Coburn D. Everdell AIA
Chapter President and Director for Education

For more information on the ICAA Northern California Chapter or to become an Annual or Event Sponsor please contact us at or call (415) 445-6700

Roger Scruton writes “When we take beauty seriously function ceases to be an independent variable, and becomes absorbed into the aesthetic goal. This is another way of emphasizing the impossibility of approaching beauty from a purely instrumental viewpoint.” The form vs. function argument is no longer helpful. We are now way beyond that.

Kant wrote that the beautiful is that which “pleases immediately and without concepts.” But he wrote before Modernism supplanted beauty with irony and cuteness. Aquinas wrote, “Beauty is not a statement of preference. It demands an act of attention. We must identify the aspect of the thing that demands our attention.”

We study Classicism to learn a language of aesthetics, which enables us to discuss the beautiful rationally without falling back on the homily “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” It is not. Furthermore, if our society now seeks to be just the creators, and no longer the manufacturers of the new ideas, we must be able to talk about beauty among ourselves in clear terms.

Modernism is today obsessed with newness and shock, which unfortunately seem to generate mostly sensational retail opportunities. Modernism and Capitalism are joined at the hip, filling every four-color photo in every glossy shelter magazine with new things you must have.

Classicism takes a longer view. The view of Yosemite Valley and the foyer of City Hall call forth a sensation of timelessness. This uplifting of the soul is what engaged the Classicists, as they sought to understand the sublime - the mysteries of creation in man and nature.

In our Proportion Course, we learn from Plato that Beauty is a longing for something lost – Unity - lost when mind, body and spirit became disconnected. Classicism is a way back to Unity through finding unity in nature. A classical portico and a paneled room represent the larger cosmos in a diagram of nature. For example: there are a bottom, middle and top (like a mountain); a base, shaft and capital (like a tree); elements grouped and repeated in twos, threes or fives (like leaves and petals), changes of planes softened by moldings (like natural weathering), sky-like ceilings (set with candlelight), and ground-like floors (made of tile and stone). All bathed in the sun’s light streaming through eye-like windows.

We celebrate the classic pleasures of human interaction using entry, passage and destination, and gathering. A Classical room is a diagram; a clear assembly of chairs and tables facing toward, never away, from the fire.  The table is a vestige of an altar, the hearth vestigial of an altarpiece, the chairs vestigial of pews. Two chairs, a sofa and a table focus on the hearth. We feel this fundamental appropriateness because of its sanctity. This is where family, children and friends gather in the presence of fire and food. It recalls the tent, with its central campfire and surrounding logs. This space is where the legends of the tribe were and are still told. Classicism partakes and preserves this ritual mystery in balanced form, so profound as to be in the end, something… beautiful.

Or, another simpler way I can say it is: “Where would you hang the stockings or place the menorah if the modernist architect has decided to eliminate the mantle over the hearth?”

Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah to all Classicists.  It’s a great time of year to think about classical design and ritual.

In Firmness, Commodity, and Delight,

SUMMER STUDIO ~ NEW YORK CITY ~ Coming June 19th through July 15th, 2017. For university students and recent graduates pursuing careers in architecture and affiliated design professions, scholarships and housing assistance available to ensure access to the program for all students.  more...

Fulfilling our mission of advancing the contemporary practice of the classical tradition in architecture, urbanism and the allied arts, the Northern California Chapter offers educational scholarships for study in the Elements of Classical Architecture programs through the ICAA National Institute. Scholarships are open to all students and emerging architects, interior designers, or artisans living/working in Northern California. For information, contact Chapter Director, Nancy O’Connor at

Like many of us I suspect, I am obsessed with what is beautiful, but I don’t know why something is beautiful. And for that matter, what is beauty anyway?

The Fall Arts & Antiques Show showed a cross section of the world of art and design, from Picasso drawings to antique paneling, from garden furniture to deGournay papers, from armor to armchairs. And still, I could not define what is beautiful and what is not. Fortunately, the Ancients thought of little else, as they scrutinized nature, mathematics, art and science – eventually concluding “Man (woman) is the measure of all things.” This is one reason we study Classicism.

WINTER INTENSIVE ~ NEW YORK CITY ~ SOLD OUT! January 7th to January 14, 2017. This eight day program fully immerses participants in a fast-paced studio environment as they complete coursework in the foundational skills and principles of classical design. Classroom hours are balanced between studio work, lectures, guided tours and site visits. The program satisfies the core course requirements for the ICAA’s Certificate in Classical Architecture. (more...)

Our 9th annual Designer Saturday luncheon at the Fall Arts & Antiques Show was a great success! Always a sell-out, this year we honored the illustrious Alexa Hampton, renowned New York interior designer, president of Mark Hampton LLC, and esteemed member of the Institute’s National Board of Directors. The luncheon was followed by her illustrated lecture “Decorating in Detail, " and special book signing.

The Northern California Chapter of the ICAA provides this and upcoming newsletters to help
you keep a pulse on what's happening and to let you know about upcoming dates and events.

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 As we continue to plan our 2017 calendar, please check our website for other newly announced tours, education classes and lectures, book signings and other first-class programming and events.


Members enjoyed bbq and craft beer at our inaugural Artisan Fair celebrating the 2016 Julia Morgan Award winners
for Craftsmanship & Artisanship. See their extraordinary work here...

Photos: Ellian Raffoul for © Agency Moanalani Jeffrey


The Rieger Graham Prize is a three-month Classical Design Fellowship at the American Academy in Rome, the premier American overseas center for independent study and research in the fine arts and humanities.  The prize is open to United States citizens with a Bachelor of Architecture degree, Master of Architecture degree, or Master of Fine Arts degree prior to the start of the fellowship. Applications for the next Rieger Graham Prize will be accepted in late 2017. (more...)


Thank you Vanguard Properties for sponsoring this issue of the Northern California Chapter Newsletter

2016 STANFORD WHITE AWARD WINNERS ~ Named in honor of Architect Stanford White (1853-1906), of the distinguished New York firm McKim, Mead & White, the Stanford White Award recognizes achievement in architecture, interiors, landscape, urbanism, and building craftsmanship & artisanship throughout New York, New Jersey, and Fairfield County, Connecticut. (more...)

Chapter President and Education Chair, Coby Everdell, introduced students to a deeper understanding of classicism and one of its greatest virtues: the ability to modify designs and accommodate changes. Classical Buildings: Bending the Rules!   (more...)

"In the Language of Vision: Photography, the Classic and the Classical," first in a new series, Focus on the ARTS, . Read more...

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Students and enthusiasts joined architectural illustrator Michael Reardon for a unique, one day studio in watercolor rendering techniques, a workshop covering the fundamentals of watercolor painting  Read more...