Best trad buildings of 2021

British Normandy Memorial, designed by Liam O’Connor. (Charles Bergen Studios)

This year’s meagre selection of new buildings designed in traditional styles came close to cancellation, not the first event to suffer that fate lately. It is depressing this year, as it was last year, to contemplate the listlessness of the genre, however lovely the specific works may be. This year I came even closer than last year to throwing up my hands in despair. No doubt there were many new buildings traditional or classical in style erected around the nation and the world: buildings that seem to have looked at their feet, avoiding our gaze, shunning the sort of publicity thrust vociferously at architecture that deserves its embarrassment.

Before I get to cases, let me introduce readers to an essay about the two colleges at Yale designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects. The writer of this long piece, Belmont Freeman, in Places Journal called “Tradition for Sale,” so thoroughly misunderstands both architecture and university patronage that in condemning Yale’s hiring Stern to design its two new residential colleges, he unintentionally undercuts all of the points he intends to make. Great fun! Read it before or after checking out the best 2021 trads.


O’Connor’s memorial takes the shape, seen from the air, of the Union Jack.

The British Normandy Memorial, dedicated to British soldiers who died assaulting the French coast on D-Day, 1944, was designed by architect Liam O’Connor, perhaps best known for his British Bomber Command Memorial, located at Green Park, in London. The Normandy memorial sits 2,300 feet behind the Gold Beach. A grouping of three British soldiers landing on the beach was sculpted by David Williams-Ellis. I was informed of this memorial by Léon Krier.


Alumni Hall expansion at the College of William & Mary; original Bright Hall at far right. (G&HA)

The Richmond-based firm of Glavé & Holmes has participated masterfully in the construction of Christopher Newport University, in Newport News, Va., and much more. It continues its good work with an addition, completed in 2021, to Alumni Hall at the College of William and Mary (above) – the original, Bright House, sits at the far right of the photo – and a new admissions building (below) this year at Longwood University, in Farmville, Va. I was alerted to this pair of buildings by G&HA senior principal architect Andrew Moore.

New admissions building, Radcliffe Hall, at Longwood University, in Virginia. (G&HA)


Architectural historian Michael Diamant, of Stockholm, who compiles examples of traditional architecture being built in Europe, has sent over a number of buildings completed this year.  Michael’s flow of information enables me to turn my frown upside down at the prospect that new traditional architecture is being built more widely than is apparent from what appears in my humble annual roundup. His Facebook page, New Traditional Architecture, and his website of the same name, are places to find extensive information and links about new trad architecture and the firms that produce it in many nations around the globe. He has formed a nonprofit lobby group called Arkitekturupporet or Architecture Uprising to keep pushing this rebellion forward. What follow are photos from his collection sent to me over the past few days:

This hotel in Bucharest, Romania, was once a bank, described by Diamant as “a ruin.” I am assuming that the hotel, by Cumulus, is tantamount to a new building, completed in 2021.

A monastery inn in North Macedonia completed in 2021 by Studio lelelele in a local vernacular style

Before and after shots of a new block of townhouses, Villa Auriana, by Dominique Hertenberger, completed in 2021 near the Garenne-Colombes train station, in Paris, that replaces a set of demolished modernist structures.

This building, by ADT Project, was completed in 2021. Diamant writes: “In the Russian city of Kazan there are lots of things going on. Whole streets are being renovated and a lot of empty plots are filled with historicist buildings. They are good in scale, mixed use. They let the older historic buildings shine brighter.”


150 East 78th St., a 15-story condo tower in New York City. (Rendering by RAMSA)

I am sticking my neck out to include 150 East 78th St., a 15-story condominium building designed by Daniel Lobitz of Robert A.M. Stern Architects. It was described in June on the website YIMBY (Yes In My Back Yard) as set to open “later this summer.” Perhaps I will have to strike it from this roundup if I am informed that it will not actually be completed before tomorrow, as this is written. But it is truly gorgeous, and I am proud to take this risk of violating my own roundup rules, which mandate completion between Jan. 1 of this year and the end of Dec. 31 this year. Pray for me.


Don’t forget to read the essay from Places Journal on Yale’s two new residential campuses linked to near the beginning of this post. It is highly amusing. As if universities should avoid above all else designs that might please students and donors alike, the better to produce memories that might lead the former to join the ranks of the latter. Heaven forfend!

Well, it depresses me to think that the powers at Yale should interpret “the best of Yale tradition” to entail the replication of nearly century-old building forms, which were ersatz to begin with. Yale University has another tradition, now sadly in retreat, of taking risks with its architectural patronage.

Enjoy stewing in those juices, Mr. Belmont Freeman, whose name no doubt connotes the distance from which he may look down his nose at the tradition Yale has embraced. Readers, do enjoy wading through his existential angst!!!

Freeman has included a lot of photos of both the types of design that he likes and those that he dislikes, all of which serve to demolish the argument of his article. Here is a photograph of the new Yale colleges (2017) that push his nose so delightfully out of joint:

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,, 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.
This entry was posted in Architecture, Development and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Best trad buildings of 2021

  1. Michael Behrendt says:

    Some wonderful new buildings in Kazan. I had never heard of that city. Strangely, despots like Putin often support good traditional architecture while the pseudo sophisticates in the west can’t abide it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Horhe says:

    The Marmorosch Hotel in Bucharest is really quite a marvelous building. I take every chance I get to wander by and admire it. The picture does not do it justice, especially since it focuses on the newly completed line style building (modern with a classicist tendency) that replaced a previous eyesore (the Marmorosch-Blank Bank was not a corner building originally). I consider it a sort of pleasing filling that could have gone much worse, though also much better. It is from the front that the building truly shines as an example of Neo-Romanian architecture with its orientalist touches, but the street it fronts is quite narrow so nice photos are harder to come by. I would link my comment to the topic of your guest essay on classicism in the US and Trump’s order for federal buildings by pointing out that other countries, in addition to importing various styles, also strived to translate their vernacular architecture into a codified national style for civic architecture, private homes etc. as a form of nation building. The author of the essay takes for granted the architectural legacies of the West, just as civic-minded people take for granted having a language in common with each other, while other countries resurrect dead/dying languages (Gaelic, Hebrew) to purposefully (re)construct a national identity. Traditional architecture is all the more important with this in mind, the goal of nation-building.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. John the First says:

    As long as there is mass democracy, and as long as there is big government (interfering ever more with everything, national and supranational) and the ideology of large scale planning and interfering, all attempts of traditionalists will lead to what is characterless, fake (cheap nostalgia) and somehow out of touch. As both mass democracy, big government and large scale planning are destructive of character and soul. Anti-modernism is really a fight against everything which is in lack of soul and character, increasingly so, which resorting to traditional forms in the area of architecture only cannot cure. In fact, the modernists with their brute uniformism on the one hand, and their ego-projects on the other, they are very much in contact with current culture. They are building the forms which match with modern top-down controlled mass culture.

    I.o.w. you cannot only complain and argue against a modernists buildings which consists of brute straight lines and boring rows of windows when people are flow controlled and lined up by big government. You cannot complain about starchitect’s ego buildings when in a mass democracy everyone tastelessly and destructively seeks his little moment of fame through his own platform. You need to create freedom for the solid building of character, get rid of the envy based equalizing mass mediocracy which is mass democracy (which also produces tasteless attempts of escaping from it), get rid of the controllers of the masses, etc.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Swaytonious says:

      Improving architecture has a net affect on the population. Its sort of a chicken or the egg argument.. I think aspirational architecture helps people aspire to do better.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.