Nathaniel Brooks

Firm Spotlight: Peter Pennoyer Architects

In Uncategorized on December 3, 2010 at 2:50 pm

Peter Pennoyer Architects is a Manhattan-based architecture firm whose defining contours are three-fold: institutional, commercial, and primarily residential.

The strength of Peter Pennoyer Architects – what might perhaps more accurately be described as the firm’s energy of spirit – has been in the practice of classical design. A historicist by both instinct and by training, Peter Pennoyer has aspired to be as fluent in classicism as if it were a still-living language.

To that end, he immersed himself in the work of past masters – most discrenibly that agreeable breed of gentleman-architects who graced the profession in the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth, setting a standard of nonpareil elegance in the manipulation of traditional forms. Among Pennoyer’s unabashed admirations are Sir John Soane (for his inspired use of domes, arches, lanterns, and wells within skylights); Benjamin Henry Latrobe (for the urbane concinnity of his buildings modeled on Greek architecture); Edwin Lutyens (for his coercive “freestyle” classicism); Mott Schmidt (for houses that, subtly distilled, keep the quiddity and quality of great Georgian architecture); Charles A. Platt; Harrie T. Lindeberg; F. Burrall Hoffman, Jr., and William Adams Delano.

“We don’t practice architecture by the book,” Pennoyer states. “We know the book. We know, say, moldings and cornices so well that we can hold the pattern-book stage, which is what frees us to be imaginative in our responses.” It is – it goes without saying – imagination judiciously exercised, remaining safely within the historical context. The aim is for details to be always correct, without ever seeming labored or pedantic. The past is seen as something to be firmly grounded in, something to be mined – but not to be reconstructed; let it serve rather as a point of departure from which each new project can be unshackled to “take off.” It is in the very expressiveness of that vitalizing flight that the firm’s work seeks to be measured.

“It’s classicism with a twist,” says Pennoyer. “We never repeat any design or even any aspect of a design. Our client can count on his house being singular in its outward guise.” Nor is the texture of actual living stinted. “We plan houses to fit exactly what the client wants, concentrating on the relationship of rooms, their rhythm and balance, and the variety of spaces for comfort and flow.” Each building that the firm sets its hand to should ideally embody the basic principles of the profession – beauty, utility, and fitness – that the Roman writer and architect Vitruvius, ever succinctly accurate, laid down in the first century B.C.”

Peter Pennoyer Architects

Images by Scott Frances and Peter Pennoyer Architects


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