Pentreath, Driehaus laureate

A house designed by Ben Pentreath in Moscow. (Ben Pentreath Ltd.)

I believe I first heard of architect Ben Pentreath from a video called “Three Classicists” in which he, along with George Saumarez Smith, and Francis Terry drew, in 2010, a classical scene on the walls of the Kowalski Gallery, in London. It was videotaped in stop action, or time-lapse, shrinking the time of drawing to about three minutes. They first remove some bad art from the gallery wall, and when finished drawing they chat together while someone paints over their drawing. The architects are accompanied by a cellist.

Well, Ben Pentreath has just been awarded the Richard H. Driehaus Prize for 2023. The jury citation reads: “As a luminary within a rising generation of architects, his work encompasses what the prize celebrates most: beauty, durability and commitment to place.”

All three architects in the “Three Classicists” video are among the young architects associated with classicist Quinlan Terry (Francis Terry is his son), who are now among the leading classical architects in Britain. Pentreath, no doubt along with his two fellows, has had commissions at Poundbury, the new classical town founded by Prince Charles (now King Charles III).

The Pentreath citation continues:

The designs unerringly establish a sense of place, whether new or in the transformation of the existing. The durable construction, arrangement of interior spaces to take advantage of natural lighting and ventilation and placement and siting in mixed-use, walkable cities and towns and villages offer alternatives to the current notions of green architecture which typically rely solely on technological solutions.

Not to mention that the green architecture is almost uniformly ugly.

Pentreath is to be congratulated for his prize (which brings $200,000, as compared with a $100,000 award for the notorious Pritzker Prize). Also to be congratulated is this year’s winner of the Henry Hope Reed Award ($50,000), which was bestowed by the Notre Dame jury on Adele Chatfield-Taylor, who directed the American Academy in Rome for 25 years. She has been steadfast in her stewardship of preservation and the classical revival. I wrote a paean to her work and her beauty before she spoke at the Providence Preservation Society in 2016. My devilish post is here.

Also to be congratuated and, in addition, blessed are the School of Architecture at the University of Notre Dame, which has continued to bestow the Driehaus Prize in the wake of the death, in 2021, of the late Mr. Driehaus. Whether the Driehaus Foundation is behind this continuation, or the School of Architecture has taken up its financial as well as its administrative burden, I have no idea. Bless them both. Bless them all.

My 2015 post on the “Three Classicists,” mentioned also a website founded by Charleston, S.C., classicists Jenny Bevan and Christopher Liberatos. I signed up for their “Vision for Civic Conservation.” It is still there and you can still sign up, but whether there has been action on the site I am not sure. It’s worth checking out, at least for the engaging videos in its collection. Visit the site in celebration of Ben Pentreath and Adele Chatfield-Taylor.

The American Academy in Rome, designed by McKim, Mead & White.

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.
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6 Responses to Pentreath, Driehaus laureate

  1. John the First says:

    Awesome drawing in the video, I found myself in some pretty illusion of rich ornamental abundance suitable to symbolize the splendour of some powerful institution.
    I dare say that the future of architectural forms will be characterized by lightness and elegance, thus heavy ornamentation will be avoided.


    • If by “li;ghtness and elegance” you mean modern architecture, John, you are probably correct, though in that case we will probably find that lightness + elegance = ugliness. Alas, sad but true. However, with a major contribution ftom Notre Dame and the Driehaus legacy, that future might be briefer than without those entities, and we may someday see our environment take on the elements of beauty that have been largely suppressed for about a century thus far.


  2. LazyReader says:

    Mansion. Big woop

    a flagrant human rights abuser whose corruption and nepotism has been likened to that of a feudal state. Russia ran by 50 oligarchs whose net worth is over 100 billion pilfered from its subjects.
    Don’t sound impressed when Russia builds glaring palaces….


    • Christopher Bleyer says:

      Michelangelo created masterpieces commissioned by some pretty shady characters. Fortunately the shady characters eventually die yet the great works live on. Unfortunately equally shady characters replace those dead shady characters. It is unfortunate that the general public won’t stop supporting shady characters.


      • Point well made, Chris. Lazy understandably dislikes my decision to place an illustration of one of Ben Pentreath’s many mansion on top of this post. It was chosen to create a sort of oneness among readers who experienced the recent cold spell. Yes, Pentreath takes many commissions to build mansions, and the classical revival does not need to emphasize those mansions. It requires examples of more ambitious civic and commercial structures being built by traditional architects. Nevertheless, Pentreath builds mostly mansions, and for that, presumably, and for his connection with Quinlan Terry and other trads, he won the Driehaus Prize. One may celebrate him for that without necessarily applauding the near exclusivity of his firm’s devotion to mansions.


      • John the First says:

        If it is up to the ‘general public’ to support masterpieces, it will be the end of them. They will support them a few centuries later, when it is already too late.


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