Colonial Classics: The Redwood Library & American Architecture in the 18th Century

Wed, 06/07/2017 - 12:08pm -- lwhite

Devoted to the art, architecture and material culture of Colonial America, the annual Redwood History Seminar will take place on SaturdayJune 102017. This year, top experts on colonial architecture will present on a wide range of topics: from the Redwood Library as ‘Temple of the American Enlightenment,’ to the anxiety of influence in Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, from Giambattista Piranesi’s heroic vision of ancient Rome as an inspiration for American architecture to the contingent influences of British public architecture on the built environment of colonial American cities.


Caroline Culp

PhD Candidate, Stanford University

Peter Harrison & the Redwood Library

Peter Harrison (1716-1775), the first professionally-trained architect to work in the American colonies, designed the Redwood Library in the style of a Palladian temple. Completed in 1750, the building was set atop a raised base in a lawn of absorbed quiet—viewed from afar as its own American Acropolis rising above the noise of Newport’s busy harbor. But from up close, its curious façade was revealed to be made of wood—pine planks carved with linear beveling and concealed with ochre paint. Harrison’s trompe l’oeil illusion presents us with an unexplored history of the aesthetics of stone, the politics of deception, and the wit of invention in the creation of an American architectural tradition.


Fabio Barry, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Stanford University

Jefferson’s Trans-Plantation at Monticello: Antiquity and Anxiety

Mario Bevilacqua, Ph.D.  

Professor, University of Florence

Piranesi in Eighteenth-Century America: Ancient Models for the New Nation

Throughout the last decades of the 18th century, American gentlemen, artists and architects shaped their idea of classical architecture on Palladio and its English editions, though Piranesi's vision was much more widespread and influential than modern historiography has so far admitted. Piranesi's work was of little use as far as domestic architecture was concerned; but when it came to a wider, political approach to architecture and urban planning, Piranesi's grand vision of ancient Roman monuments, public works and topography worked as a powerful tool in shaping the cultural world of the new nation.


Carl R. Lounsbury, Ph.D.

Adjunct Associate Professor, College of William and Mary

Metropolitan Prototypes and Provincial Filters: Public Building in Eighteenth-Century British America

Memory shaped the conceptual models of America’s early public buildings and the ceremonies associated with them. English town halls, market houses, and shire halls served as the civic design kit for public building in the colonies in the eighteenth century. Yet, strong provincial filters altered and sometimes rejected elements of that inheritance as local conditions reshaped the forms of English building types. American colonial society developed in ways that diverged distinctly from one region to another and from the mother country, which had different impacts on public building practices throughout the colonies. Some places, especially seaports and large cities such as Charleston and Newport felt drawn to metropolitan ideas and tastes. In other localities, leaders with more provincial perspectives were sometimes reluctant to accept fashion so readily, especially if those places had developed distinctive forms that were perceived as suitable to their needs and aspirations. This paper explores how a shared metropolitan inheritance was affected by local circumstances in the design and function of America’s court buildings and state houses.

Tickets $60 per person, to make reservations for the History Seminar please click here or call 401.847.0292, ext.117. Lectures commence at 1:30 pm.

Program Type: 
Saturday, June 10, 2017 - 1:30pm to 5:30pm