Architecture

Jefferson transformed an elegant country house into an American symbol, a paradigm for the young nation’s architecture.

It is ironic that Mount Vernon, George Washington's Classical estate on the Potomac, has become so widespread a model for American building, for it was not Washington but Thomas Jefferson who self-consciously undertook a search for an architectural expression for the new nation. Read more >>

The great age of Christian faith fulfilled its passion of spirit in the soaring vaults and glowing glass of the Gothic cathedral

How a highly historic eighteenth- c entury Connecticut house learned to live in harmony with a twentieth-century garden that is the only surviving American design of a great British landscape architect

He showed the way to the future and then was stranded there, at odds even with his own aesthetic sensibility

If a single building type can—and should—be identified with twentieth-century American architecture, it is the skyscraper. Read more >>

ROBERT MOSES built small with the same imperial vigor as he built big, and at his behest the art of making scale-model cities reached its peak. The result still survives, and although few New Yorkers know about it, they can see their whole town—right down to their own houses or apartment buildings—perfectly reproduced.

THERE ARE FEW REMINDERS THAT TWO WORLD’S FAIRS were held in New York’s Flushing Meadow. Read more >>

DECEPTIVELY SIMPLE IN NAME AND FORM, an icon of postmodernism comes wrapped in centuries of architectural history

VANNA VENTURI USED TO SIT AT HER DINING ROOM TABLE AND TALK TO visitors about her house in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia. “This facade will tell you a lot of stories, if you will listen to it,” she would say. Read more >>

People visit the Grand Canyon for scenery, not architecture. But an assortment of buildings there, infused with history and the sensibility of one strong woman, are worth a long look.

If you drive West as far as you can along the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, you will come to a bowl-shaped building of logs and boulders nestled into the canyon’s side. Read more >>

The ambassador from an infant republic spent five enchanted years in the French capital at a time when monarchy was giving way to revolution. Walking the city streets today, you can still feel the extravagant spirit of the city and the era he knew.

Paris is every day enlarging and beautifying,” Thomas Jefferson noted with satisfaction during his residence there as minister to France. The city under construction was a delight to Jefferson, the art patron and amateur architect. Read more >>

ONCE THE VERY HEART of downtown St. Louis, Union Station has come through hard times to celebrate its one hundredth birthday—and even though the trains don’t pull in here anymore, it’s still an urban draw

It belonged to Taos’s most influential family until well into the twentieth century, but this unadorned adobe hacienda speaks of the earliest days of Spanish occupation of the Southwest

In 1804 a Pueblo Indian sold his four-room adobe house in the farming community of Taos, New Mexico, to Don Severino Martínez, a Spanish trader. Read more >>

THE 1893 WORLD’S COLUMBIAN EXPOSITION WAS SO WONDERFUL THAT EVERYBODY HOPED IT WAS A PROPHECY OF WHAT THE TWENTIETH CENTURY HELD IN STORE. BUT IN FACT, THE CITY THAT MOUNTED IT WAS.

“The world’s greatest achievement of the departing century was pulled off in Chicago,” said George Ade, one of the city’s first important writers. Read more >>

The generation that fought World War II also won a housing revolution that promised and delivered a home for $7,990

Years later, after the fall of his financial empire, William Levitt remembered with some satisfaction the story of a boy in Levittown, Long Island, who finished his prayers with “and God bless Mommy and Daddy and Mr. Read more >>

The U.S. Capitol stands where it always has, but the columns that originally held it up have become a hauntingly beautiful monument somewhere else

One of the most recent and most impressive monuments in Washington, D.C., is in fact nearly two centuries old. Three miles east of the Capitol, the U.S. Read more >>

A Romanesque mansion in Chicago was built to forbid outsiders while providing a warm welcome to guests within

The Colonial Revival was born in a time of late-nineteenth-century ferment, and from then on the style resurfaced every time Americans needed reassurance

What would you do if you owned a Rembrandt that had been painted over by Picasso? Read more >>

