A blue grass original

We tend to be uninterested in adaptive reuse projects that are little more than renovations or restorations. It’s not that they are unworthy because they are extremely important – contemporary adaptive reuse is based on sustainability principles on the one hand and heritage conservation as a basic social building block on the other. It’s just that we believe they should be the norm rather than the exception.

The Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation is typical of the many heritage trusts throughout the world that support the conservation of built heritage and the promotion of adaptive reuse has been one of their main tactics.

Founded in 1955 in Lexington, Kentucky to purchase and restore the 1814 Hunt-Morgan House, they then

helped save many other historic structures, including the Dudley House, Shakertown of Pleasant Hill, the Adam Rankin House, Henry Clay’s Law Office, Belle Breezing’s Row Houses, the Mary Todd Lincoln House, the Stilfield Log House and Benjamin Latrobe’s Pope Villa.

And it’s Pope Villa that interests us here.

It was designed by Benjamin Latrobe, architect of the US Capitol and the man who put the stamp of the Greek Revival on American public buildings of the period.

The Villa is a delighfully domestic variation on Palladio’s rotunda villas.

The Pope Villa is Latrobe’s best surviving domestic design. Its plan is unique in American residential architecture: a perfect square, with a domed, circular rotunda in the center of the second story. Latrobe drew inspiration from 16th century Italian architect Andrea Palladio, but unlike Palladio’s villas, the cubic mass of the Pope Villa conceals within itself a surprising sequence of rectilinear and curvilinear rooms, dramatically splashed with light and shadow. Latrobe called these interior effects “scenery”; they reflect his reliance on the compositional principles of 18th century Picturesque landscape design. Latrobe’s fusion of classical sources and Picturesque theory places the Pope Villa among the most important buildings of Federal America.

That’s its heritage significance. Its significance as adaptive reuse lies in the way the Blue Grass Trust, in the restrained way that it is restoring and interpreting the building is turning it into a full scale teaching aid,

an exposition of early ninetenth century building techniques and a centre for training heritage architects and trades people.

It’s rare to see the basic principles of the ICOMOS Burra Charter,

to “do as much as is necessary and as little as possible” and “leaving original fabric in ‘as found’ condition” apparently being enacted in such a positive way and we look forward to seeing the restored building.

Post a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *