The call for entries in this eighth season of the Bulfinch Awards has just gone out. The awards program, launched in 2010 by the New England Chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, honors the best in classical architecture and allied arts in the region. Originally, the call for entries solicited work in New England by individuals or firms in New England. A couple of years ago the call was expanded to include submissions from anywhere so long as the work submitted was in New England.
The mission of the ICAA and the goal of the Bulfinches is to preserve and advance the practice and traditions of classical architecture, which includes the many traditional styles, revivalist and progressive, rooted in the classical idiom. Equally important are the associated arts upon which architecture depends, and the revival of urbanist theories based on those idioms, which constitute its setting. A happier, more civilized society will be the result of progress in advancing these classical practices and traditions.
The program is named for Charles Bulfinch, the famed Boston architect considered the first native-born American professional in the field. It has influenced the quality of work in the region – specifically, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut (minus Fairfield County, considered an appendage of New York City) and Rhode Island.
I personally hope that architects and other artists in Rhode Island will consider fielding submissions. Rhode Island arguably takes pride of place in preserving the most extensive and diverse collection of historic traditional buildings and streetscapes in New England, just as New England holds similar pride of place in the nation. However, if Rhode Island wants to improve its beauty, its economy and its livability, it must produce more new classical and traditional work. This is actually happening more robustly in some other states and regions of the United States.
Over time, the beauty of this state and its region could fall behind little by little, and without realizing it lose an important competitive advantage vis-a-vis other states and regions. Preserving existing beauty is a great and necessary accomplishment, but creating new beauty, here and around the country, is the only way to keep beauty a growing part of our American future. That is what the ICAA, its 15 chapters, the New England chapter, its Bulfinch Awards and other chapter award programs are all about.
Aside from basking in the warm glow of the appreciation of their colleagues, the winners will receive a Bulfinch medallion and recognition at a gala to be held in April at the Harvard Club on Boston’s Commonwealth Avenue. The evening before will feature a special reception honoring both the laureates and the Bulfinch Awards sponsors who make possible this program and its celebration.
(The deadline for entries is December 15. Further information about the submission requirements, members of the competition jury and speakers for the weekend celebration can be found in the Bulfinch Awards section of the ICAA-New England website.)