A rare survivor of New England’s earliest days testifies to the strength that forged a nation

At the dawn of this century a new form of residential architecture rose from the American heartland, ruled by the total integration of space, site, and structure

After dinner Frank Lloyd Wright would sometimes raise a wineglass, watch the yellow candlelight refracted through the red liquid and crystal, and, quoting the Chinese philosopher Lao-tze, remark that the reality of the vessel lay in the void within, “the plac Read more >>

In the most self-consuming of cities, an impressive and little-known architectural legacy remains to show us how New Yorkers have lived and prospered since the days when the population stood at around one thousand

Famous for tearing down the old and for being oblivious of its past, New York City would hardly seem to be the kind of place in which to find a distinguished collection of fine old houses. Read more >>

A guide who has been taking it all in for sixty years leads us on a lively, intimate, and idiosyncratic ramble through quiet yards where students once argued about separating from the Crown and to hidden carvings high on the Gothic towers that show scholars sleeping through class and getting drunk on beer

"That building on the left,” said the tour guide, “is William L. Harkness Hall. It was given by Mr. Harkness in 1926 and completed in 1927. It is built of Aquia sandstone with Ohio sandstone trim. Read more >>

In its majesty and in its simplicity, the Greek Revival house seemed to echo America’s belief in the past and hopes for the future

The two great truths in the world are the Bible and Grecian architecture.” This is what Nicholas Biddle believed and what he published in his magazine, Portfolio , in 1814. Read more >>

The shady courtyards, tiled roofs, and white stucco walls of 1920s Palm Beach owed something to the style of the Spanish Renaissance and everything to the vision of Addison Mizner

As the evangelist of the Spanish Colonial Revival in southern Florida, Addison Mizner was an architect of fantasy as well as of houses. Read more >>

When Pierre S. du Pont bought the deteriorated Longwood Gardens in 1906, he thought that owning property was a sign of mental derangement. Still, he worked hard to create a stupendous fantasy garden, a place, he said, “where I can entertain my friends.”

As I walked down a side path at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, on a bright, sunny day in June, two quite distinct sights converged just in front of me. Read more >>

The medieval look that swept America a hundred and fifty years ago wasn’t just a matter of nostalgia for pointed archways and crenellated towers; it was also the very model of a modern architectural style

It wasn’t enough for Woolworth that his monument be grand and useful and beautiful—he wanted it to be profitable too.

Ever since technology began to permit it, men of power have sought immortality in stone. Knowing that their deeds, however important, were ephemeral in the nature of things, they hoped that their tombs and statues and palaces might remind the world of their greatness. Read more >>

An architecture for a new nation found its inspiration in ancient Rome

The pilasters and pediments of an architecture perfectly suited to our eighteenth-century aristocracy flourish in today’s skyline and suburb

The great buildings of the 1920s are standing all over Manhattan, preserving in masonry the swank and swagger of an exuberant era.

New York rebuilt itself in the twenties. The most anarchic, self-regarding, self-proclaiming city of them all achieved its new self by an astounding vertical leap that thrilled, disordered, delighted, and terrified the critics who tried to take its measure. Read more >>

Living in, and with, the universal Midwestern latticework

Likely as not, when René Descartes invented his grid system of coordinates in the seventeenth century, he did not have Carroll, Iowa, in mind. No matter. Read more >>

Every town you pass through has felt the impact of the modern historic-preservation movement. Now a founder of that movement discusses what is real and what is fake in preservation efforts.

Twenty years ago nobody thought much about saving old buildings. The phrase urban renewal had an optimistic, forward-looking sound to it, and entire urban centers were razed with little thought of what might be lost in the process. Read more >>

A biographer who knows it well tours Franklin Roosevelt’s home on the Hudson and finds it was not so much the President’s castle as it was his formidable mother’s.

For better than four years now I have been writing about Franklin Roosevelt’s youth, seeking the sources of the serene selfassurance that served him and his country so well during the two worst crises since the Civil War. Read more >>