Pursuit of Beauty

“Architecture is my delight and putting up and pulling down one of my favorite amusements” said Thomas Jefferson, one of our most brilliant founding fathers. Jefferson believed that architecture was the heart of the American cause. For him, a building was not merely four walls, but a metaphor for American evolution. He believed the architecture of an American building should express the country’s desire to break free from European ties.

The Greenwich Arts Council will host two lectures on April 19th and 26th respectively entitled “The Pursuit of Beauty.” Classical Architect, Kahlil Hamady of Hamady Architects, Charlottesville, Va., will give a two part lecture series exploring the origins of the classical concept of beauty in architecture and its relevance to today’s world. Admission is free. The Pre-lecture reception begins at 7 p.m. and the lecture at 7:30 p.m. For further information, contact [email protected] or log onto www.greenwicharts.org. Coming from Charlottesville, Va. it is impossible for Mr. Hamady not to be influenced in some way by the architectural predilections of Thomas Jefferson as they are impossible to ignore. The University of Virginia, Jefferson’s architectural masterpiece dominates the town and the spirit of Colonial America pervades every building.

Jefferson’s political beliefs resound in both the theory and the design of his University. In both the layout of the buildings on the Lawn and in the jumble of architectural styles, Jefferson continually evokes and confounds the dictates of European architecture and emerges with an architectural mélange of Italian, Greek and French influences. Jefferson borrowed styles from the European traditions and reordered them according to his own tastes, expressing his wish to sever the ties to Europe and develop a uniquely American identity. The assemblages of styles present on the Lawn serve to symbolize Jefferson’s own New World Order, both architecturally and intellectually.

In the 1950’s, prizewinning biologist Dr. Salk came to believe so deeply in architecture’s ability to influence the mind that he teamed up with renowned architect Louis Kahn to build the Salk Institute in La Jolla, Calif., as a scientific facility that would stimulate breakthroughs and encourage creativity. Even today, behavioral scientists are giving these hunches an empirical basis. They are unearthing tantalizing clues about how to design spaces that promote creativity, keep students focused and alert, and lead to relaxation. According to these scientists, a house is more than just a roof over our heads; it infiltrates all of our thought processes.

The upcoming lectures on Classical Architecture and the Pursuit of Beauty at the Greenwich Arts Council are an educational and inspiring way to spend an evening. There is nothing more beautiful than a perfectly designed building… a building that evokes the spirit of the outdoors and brings it indoors, a room where we are sheltered from the elements yet embraced by the sun, a space that goes beyond the confines of four walls and becomes something more…a place where we can be creative. Architecture is the process of turning a necessity, our need for shelter, into an art form.

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