Enclaves of America: The Rhetoric of American Political Architecture Abroad, 1900-1965 Ron Robin

Jane C. Loeffler
1994 Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians (JSAH)  
BOOK REVIEWS 109 BOOK REVIEWS 109 must change if we are to contribute to the ongoing interdisciplinary dialogue. Architectural historians have a great deal to add, not only in the form of specific historical information but also in methodological rigor, to this discussion. Unlike most architects, critics, and theorists, many architectural historians have been singularly resistant to the blandishments of literary and cultural studies, and most ignore or reject the criticism published by the
more » ... blished by the journals of the schools of architecture and by Assemblage. There will thus be many readers who choose not to proceed beyond the introductions to these volumes, if they get that far. This would be a great shame. Both volumes contain insights and approaches that architectural historians can benefit from, perhaps less in the form of specific historical or critical readings than as examples of the creative new questions and rich interdisciplinary resources that are currently available. ALICE T. FRIEDMAN Wellesley College RON ROBIN, Enclaves of America: The Rhetoric of American Political Architecture Abroad, 1900-1965, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992, xiii + 208 pp., 43 illus. $24.95. ISBN 0-691-04805-3. Enclaves of America: The Rhetoric of American Political Architecture Abroad, 1900-1965 explores the symbolism of American battle monuments and embassies. These two American building programs tell fascinating and important stories, and it is good that Ron Robin has called them to our attention in the first book devoted to this subject. In alternating chapters, Robin sketches the history of the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC), established in 1923 to oversee the design and construction of European monuments commemorating the wartime efforts of American soldiers; and the Foreign Service Buildings Commission (FSBC) and its successor, the Office of Foreign Buildings Operations (FBO) at the Department of State. The FSBC, created by an act of Congress in 1926, launched the first major American diplomatic building program. Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon, a member of the first commission, directed the Office of the Supervising Architect to provide overall design services to the FSBC, but its enacting legislation, like that of the ABMC, permitted the hiring of private architects. Architects who completed projects for the ABMC include such notable practitioners as Paul P. Cret (Chateau-Thierry), Egerton Swartwout (St. Mihiel), and John Russell Pope (Montfaucon). Those who worked with the FSBC included Delano & Aldrich (Paris), Cass Gilbert (Ottawa), and Harrie T. Lindeberg (Helsinki), while FBO later employed, among others, Harrison & Abramovitz (Rio de Janeiro and Havana), Edward Durell Stone (New Delhi), Walter Gropius (Athens), Harry Weese (Accra), and Marcel Breuer (The Hague). In his review of the early embassies, Robin states that the "Office of Foreign Buildings Operations (FBO) built about thirty buildings in the 1920s and the early 1930s" (4). Many buildings were indeed built during that period, but by the FSBC, not FBO, which did not exist at that time. In 1939, President Roosevelt's reorganization plan transferred the FSBC and its functions to the State Department, where it continued to exist in an advisory capacity. The Department created FBO in 1944. must change if we are to contribute to the ongoing interdisciplinary dialogue. Architectural historians have a great deal to add, not only in the form of specific historical information but also in methodological rigor, to this discussion. Unlike most architects, critics, and theorists, many architectural historians have been singularly resistant to the blandishments of literary and cultural studies, and most ignore or reject the criticism published by the journals of the schools of architecture and by Assemblage. There will thus be many readers who choose not to proceed beyond the introductions to these volumes, if they get that far. This would be a great shame. Both volumes contain insights and approaches that architectural historians can benefit from, perhaps less in the form of specific historical or critical readings than as examples of the creative new questions and rich interdisciplinary resources that are currently available. ALICE T. FRIEDMAN Wellesley College RON ROBIN, Enclaves of America: The Rhetoric of American Political Architecture Abroad, 1900-1965, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992, xiii + 208 pp., 43 illus. $24.95. ISBN 0-691-04805-3. Enclaves of America: The Rhetoric of American Political Architecture Abroad, 1900-1965 explores the symbolism of American battle monuments and embassies. These two American building programs tell fascinating and important stories, and it is good that Ron Robin has called them to our attention in the first book devoted to this subject. In alternating chapters, Robin sketches the history of the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC), established in 1923 to oversee the design and construction of European monuments commemorating the wartime efforts of American soldiers; and the Foreign Service Buildings Commission (FSBC) and its successor, the Office of Foreign Buildings Operations (FBO) at the Department of State. The FSBC, created by an act of Congress in 1926, launched the first major American diplomatic building program. Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon, a member of the first commission, directed the Office of the Supervising Architect to provide overall design services to the FSBC, but its enacting legislation, like that of the ABMC, permitted the hiring of private architects. Architects who completed projects for the ABMC include such notable practitioners as Paul P. Cret (Chateau-Thierry), Egerton Swartwout (St. Mihiel), and John Russell Pope (Montfaucon). Those who worked with the FSBC included Delano & Aldrich (Paris), Cass Gilbert (Ottawa), and Harrie T. Lindeberg (Helsinki), while FBO later employed, among others, Harrison & Abramovitz (Rio de Janeiro and Havana), Edward Durell Stone (New Delhi), Walter Gropius (Athens), Harry Weese (Accra), and Marcel Breuer (The Hague). In his review of the early embassies, Robin states that the "Office of Foreign Buildings Operations (FBO) built about thirty buildings in the 1920s and the early 1930s" (4). Many buildings were indeed built during that period, but by the FSBC, not FBO, which did not exist at that time. In 1939, President Roosevelt's reorganization plan transferred the FSBC and its functions to the State Department, where it continued to exist in an advisory capacity. The Department created FBO in 1944. , editor, L'emploi des ordres dans I'architecture de la Renaissance (Actes du colloque tenu a Tours, 1986), Paris: Picard, 1992, 376 pp., 389 illus. FF 420 (paper). ISBN 2-7084-0422-9. CLAUDE PERRAULT, Ordonnance for the Five Kinds of Columns after the Method ofthe Ancients, edited, with an introduction by Alberto Perez-G6mez, translated by Indra Kagin McEwen, Santa Monica, California: The Getty Center, 1993, 193 pp., illus. $34.95 (cloth), ISBN 0-89236-232-4; $19.95 (paper), ISBN 0-89236-233-2. [Palladian] was a style based on that of Imperial Rome and adapted to the changed habits of Renaissance noblemen. It was a style based on exact measurement and proportion; the relation of height to thickness in a column, the degree of its taper, the relation of capital to architrave, the particular ranges of ornament that were grouped together by convention. The whole thing was worked out, and the system was learnt by everyone who had any pretension to artistic interests.... By studying "the Orders" you can produce Chippendale Chinese; by studying Chippendale Chinese you will produce nothing but magazine covers. (Evelyn Waugh, "A Call to the Orders," in The Essays, Articles and Reviews of Evelyn Waugh, ed. Donat Gallagher [Boston, 1984], 218.) John Summerson eloquently described the orders as the essential components, the "Latin," of architecture, while recognizing that "columns of five standard varieties, applied in standard ways" are continually used in a flexible manner (The Classical Language ofArchitecture [Cambridge, Mass., 1986], 7). Invented by the Greeks in the sixth-century B.C. and ubiquitous from the Renaissance to modern times, the orders have been the subject of remarkably few studies. The volume under review is the offspring of an earlier symposium in 1981 (reviewed in theJSAH, June 1990, 207-10), dedicated to the treatises of the Renaissance, which dealt with the orders, their components, and their roots in ancient monuments. As well, L'emploi des ordres may be born of postmodernism and the proliferation of recently republished architectural treatises, as suggested by Jean Guillaume's prologue, "A return to the orders." In some ways, the theme of this colloquium, held in Tours in 1986, is attuned to the classical revivals of the 1980s-a decade at odds with an earlier century holding forth the promise of technology to spur a new architecture, a time when Viollet-le-Duc could condemn the orders as change inherent in American democracy might explain its inability to produce an enduring architectural message, but he goes on to lament that this is further evidence of why its political architecture "was doomed to failure" (175). There is no way to please such a critic. This effort does constitute a beginning. As more historians examine the subject from the viewpoint of diplomatic history and from the viewpoint of architectural history, the historical record will gradually expand. As it does, and as it is more precisely defined and documented, they will be better able to assess and interpret the cultural dimension, its patterns, and themes. , editor, L'emploi des ordres dans I'architecture de la Renaissance (Actes du colloque tenu a Tours, 1986), Paris: Picard, 1992, 376 pp., 389 illus. FF 420 (paper). ISBN 2-7084-0422-9.
doi:10.2307/990820 fatcat:gtjvouex3nek5fv62zfijvypki