A landmark gate house in Pittsburgh. A masterful Connecticut garden with a delicious pedigree. An early 20th-century planned community in Houston that serves as a paradigm of architectural diversity.
As virtual field trips go, they don’t get better than this. In a recently launched video series by the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art (ICAA), a Who’s Who roster of top design talents share peeks into their own backyards (both literally and figuratively) to offer illuminating perspectives on near-and-dear landmarks and other feats of good traditional design.
The series, entitled In Your Neighborhood, arose in part out of a sense of COVID-era localism—architect and board member Eric Osth came up with the idea, says ICAA president Peter Lyden. “He is deeply invested in understanding the elements that make for beautiful, livable, and memorable towns, cities, and neighborhoods,” notes Lyden, adding that he wanted to bring viewers to those special places all over the country. And because each episode is narrated by a different member of ICAA’s community, visual and contextual takeaways abound on everything from Mizner-esque resort design to Harlem’s steadfast urbanism.
Osth hosts the first episode in his home neighborhood of Point Breeze in Pittsburgh, where he examines commercial patio furniture one of the three gate houses at Frick Park designed by early 20th-century architect John Russell Pope. His commentary is illuminating, emphasizing the structure’s triumphs of scale and style and its elements of kinship with the European romantic architecture of the neighborhood.
In the second episode, Houston architect Russell Windham hosts a walking tour of his historic River Oaks community, even sharing the original 1920’s sales advertisement suggesting English, Norman, French, and other home styles to prospective buyers. Windham notes their emphasis on “a consistency of traditional architecture and particularly a consistency of scale” before offering a striking case study between a newer home in the community and its older neighbors. Shared elements like soaring English-style cornices and kindred proportions of windows to walls help retain continuity of style—a useful lesson in introducing new construction commercial pool furniture into our historic neighborhoods.
Though civic designs and storied communities play an integral role, so too do “ingenious integrations between gardens and homes,” notes Lyden. In a third episode, Connecticut landscape architect Kathryn Herman offers a sweeping tour of her own gardens on the former Pepperidge Farm estate.
Along with detailing how she turned the estate’s groom’s cottage into her permanent residence, Herman offers breathtaking views of pepperidge and weeping cherry trees, along with the commanding Taxus x hicksii ‘muffins’ planted by the original commercial patio umbrellas owners of the property. “One now measures 52 feet in diameter,” says Herman, noting she sees herself as as their steward. “We are so fortunate that someone else cared for them. My hope is that they will be here for whomever the new owner will be.”
All In Your Neighborhood videos can be found here or by subscribing to the ICAA’s Classicism at Home series. Forthcoming tours include: the University of Virginia by Spencer Gervasoni; the work of Addison Mizner in Palm Beach by Anne Fair; San Francisco’s Japanese Tea Garden by Sean Leffers; Harlem Urbanism by Eric McLaughlin; and more.
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