David Watkin considers classicism as an architecture of imitation combined with invention in which the orders are timeless through their relation to the human body and through their ornament derived from plant forms. He weaves a web of resonances linking past architects, Ictinus, Vitruvius, Bramante, Scamozzi, Schinkel, Hansen, Soane, Cockerell, McKim, Mead and White, with current architects, Krier, Porphyrios, Greenberg, Quinlan and Francis Terry, John Simpson, Robert Adam, George Saumarez Smith, and the brilliant classical sculptor, Alexander Stoddart.
The lecture is both historical and contemporary, for Professor Watkin draws on his personal association with many of the present day architects whose work he has defended in public planning enquiries, written about in books and articles, and whose careers he has also tried to promote by seeking new commissions. The story involves a life-long battle against the British establishment which is Modernist in terms of both architecture and, ironically, of conservation.
Emeritus Professor of the History of Architecture at the University of Cambridge, David Watkin has published many books, including A History of Western Architecture (5th ed. 2011), The Classical Country House: From the Archives of Country Life (2010), as well as monographs on Thomas Hope, ‘Athenian’ Stuart, Soane, Cockerell, Quinlan Terry, and John Simpson. His growing interest in antique precedent led to his book, The Roman Forum (Harvard 2009; paperback ed. 2011).
He is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, and Vice-President of the Georgian Group. He has taught at the Prince of Wales’s Institute of Architecture, the School of Architecture, University of Notre Dame, the Bard Graduate Centre, New York, and has been a member of the Driehaus Award jury in Chicago.