Henry Glassie Award
The Henry Glassie Award, named for the renowned vernacular architecture scholar and folklorist, recognizes special achievements in and contributions to the field of vernacular architecture studies. It is awarded intermittently, as deemed appropriate by the VAF Board of Directors.
Glassie Award Winners
In 2012, Orlando Ridout V and William Tishler each received a Henry Glassie Award for lifetime achievement.
Orlando Ridout V
A version of these remarks was delivered by Marcia Miller at the VAF annual meeting in Madison, Wisconsin:
The people in this room most likely fall into two categories. First, there are those who have known and worked with Orlando Ridout V for up to four decades, who will remember and laugh at the stories that are told about him (or by him) and who know what Orlando has done for the study of vernacular architecture over the course of his career. Second, there are those who may know Orlando, but not well, those who may have heard the name, or maybe those who have not. But all of us, regardless of whether or not we know Orlando personally, have been influenced by his approach to fieldwork and scholarship in the seventeenth-, eighteenth-, and early nineteenth-century Chesapeake, including his dedication to understanding technological innovations, building practices, agricultural systems and changing social conventions. His contributions to this field have redefined how we, as a profession, look at buildings. Not content to simply maintain the status quo, he has elevated the standards of our field, continuously working towards bettering our understanding of buildings, refining our documentation standards and rethinking the types of questions we should ask about the built environment.
Orlando’s contributions are expansive, and their seeds were sown more than thirty years ago. He was there at the beginning of our discipline of vernacular architecture studies. He was part of the "Friends of Friendless Farm Buildings," a group of young architectural historians in the Chesapeake region who met informally to share their work—the only requirement of membership being a passion for agricultural buildings and a willingness to share drawings and discoveries. This collaboration not only gave birth to the system of drawing conventions that are used for field documentation to this day, it also was the germ for something much greater. In the fall of 1979, Orlando was one of a small group that established a new organization dedicated to the interdisciplinary study of the built environment, particularly historic architectural resources and their relationship to local culture: that new organization was the Vernacular Architecture Forum.
Among Orlando’s publications stand landmarks that have helped redefine the study of the built environment. His 1989 book Building the Octagon—a study of the design and construction of one of the nation’s first architect-designed townhouses, built in Washington D.C. for John Tayloe III from 1799-1802, has been called "the standard for how single-house studies should be written." It garnered VAF’s Abbott Lowell Cummings Award in 1990. Orlando’s article "Re-editing the Architectural Past: A Comparison of Surviving Physical and Documentary Evidence on Maryland’s Eastern Shore," established numerically what some of us had suspected about the past: that our view of the historic landscape is dramatically skewed by the fact that only a small percentage of the built resources that populated the past have survived to our time, and those that have are woefully unrepresentative. Yet it is his numerous unpublished single house studies that have subtly changed the work of architectural historians and museum professionals. Starting with the Russell House in Charleston, he established a systematic approach based on the assumption that thoroughly understanding a building is critical to its proper care and interpretation. Thus, the seemingly endless process of cataloging all the components of a building down to its nails, assessing the dates of these parts, the nature of their manufacture and use, is essential to answering all of the important questions that must be asked of an historic resource. Layered onto this and just as important is the need to carefully scour the record for all documentary material related to a building’s existence and creating a similar catalog of all known images organized in chronological order. Once assembled, these studies become the basis for interpretive essays that summarize the historical importance of the people who lived and work on these sites and a companion study about its architectural importance.
Looking beyond the building, Orlando has long shown interest in the landscape and the relationship of the house to its surroundings, especially the various parts of a farmstead.
Orlando’s chapter in the soon to be published book Chesapeake House addresses the relationship of the component parts of a farm, how people chose building sites, and how agricultural practices changed the land. To quote Willie Graham, the chapter "will transform the way historians think about early settlement practices and how they matured over the next few hundred years…it will surely become a staple read of archaeologists and historians of all stripes."
Orlando’s career took him into public service, following a long family tradition of service to the State of Maryland that includes two royal governors, members of the Maryland Legislature and the state’s first historic preservation officer. For thirty years, through his own fieldwork and through the statewide survey program that he nurtured into one of the most successful in the country, Orlando has helped compile for Maryland a catalog of its historic resources, founded on his own careful approach of looking at properties as artifacts. This catalog, the Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties, forms the basis of almost all preservation activity in Maryland.
Perhaps his greatest legacy, however, is as a teacher and mentor. Orlando’s work at the State of Maryland, progressing from field surveyor, to head of the state’s architectural survey program to the chief of the Office of Research, Survey and Registration, has provided him countless opportunities to share his knowledge widely. He gives freely and profusely to anyone who is passionate about buildings, and he is especially dedicated to those who desire to become field surveyors. How many people in our field have learned the basics about nail chronologies, framing techniques, and hardware while spending a hot day in a tobacco barn or cold, snowy day in an abandoned eighteenth century house with him? Benefitting in a special way are his students who took his legendary course, "Field Methods for Architectural History" at the George Washington University.
But these examples do not do justice in any way to Orlando’s expansive generosity with the fruits of his intellect and his labor. No matter how elementary or complex the question might be, nor how many times he has answered it before, he always answers with thoughtfulness, unselfishness and modesty. Time and again even the simplest of questions will receive a five-page response which despite being so well-researched and carefully composed that it could go straight to publication without editing, invariably is prefaced by an apology that he couldn’t do more.
