ORDERS FROM FRANCE by Roger G. Kennedy


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Kennedy, director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History and author of Architecture, Men, Women, and Money in America (1986), analyzes the myriad connections between France and America in the several decades after those countries' revolutions. Kennedy terms these years America's "neoclassical age," and he benefits greatly here from the journals of one of that age's early architects and engineers, Benjamin Henry Latrobe. Kennedy's main focus is on the architecture of the period (the "orders" of the title refer to the types of columns employed in classical architecture) and its relationship to commerce. He states that "architecture in any country, and at any time, is the joint product of a designer with a skill in engineering and a client with a skill in money-making or money-keeping." As a result of the great triangular traffic in commerce, goods, fashions, and ideas between France, the West Indies, and the US in the late 18th century, French influence began to creep into building patterns and gardens "from the St. Lawrence to Blowing Rock, North Carolina." Kennedy--and through him, Latrobe--takes us on a grand tour of some of these grand houses (such as Mount Pleasant in Philadelphia) and builders (such as Pierre Bauduy), not failing to neglect the roles of multinational traders, manufacturers, and bankers. By exploring deeply the architecture of this narrow period and its connecting strands with other segments of society, Kennedy evokes a strong bond of intimacy between the reader and that age, an intimacy enhanced by over 150 photographs of architectural examples (many seen).

Pub Date: May 30th, 1989
ISBN: 0-394-55592-9
Publisher: Knopf
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