Historian Barry Lewis Explains the Importance of Jefferson Market Courthouse

by Paddy Johnson on May 13, 2013 · 0 comments Sponsor

The Avant/Garde Dairies should interview more historians. Barry Lewis, an architectural historian, who speaks like he’s been lecturing at institutions across the country all his life, is the subject of their latest segment and he’s absolutely captivating.

Here, he discusses the Jefferson Market Courthouse, a library made of red brick that’s located in Greenwich Village. “What could be avant garde about that?” Lewis asks rhetorically before explaining the long forgotten taboos of the 19th century. At the time exposing the structural materials such as brick was simply not done; architects were expected to place such materials behind beautified walls.

As such, The Jefferson Market Courthouse, could not have been more shocking. “It simply and straightforwardly says, hey, I’m a red brick building, and I’m not ashamed of that.” says Lewis. We’re then told that this building, as innocuous as it seems now, laid down one of today’s basic design principles: “Treat your materials with respect.”

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