Thursday, October 09, 2014
Inspired by Tradition: The Architecture of Norman Davenport Askins
It's not often that I can say I have a history with the subject of a high-profile book, but such is the case with the soon-to-be-released Inspired by Tradition: The Architecture of Norman Davenport Askins. You see, back in the late 1980s, Norman, the influential Atlanta architect and classicist, was hired by my parents to renovate our 1920s-era house. They greatly admired Norman's work, and they trusted Norman to do a sensitive renovation, one which would respect the integrity- and the age- of our house. Of course, back at that time, I was all of sixteen years old, so I don't remember a lot about the renovation process- except the fact that the young male architects who worked for Norman were really cute.
Years later, and my parents and I still think that Norman is one of Atlanta's best architects, one who is deserving of his new monograph. Having lived in the South all of his life, Norman is steeped in the history of old houses and traditional architecture. Capable of working in a number of styles, Norman's body of work includes houses executed in the Federal style, for example, as well as those influenced by rural Italian architecture. But as diverse as Norman's work can be, what ties all of his houses together is the fact that they are rooted in tradition.
I think it's this diversity of classical styles that makes both Norman's work and his book so interesting. Written with Susan Sully, who also served as the book's photographer, Inspired by Tradition takes the reader on a tour of Norman's work in cities, in the mountains, and at the beach. While it's the exterior photos of each house that lull me into daydreams, it is the interior shots that make me sit up and take notice. Norman has an incredible eye for detail, and I think that really comes through in the houses' interiors. (These details are also highlighted beautifully in Susan Sully's photographs.)
If tradition, gracious homes, and classical architecture inspire you, then I suggest reading Norman's book. Now that I have done so, I am fantasizing about hiring Norman to update my condo. I'll let you know if that fantasy ever becomes a reality.
All photos from Inspired by Tradition: The Architecture of Norman Davenport Askins by Norman Davenport Askins and Susan Sully, © The Monacelli Press, 2014.