The ICAA Regional Intensive: San Francisco
There is a special alchemy embedded within the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art (ICAA) Intensive experience.
A Beaux-Arts program in microcosm, it is designed to provide students with an immersive exposure to the core curriculum of the ICAA. Over the eight days of the Intensive, attendees experience training in the architectural elements and syntax of classical architecture, the classical moldings and orders, proportion, measured drawing, ink wash rendering, and architectural composition. This comprehensive classroom work is mixed together with field studies of great buildings, where the instructors guide students to a greater understanding of the history, rationale, and philosophy of classical design.
All of these experiences work together strategically to help students discover a new way of seeing design. Students learn the geometric qualities of the moldings, while simultaneously they discover how moldings contribute to the lively articulation of great architecture in the field. They explore the atmospheric shading of ink wash on stretched watercolor paper, and at the same time they see how important the play of shade and shadow is to the visual character of the classical orders. In this manner, the Intensive demonstrates an integrated aesthetic approach that stimulates the head and the heart holistically. For many, it is a life changing experience.
The ICAA held its Regional Intensive in Classical Architecture in San Francisco, from September 15th to the 22nd. 16 students attended, hailing from all around the country and from an eclectic variety of professional backgrounds: architecture, landscape architecture, interior design, art, technology, real estate, and finance.
I was fortunate to have been asked to join the talented group of instructors for the San Francisco Intensive, teaching Measured Drawing and Field Study during the initial two days of the program. The “home base” for the students was the Green Room of the War Memorial Building, a wonderful Beaux-Arts building by Arthur Brown, Jr., part of the Civic Center core which includes the magnificent City Hall across the street, also by Brown.
On Sunday afternoon, I presented to the students an introductory lecture and slide show, “The Art of Analytical and Measured Field Drawing.” The syllabus for this lecture was adapted from material created by Stephen T. Chrisman, ICAA Fellow and Principal at Ferguson & Shamamian in New York. The first portion of the lecture reviews the long history of measured drawing by important architects, from Palladio to the present day. The students gain an understanding of how measured drawing is valuable to the thoughtful practitioner, both as documentation for future reference, and as a strategy for better understanding the nuances of architectural detail through careful, attentive study.
The second part of the presentation outlines a step-by-step method of preparing measured drawings of architectural elements. Students learn a systematized, repeatable procedure for documenting details in the sketchbook, accurately and quickly.
After the lecture, students grabbed their sketchbooks, measuring tapes, and tools, and ventured onto the monumental loggia adjacent to the Green Room. There they completed two basic measured drawing exercises, drawing the base moldings of the giant Doric columns, and the stone railing balusters. I was wonderfully assisted by David Rinehart, who also taught the Classical Orders, and our teaching assistant, Megan Leight. As the students executed their drawings, David, Megan and I circulated among them, offering direction and assistance, and helping them see and understand some of the clever nuances of the architecture.
In the morning the following day, students arrived at 8:00 and completed another measured drawing exercise, this time drawing the beautiful pedestals of the Ionic pilasters of the interior of the Green Room. This was a more elaborate and difficult task, where the students needed to apply all they had learned the day before. Later that morning, David and I led the students on a field study session of the surrounding civic buildings, culminating in a sketching session at the adjacent City Hall, Arthur Brown Jr.'s Beaux-Arts masterwork.
When I took my ICAA Intensive, it was truly a career-shifting experience for me. I feel nothing but gratitude to have had the chance to teach to such an interesting, engaged group of students at the 2019 Regional Intensive. I hope that their experience has helped them achieve a new, enlightening perspective on their lives and on their work.
Thank you to the ICAA Northern California Chapter for their generous support of this program.