One-day course introduces basics of classical architecture

Posted on November 06, 2008 by Staff Writer

Ever tried to point out a building’s architectural elements to a companion and wished you had the right words to describe them? Or maybe you already know a frieze from bas-relief, but there are many other features you don’t know, but would like to.

The Tusculum Institute at Sweet Briar College and the Virginia Department of Historic Resources will present an introductory course on classical architecture, “Architectural Literacy for Everybody: What You’ve Wondered about Classical Architecture but Were Afraid to Ask,” beginning at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 15. It will be held in Tyson Auditorium at the College’s Benedict Hall.

Calder Loth, senior architectural historian for the VDHR, will present the one-day course, which consists of four illustrated lectures.

Loth will discuss the classical language of architecture and show how it has enriched our cultural landscape. He’ll talk about how to visually “read” our surroundings like a book. The course is intended for those who know little about architecture but love buildings and want to learn the meaning of their many details.

The first lecture, “Basic Architectural Literacy,” covers classical architecture’s fundamental vocabulary and grammar and its application to familiar landmarks both in Virginia and beyond. “Greek Accent” will follow with an exploration of the differences between Greek and Roman classicism and the importance of distinguishing between the two.

After a lunch break, the third lecture, “Architectural DNA,” is a well-illustrated examination of the ancient origins and rationale of architectural details that can be seen every day in the Old Dominion. Finally, “Virginia Traditional” offers an analysis of the inspiration for many typical works of Virginia traditional architecture. The discussion highlights both literate and illiterate examples of traditional design.

Registration is free for members of the Sweet Briar community. A box lunch will be provided midday, and a wine and cheese reception at Sweet Briar House will follow the lectures.

To register, contact Bob Carter, director of the Department of Historic Resources community services division, at or call (434) 381-6321. Seating is limited; registration is requested by Nov. 7.

For more information about the Tusculum Institute, please contact Lynn Rainville, founding director, at or (434) 381-6432.