Calder Loth Remembers the Arthur Ross Award-Winning Historian and Educator
By Calder Loth
August 24, 2021
Champions of Classical architecture lost one of its most vigorous advocates and educators with the death of Peter Hodson on July 2, 2021. Born in New York State in 1943 to an English father and American mother, Hodson received undergraduate and graduate degrees in architectural history from the University of Virginia. He undertook postgraduate studies at Cornell University and later King’s College, Cambridge where he was tutored by the esteemed Professor David Watkin. Following Cambridge, Hodson accepted a teaching position at the University of Portsmouth School of Architecture. At that time, Head of School, Geoffrey Broadbent, was pursuing an innovative focus on a broad range of design approaches. This enabled Hodson to instill the teaching of architectural history into Portsmouth’s design curriculum. Moreover, in his role as Senior Lecturer, Hodson was able to add teaching the Classical orders as a specific design resource for contemporary work. His foundation course on the Classical orders was taught to every Portsmouth student for the balance of his tenure. For years, Portsmouth was the only mainstream school of architecture in Britain where the Classical orders were taught as part of the official educational program.
As an adjunct to his work at Portsmouth, Hodson ran an annual design project for post-graduate students at the Royal College of Art in London. Soon after the founding of the Prince of Wales’s Institute of Architecture in 1992, Hodson was invited to teach his foundation course on the orders, which he continued for several years. He also provided invaluable assistance to the Institute during its two United States summer schools. Drawing on his encyclopedic knowledge of Rome, Hodson also led the annual spring break tour of the Eternal City for both Portsmouth and Prince of Wales Institute students.
One of Hodson’s special contributions to the subject of Classical architecture grew out of his consultation with Robert Chitham, author of The Classical Orders, a popular textbook on drawing the orders based on those of James Gibbs. For its second edition, Hodson persuaded Chitham to include drawings and text explaining a special 96-part version of each order, a system advocated by Hodson and his colleagues. This second edition of Chitham’s textbook thus provided practitioners with instructions on dimensioning the orders in either metric or the imperial system.
Hodson’s prowess as an educator was formally recognized in 2007 when he received the Institute of Classical Architecture and Art’s prestigious Arthur Ross Award for Architectural Education, an award rarely given. Following his retirement from Portsmouth after some four decades, Hodson made Richmond, Virginia his permanent residence where he continued teaching his foundation course on Classical architecture through Virginia Commonwealth University. He also served as an instructor and design critic for Glavé & Holmes Architecture, a Richmond firm specializing in Classical design. Senior Principal Randolph Holmes declared Hodson’s impact on the firm’s work to be profound.
Hugh Petter, one of Peter Hodson’s former students and a Director of Adam Architecture of Winchester and London, stated: “Over the course of his academic career, Peter touched the hearts and minds of thousands of architects and students across the UK and the United States.”
Christopher Cotton, another of Hodson’s students and a restoration specialist advising on treatments to such famous landmarks as St. Paul’s Cathedral, Durham Cathedral, and Castle Howard, declared: “For me Peter was a bright mentor, and guide to whom I am forever indebted. He enabled me to appreciate taste and discernment that past, present and future are one without division.”
Memorials may be sent to support educational programming at the Institute of Classical Architecture and Art, 20 W. 44th Street, Suite 310, New York, NY 10036
Please note that contributions are being made in memory of Peter Hodson.
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