D.C. classical tours return

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The Lincoln Memorial, by Henry Bacon. Statue by Daniel Chester French. (Conde Nast)

Washington, D.C., is among the nation’s if not the world’s most walkable big cities, and this year the town’s leading advocate for beauty, the National Civic Art Society, returns with a new slate of its walking tours. Moreover, because the District of Columbia is the capital of the free world, its architecture and accompanying sculpture must be comprehensible to citizens. In those many cases where its language is classical, its understanding is intuitive.

This is from the NCAS’s introduction to the “Our Classical Heritage” tours:

These tours are fashioned for those who wish a greater under- standing of why and how the District of Columbia came to be a classically designed city. You will learn of the ancient antecedents of our political philosophies, of the stylistic precedents of our architectural forms, and of the Founders’ classical vision.

But there are, I’m afraid, other languages (if we can so call them), and for the first time one of the tours is devoted to architecture in one of those so-called languages. So it is advantageous that this year’s tour guide, the sculptor Mi- chael Curtis, will lead all five tours. His experience in the direct translation of material to feeling will help him assess the several modernist buildings on Tour IV – “Brutal Mistakes” – on June 24.

The roster of those mistakes and the schedule for the entire series of NCAS’s “Our Classical Heritage” tours can be viewed at Eventbrite, where reserva- tions can be made at the $10 a tour, reduced from last year’s price. All of the tours are on Saturdays. The tours are individually titled as follows:

  1. June 3 – Washington, the Classical City
  2. June 10 – National, Political, and Personal Liberty
  3. June 17 – Freedom and Sacrifice
  4. June 24 – Brutal Mistakes
  5. July 8 – British America

At $10 a pop, this is the classical definition of a bargain. So I said in “Tour the national classical” a year ago, when the levy was fifty percent larger, and so it remains a year later. Although he was not among America’s founding fathers, Winston Churchill had this to say: “We shape our buildings; thereafter, they shape us.” That’s pretty much what Washington and Jefferson were thinking when they chose classical architecture to be the design template of the new United States of America. The value of understanding what our buildings say about our society has only grown since the last edition of NCAS D.C. tours.

O! To be in Washington!

About David Brussat

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. History Press asked me to write and in August 2017 published my first book, "Lost Providence." I am now writing my second book. My freelance writing on architecture and other topics addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am 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 employ my writing and editing to improve your work, 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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4 Responses to D.C. classical tours return

  1. Thank you, Brownrbir. I hope you will attend one or more of the tours, which I’m sure will provide lots of insight on the battle between modernist and classical styles in Washington. I grew up in D.C. so I am every bit as concerned as you are by recent trends – such as the Gehry design for the Ike memorial.


  2. JJ says:

    Exciting read


  3. Thank you for your article. I enjoy spending time looking at the classic designs and history while in Washington, DC. The influences of international with American style is an ongoing development. Looking forward to reading more of your insights.


  4. Pingback: See Washington, DC Classic Tours – Energy Management

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