Heeding the Legacy of Stanford White

General / People / Places / December 19, 2014

When Ike Kligerman Barkley Architects won the Stanford White Award from the Institute for Classical Architecture and Art a couple of weeks back, Tom Kligerman took time to reflect on the man for whom the prize is named.

And his partner who led the team that won it.

It’s seems no coincidence that their Black and White House project, with Joel Barkley at the helm, takes some of its cues from McKim Mead and White’s playbook. Better yet, Barkley’s known as the artist of the firm – not unlike Stanford White, whom Charles McKim said could “draw like a house afire.”

That’s an irony that couldn’t be lost on Kligerman, who’s been studying White’s work since he was in high school.

“He was creative energy personified, and that exuberance comes through in the work he did,” Kligerman says of White.

At the exquisitely designed but now-demolished New York Herald Building, on the site of what’s now Herald Square, White merged an Italian Renaissance form with modern functions. It shone like a beacon – by means of the bronze owls atop its roofline, their eyes aglow at night.

While they gazed out, passersby could peer in. “The presses were at the lower level so you could see them printing out the newspaper,” he says. “It’s a modern factory, masquerading as a palazzo.”

White probably designed more than 50 buildings in his 30-year career, each of them inventive, beautiful, extravagant, and rich in materials and details.

“He would do juxtapositions like straw on the walls, or embed plates or delft tiles there,” he says. “He thought more like a painter than an architect.”

With McKim, he designed some of the grand houses in Newport, R.I., many in the shingle style that the firm adopted as its own in the late 19th century. It’s not only popular still today, but an award-winner too.

Just ask Ike Klimerman Barkley about that.

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Michael Welton
I write about architecture, art, and design for national and international publications. I am the author of "Drawing from Practice: Architects and the Meaning of Freehand" (Routledge, 2015), and the former architecture critic for the News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C.

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