Abstract: From the Parthenon to Wall Street: Greece, Rome, and the Classically Inspired Architecture of the USA

Classical architecture was a major influence on the urban genesis of New York City, Washington DC and other American cities. This talk considers several ancient building types, such as Greek temples and Roman baths, and looks at how American patrons and architects used these central forms of Greek and Roman architecture in the construction of major public buildings in New York City and other American cities. Major nineteenth- and twentieth-century buildings, such as Grand Central Station, the old Penn Station, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the New York Stock Exchange, all borrow heavily from the repertoire of classical architecture.

These buildings deployed Greek and Roman architectural forms not only because of their beauty and grandeur, but also because of their cultural resonance and the flexibility of space that such building types afforded the architect. Bath buildings are an excellent example of how to create vast interior spaces and how to move large numbers of people in and out of these spaces effectively; the architects of train stations faced the same problems, as did those constructing museums and other public venues. By surveying the monuments mentioned above, as well as buildings in other Americans cities, such as Washington DC, San Francisco, and St. Louis, it is clear that classical architecture and culture played an important part in shaping the urban form and architectural history of the United States.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:

JORDY, W. H., American Buildings and Their Architects: Progressive and Academic Ideals at the Turn of the Twentieth Century  (1972)

PIERSON, W. H., American Buildings and Their Architects: The Colonial and Neoclassical Styles  (1976)

VANCE, W. L., America's Rome , 2 vols. (1989)

VANCE, W. L., "The Colosseum: American Uses of an Imperial Image," in Roman Images: Selected Papers from the English Institute, 1982 , ed. A. Patterson (1984): 105-140



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