FROM THE ICA&CA FORUM, FALL 2007

FROM THE ICA&CA FORUM, FALL 2007
February 3, 2011 Gregory F. Shue II

One hot evening in July 2005, an eager new recruit to the New York office of Robert A.M. Stern Architects appeared at our headquarters to introduce himself and to offer volunteer assistance as a hopeful pathway to greater familiarity, awareness, and involvement. His name was Greg Shue and the resulting partnership was one of immediate and ever-ascending benefit to the ICA&CA. The task I assigned (with undisguised relief and glee) was one of the hardest imaginable: The final selection, digital photography and, most urgently, the unpacking, cleaning, and organizing of the first batch of historic plaster casts delivered straight from a Bronx warehouse, where the de-accessioning Metropolitan Museum of Art had stored them for a generation. Over several nights and weekends Greg labored in an un-air-conditioned studio to tackle a filthy puzzle of curatorial intervention. He did so largely alone and uncomplaining and with evident passion for the discoveries he made. This act of discovery led in turn to the advent of an illustrated, online catalog of casts at www.classicist.org as well as the ongoing conservation and placement of this unique asset throughout the ICA&CA classrooms, including, since 2006, the suite devoted to our Grand Central Academy of Art. The impact is evident to all who study and visit here. In fact, if you have yet to glimpse the cast collection either online or in person, please plan to do so, as while still a work-in-progress, their importance to the ICA&CA is palpable.

This extraordinary volunteer act (please try to understand the full extent of its rigor and the high
level of discomfort) was noticed by one and all. As a result Greg was elected as a member of the Fellows in the fall of 2005 followed within an auspicious year as their President following the resignation of mother-to-be Aimee Buccellato. With this board appointment in mind, I recently sat down with Greg to pose some questions, whose answers I hope help you begin to know him better:

PWG: Where did you study and launch your career?
GS: I received my BA in Architecture at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 1997. My first post the year following was with the practice of Milton Grenfell, then located in Charlotte. I went on to work with Meyer Greeson Paullin and Miller Architecture before moving north in 2004.
PWG: How did you first learn of the ICA&CA?
GS: While I was working in Mr. Grenfell’s office I became familiar with what was then the Institute for the Study of Classical Architecture. My initial link was through The Classicist journal. I also began reading Traditional Building magazine and working with other traditional designers, all of whom were well versed in Institute goings-on. I attended the 1998 Edith Wharton Symposium in New York and realized that I had an affinity for classical design. Soon after, I mustered enough intern savings to join and looked forward to when The Forum arrived in the mail. I also snagged up every volume of The Classicist I could get my hands on. I started an architectural library and discovered that the Institute was putting out some of the best books on the market. In the spring and summer of 2004, I began my plan to relocate to New York. I had a list of firms about which I wanted to know more, and was lucky to be able to schedule enough interviews to warrant a trip. One interview was with Steve Semes, who, during my interview, asked if I’d ever been to the Institute office. I hadn’t so he was kind to walk me over and when I saw the classroom space with diagrams hanging from the wall, the library of books I wish I owned, and the constant buzz of activity, I thought, “So this is where it all happens. Amazing!” I was hooked. In September 2004, I moved to New York to get involved. I immediately began attending lectures and taking courses in the new headquarters. It was (and remains) so exciting to gain access to the breadth of knowledge available there. One day I called Henrika and asked how I could help. I was informed of an upcoming initiative involving de-accessioned plaster casts from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and was asked if I’d be interested in photographing them. I couldn’t believe my ears. What an opportunity! From touring the Met’s warehouse and helping to select casts that were salvageable, to dusting, cleaning, cataloging, and publishing them on the Web—it was magical. I’ll never forget one night after an ICA&CA function a group of people were interested in seeing the casts. I greeted them with eighty years of dust and filth all over my clothes, arms, and face in the heat of a summer night. That’s when I met Thomas Gordon Smith for the first time, among others. Unforgettable. In the fall of 2005, I was asked by the Fellows to join their ranks and the rest is history. It’s been an extremely rewarding journey for me.
PWG: How do you perceive our strengths and weaknesses at this time of growth both programmatically and geographically?
GS: The Institute’s strength is its status as one of the top educational centers in the world for classical training in art and architecture, especially now with the nascent Georgia Tech Master’s and the Grand Central Academy of Art. The Board of the Institute is a fantastic group of people. The mix of interests, the generosity, support, and sheer know-how are inspiring. The last four years of growth and development are unprecedented at the ICA&CA. Also, The Classical America Series in Art and Architecture has become the most reliable source for publications. Releases this year will lead to an even higher level of distinction. And of course the formation of Chapters across the country prompts greater student and professional access, with institutional growth following in its educational wake. I would say the greatest weakness now is that with such expansion our faculty has been stretched thin. We need to recruit and train more good instructors!
PWG: In 2004, you started your blog named “The Grand Tradition” which was two years before our own foray on that increasingly important front. Tell me about it.
GS: I launched it as an “open source” for CAD files of classical elements. One of the biggest criticisms of new traditional work is that the details are wrong, the proportions are wrong, the relationships are wrong. I figured that there must be people designing traditional buildings who don’t have enough information on how to pull it off so I drafted up a few orders from the American Vignola and The Parallel of the Classical Orders and threw them up on the Web. Thousands of downloads and a couple of years later, new files are still being added and the site has grown. The support has been great.
PWG: What are you working on at RAMSA presently?
GS: I’m working on two new brick Georgian residence halls for the Hotchkiss School in the flavor of the Delano & Aldrich residence halls. There’s also a town center I’m working on and a resort. I’m busy I have to admit.
PWG: We intend to keep you that way here at the Institute too and we do so with gratitude and hope.