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Posted: May 8th, 2008
Orientalism: The Roots of Modernism

The 19th century had a love affair with the Arabic Middle East. For some it was all about an exoticism which we today might think of as romantic, ornamental, even “superficial,” much like the craze for chinoiserie in the 1700s. But “Orientalism” in architecture, when processed by creative Western designers, also served as a root of modern design. Here in New York, beginning in the 1850s, proto-modern architects, influenced directly and indirectly by Arabic notions of design, forged a modern architecture, both inside and out, that we still can learn from today. Join Barry Lewis, architectural historian, for a look at various buildings including the pioneering 1850s All Souls Unitarian Church (now demolished); the 1870s Jefferson Market Courthouse (now the Greenwich Village branch library); and the still-extant 1870s Officers’ Room at the 7th Regiment Armory. This event was held at the New-York Historical Society.


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