Year of Palladio

The American Renaissance

While many studies of ancient buildings have been undertaken since Palladio, his drawings and commentary were a primary motivation for the renewal of the classical tradition. They provided the ultimate source if not inspiration for many of Americaís great classical works, particularly during the American Renaissance, the decades from the 1880s into the 1930s, which witnessed the flowering of one of the greatest periods of classical architecture. Weíve already noted how Jefferson began the tradition of dressing our public and institutional architecture in classical garb. This practice was fully exploited by the disciples of the American Renaissance. Go into any American city and you will find monumental classical edifices dating from this period. Typical of some of the more ambitious expressions is the Mecklenburg County Courthouse in Charlotte, North Carolina (Figure 63). Such a public building probably would have looked very different had Palladio never existed. We have civic works, memorial buildings, educational buildings, museums, churches, railroad stations, and commercial buildings, all of which in some form or other echo the splendor of imperial Rome as first revealed by Palladio. These structures are enduring monuments to civic pride and reflect American artistry at its noblest. They maintain a tradition that has come to define some of the highest aspirations of Western Civilization. America has not been alone in this effort, of course. Numerous other countries have outstanding examples of classical architecture from the last two centuries, but Americaís best efforts are conspicuous for transcending regionalism and being remarkably pure reflections of Palladian ideals. A list of great American classical works would occupy more pages than space here permits. The number is astounding. Nevertheless, itís necessary to illustrate the richness of this legacy with number of examples both iconic and typical.

Figure 63
Figure 63

The Four Books: Book Four | The American Renaissance | Public Buildings

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