Architecture Series Rising Six


There are no car chases or gunplay, of course, in illustrated presentations on design; nonetheless, the Centerbrook Architects Lecture Series has been filling the seats now for five years. The cast has included a Nobel Laureate, an acclaimed landscape designer who thinks – no, he knows – that flowers and lawns are overrated, and a pioneering woman architect whose work appeared prominently each week on Hawaii Five-O (the original).

These sociable conclaves are not about fixing screens or creaky stairs, but rather Architecture with a capital A: major trends, design history and innovation, iconic buildings, glorious places.

Rafael Pelli talked about making skyscrapers sustainable; another architect (and author) Duo Dickinson discussed repositioning one’s humble abode for the Golden Years. Our partner emeritus, Bill Grover, mulled over color, period. A professor addressed the creative process itself: how new ideas and approaches are born and nurtured. Fear not, there were ruminations on Palladio and Gaudi, cities and parks, monuments and follies. Who knew architecture could be so much fun.

The series, which begins its sixth season this fall, is a collaboration between Centerbrook and the Essex Library and was cooked up by my wife Ann Thompson, a librarian, and myself with the support of my three partners. It quickly outgrew the library, attracting as many as 200 people. This year it is being held at the Essex Library, 33 West Avenue. It is one of the most popular of the many engaging programs that the library offers.

The success of the series indicates, I think, that there is more interest in architecture than one might assume. Nobody needs a whit of formal training to know what they like, what buildings and spaces speak to them, whether in overt or subtle ways. We all have places where we feel comfortable, where we like to work or play or just sit, places that somehow manage to take our sensibilities into account.

The reason that people are interested in architecture, I believe, is because it is an important, if often overlooked part of our lives. Studies confirm what we know intuitively: good design makes people healthier, happier, and more productive. Something as simple as natural light widely diffused inside a building can raise spirits and even academic achievement.

Architecture in this new century is also more important than ever for a very practical reason: our buildings produce more greenhouse gas emissions than do all of our cars, trucks and buses. We have to design structures that are at once appealing, efficient, and responsible. The goal is to eventually have all of our buildings “carbon neutral,” i.e. designed to be so efficient they can operate on renewable energy alone.

That said, architecture still can be fun. To see what is in store for our sixth season, please visit our events page.

I hope to see you there.

Jim Childress
Jim Childress, FAIA, received his Bachelor of Fine Arts and Bachelor of Architecture from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1977 and 1978 respectively. Selected as one of the decade’s “40 National Architects under 40” by the Architectural League of New York, he has taught at the Rhode Island School of Design and at Eidgenossiche–Techniche Hochschule in Switzerland. He is one of four partners at Centerbrook Architects and Planners in Centerbrook, Connecticut.
Jim Childress

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