Administration, had one of the few houses by I.M. Pei, on Ordway Street, N.W., Cleveland Park. We lived on Rodman, four houses up from Connecticut Avenue.

But ahh! To step outside! We were always taking the Green Hornet (our nickname for D.C. Transit buses) down to the Mall, long before Metro. But Washington was soaked in great architecture, not just what tourists see. And now, if you live in or visit Washington, you can see the best of it, shown by the best guides, under the aegis of the organization that’s doing the most to revive classicism in Washington – the National Civic Art Society.

Its president, Justin Shubow recently gave the inaugural Bulfinch Lecture at the gala in Boston of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art. We all learned a lot, and I will do a post quoting passages soon. Meanwhile, he asked me to give my readers the opportunity to check out the information about the NCAS tour packages.

Our expert tour guides will explain the timeless vision of the Founding Fathers and their tradition-honoring successors, which has resulted in the iconic public buildings and monuments that superbly embody the principles of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. The guides will also examine the role of our memorials in crystallizing national identity and historic memory.

So reads the online brochure for these guided tours, which, to judge by the prominence of the guides – Milton Grenfell, Francis Morrone, Erik Bootsma, Anne-Marie Whittaker and Andy Seferlis –  will give attendees far more than what most of the ubiquitous Washington tours give. And at far less cost: $15.

Sounds like the classic definition of a bargain!

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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