Best trad buildings of 2022

Capital Square, in Richmond, with the original Life Insurance Co. of Virginia under construction to  next to city hall to the center left of the Virginia State Capitol, designed by Thomas Jefferson.

It grows ever more difficult and hence ever more depressing to construct these annual roundups of traditional architecture. I feel a bit of guilt arising from the headline “Best trad buildings of 2022,” because so many of them are obviously not “the best.” I think I have reason to complain that so many of the websites of architectural firms omit the date of completion of the buildings in their portfolio sections, as if they are trying to perpetuate some sort of secret – perhaps that the building in question has existed forever, and that the firm which designed it is an old institution so venerable that its founding has been lost in the fog of memory. The Institute of Traditional Architecture, founded in 2014 by Joseph D. Jutras, provides a list of the top 50 traditional firms. I challenge anyone to click on a single one whose portfolio does not omit their projects’ date of completion. (RAMSA is an exception.)

For what buildings I am able to include this year I offer thanks to Michael Diamant, founder of the Traditional Architecture website, who has sent, as he did last year, more than a handful of new traditional buildings and, in some cases, before and afters of the site. His work enables me to sustain hope that, despite my lack of patience and diligence in tracking them down, there is actually a plenitude of traditional buildings going up around the world that I simply am too lazy to locate, especially since I put it off till so late in the year.

So here are the best trad buildings of 2022. Purists among my classical readers will probably be disappointed, or even dismayed, by some of the risks taken by architectural tightrope walkers in designing some of these buildings, but they are all of them, at the very least, decidedly traditional.

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The new offices of the Virginia General Assembly, replacing the old office with two historic 1912 facade preserved. (Virginia Department of General Services)

At the last minute I discovered that in Richmond, a new classical office building has been constructed for the Virginia General Assembly, essentially completed this past fall, although legislators cannot yet move in because supply-chain issues have delayed acquisition of office equipment they need to function as modern legislators. The architects for the building – which was built behind a pair of preserved façades of the old General Assembly Building, which was originally the Life Insurance Company of Virginia, designed by Alfred Bossom (1912) – are Robert A.M. Stern Architects (RAMSA), of New York, and Glavé & Holmes Architecture, of Richmond. (I could find no other new buildings completed this year by RAMSA.)

The new Assembly building is connected by tunnel to the Virginia State Capitol designed in 1788 by Thomas Jefferson, while he was ambassador to France. Together, Washington and Jefferson decided that classicism, embodied in part by the latter’s Virginia capitol, should be the aesthetic template for the new nation. A new parking structure for assembly members and staff, of classical design, is also under construction.

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The Church of Santa María Reina de la Familia, in the new town of Cayala. (Estudio Urbano)

The Church of Santa Maria Reina de la Familia has been completed in the center of the beautiful new city of Cayala, in Guatemala. Designed by Estudio Urbano, it seats over 800 parishioners, and has been filled for masses since it opened in April of this year. Information about its architectural lineage, at least that which may be found online, is all in Spanish and thus unavailable to me. Maria Fernanda Sánchez may have worked on the design of this church with her colleague, Pedro Pablo Godoy. She has sent many photographs of this ecclesiastical masterpiece, which was projected for construction in the city’s original master plan by Léon Krier.

Church of Santa Maria Reina de la Familia, in Cayala, Guatemala. (Estudio Urbano)

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The Orion Amphitheater, in Huntsville, Ala., designed by David M. Schwartz Architects. (DMSA)

The D.C. firm of David M. Schwartz Architects has designed an amphitheater seating 8,000 for Huntsville, Ala., that is already packing them in. The venue replaces Madison Square Mall, a former local hotspot in the 1980s. Huntsville, a center of stratopherical technological development, likes to say that 60 years ago its rockets shot into outer space, and that today it is providing the stage for the city’s future adventures into the musical stratosphere. It opened in May for a music festival, “The First Waltz,” honoring North Alabama’s music scene. Aside from Emylou Harris, the festival features Brittany Howard, John Paul White and Mavis Staples, none of whom are known to me. But the amphitheater, modeled after the Roman Coliseum, has the colonnade of arches and the entablatural fortitude to carry it a long way.

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Garvey Hall, a dining facility at Catholic University, in Washington, D.C.

Catholic University, in Washington, D.C., has built a new dining hall seating almost 500 students in four rooms, seating 238, 131, 91 and 30 students respectively. It is named for John Garvey, president of C.U. from 2010 to 2022, who stepped down in June. The design work, led by Christian Calleri, was performed by Perkins-Eastman Architects in the Collegiate Gothic style, which must be considered rare by the firm, whose work is normally in the modernist vein. Garvey Hall replaces Magner Hall, or House, once a dorm in Centennial Village, a collection of very modest traditional brick dormitories that apparently were built as recently as 1988.

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Michael Diamant sends in a number of new traditional buildings that encourage belief that Europe is finally beginning to understand the superiority of its deep architectural heritage, and is now, more and more, incorporating knowledge of its ways into the design and construction of its future. For example, in London’s Spitalfields district, a slum featuring auto repair emporia was replaced by a mixed-use complex in an Art Deco style, complete with verdant upper stories. The before and after shots (see above) show how completely new construction in a traditional style can change the ambiance of a place.

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But as another set of before and afters from Michael Diamant shows, in the world of classical architecture, progress does not always march in a forwardly direction. Above is a mixed-use project in St. Petersburg that more than fills the space, if not the ambitions, of its predecessor, which must be considered a relatively modest apartment house of the Stalinist era.

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The bus station proposal that was vetoed in favor of the proposal that was actually built.

Finally, here is a delightful bus station in a Polish town outside of Krakow, famous for its salt mines and completed just this year. The before and after is not really that, but rather the built and could’ve been built. I give you joy, as the late Patrick O’Brian’s Captain Aubrey would have raised his glass to toast the decision of the Polish municipal authorities.

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As usual, since it is to be expected that not all who were sent my original request for help locating new traditional buildings received it, they are invited to suggest new buildings that, they feel, belong in this 2022 roundup. Please now help me correct my hopefully numerous oversights!

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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3 Responses to Best trad buildings of 2022

  1. Michael Diamant says:

    I am sorry I could not provide you with better projects. There are but Europe is not as internet savy still as the US. So optimal would be Best trad buildings US 2022 & Europe 2021 so that I could get proper photos that usually emerge with a years delay. And please continue with this tradition!

    Like

  2. westfall2 says:

    David,

    These (and others to follow, I hope) provide encouragement and attest to the importance of your continued work. Happy new year!

    Bill Carroll William Westfall Resident of Richmond, Virginia Professor Emeritus School of Architecture University of Notre Dame

    Like

    • How kind of you to say so, Bill. It is a lonely road, however, and each year it becomes easier and easier to consider abandoning the annual roundup. But because of thoughts such as yours, I go on, and feel I am doing some good, not so much as that of those actually doing the work, but enough to prod me onward. Thank you! Happy new year!

      Like

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