Most of us already know that Orlando’s contributions to the field go beyond the professional. His friendship, loyalty, sense of humor and his incomparable ability to tell stories, both of his own colorful adventures and those from this organization’s early days, are part of the heart and soul of VAF. It is with great pleasure that I present the Henry Glassie Award to Orlando Ridout V.
2011: Thomas Carter
A version of these remarks was delivered by Boyd Pratt at the VAF annual meeting in Falmouth, Jamaica:
The Henry Glassie Award, named for the renowned vernacular architecture scholar and folklorist, recognizes special achievements in and contributions to the field of vernacular architecture studies. It is awarded intermittently, as deemed appropriate by the VAF Board of Directors. This year the VAF Board of Directors has deemed it appropriate to present the Henry Glassie Award to Thomas Carter.
Tom Carter is not unfamiliar to members of the VAF. He has served on the board many years, including a stint as President. Many of you may have gotten to know him better, as I did, when he hosted the VAF conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1987. And he has been coeditor of our Special Series: Vernacular Architecture Studies; indeed, he, along with Betsey Cromley, wrote the inaugural publication, Invitation to Vernacular Architecture.
Born in Utah, Tom came East to attend Brown University— they nicknamed him "Tex," a stereotypical confusion that Tom would soon work to set straight in his subsequent career. After a Master’s in American folklore from University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill) and a doctorate on Mormon housing in the Sanpete Valley, Utah, from Indiana University (where his original dissertation advisor was none other than Henry Glassie), Tom won a fellowship to the Winterthur Museum. There he discovered the growing vernacular architecture movement, and the role he would fill in bringing the American West into that exploration. By 1990, Tom had arrived at the University of Utah's Graduate School of Architecture, as founding director of the Western Regional Architectural Program.
Tom has published many articles, and has co-authored Utah’s Historic Architecture and The Grouse Creek Cultural Survey. Along with Bernie Herman, Tom co-edited Volumes III and IV of Perspectives in Vernacular Architecture, and edited Images of an American Land: Vernacular Studies in the Western United States. I know that we haven’t seen the end of Tom's writing—he's not dead yet—and I hope that he will continue to publish his extensive research on the Vernacular Architecture of the American West. One of his long-overdue proposals is appropriately titled Faith and Good Works, something we can take to heart.
I think Tom is best known for his work on documenting vernacular architectural sites through measured drawings. He and his students have ranged throughout the West—Utah, of course, but Nevada and Montana also stand out—and often when I went to a conference I discovered that Tom had been there before, helping to document the structures on the tours. In recognition of this work, Tom received the Buchanan Award in 1996 for his work with the Program for Documenting the Architectural Heritage of the Western United States.
I would be remiss if I did not mention music. Tom began with recording traditional fiddle players in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, and is an accomplished fiddler himself. I was astounded when we were at the 1988 Staunton, Virginia conference and Tom fell to his knees and began singing "Shenandoah" on the banks of that noble rill.
All of this is quite impressive, and certainly worthy of receiving the Glassie Award. But I want to highlight a significant pattern in Tom's lifetime achievement: his focus on the West. As Chris Wilson once said about the pre-Carter era (I mean Tom, not Jimmy), "There was as much written about the cultural landscape of Virginia as there was on the entire Western United States." Through his meticulous, detailed recording of and research on the vernacular architecture and landscape of the West, Tom has radically changed the way we think about the region and its history. Speaking as a Westerner—a far Westerner, I should add—I have personally and professionally been influenced by Tom’s work, as have we all.
Tom Carter, thank you for your significant achievements in and contributions to the field of vernacular architecture studies. Here's the Glassie Award!
2010: Cary Carson
A version of these remarks was delivered by Jeffrey E. Klee at the VAF annual meeting in Washington, DC:What can I possibly say about Cary Carson? Intellectual, raconteur, clotheshorse, international man of mystery; founding father of the VAF and presenter of this society’s very first paper. I have known Cary since I came to Williamsburg in 2004. In that time, I’ve come to see him as most of you do: as an insightful, hardworking, elegant writer and a thoughtful, gracious, unfailingly warm individual.
As a scholar, Cary Carson made his mark by insisting that material remains had much to teach us about the past—this much, at least, he shares with Henry Glassie. In 1981, he showed how architecture could be much more than a "handmaiden to history" in his landmark article, "Impermanent Architecture in the Southern American Colonies." Cary and his coauthors observed that architectural form could be correlated with changes in agriculture in a way that was only dimly perceived in the documentary record. They made a strong case for a view of architectural technology as experimental and strategic, rather than instinctive. The essay remains a founding document of modern vernacular architecture studies and shows up on college syllabuses from Salt Lake City to Stalingrad (or as Willie Graham calls it, Petersburg).
Cary has also sustained a lifelong interest in the English ancestry of colonial American architecture and we are all looking forward to the publication of his volume in the VAF Special Series. But his most significant contribution to the study of material life and American history is surely his extended essay, "The Consumer Revolution in Colonial America: Why Demand?" In it, he inverts the presumed relationship between the Industrial and the Consumer Revolutions, arguing that the colonial experience required objects to communicate relationships, and that this growing need spurred the drive to greater production, not the reverse. In his words, "a world in motion was a world of strangers" and these strangers used objects to sort themselves out in carefully delimited ways.
As important as this essay is, and inasmuch as it demonstrates Cary’s mastery of language and of his material, it also exemplifies his commitment to a style of history that engages explicitly with present concerns. Along with the dissertations, scholarly articles, and contemporary diary entries, the 307 footnotes include references to The Washington Post and The New York Times. It is never enough for Cary just to untangle a knotty intellectual problem. His work must always participate in the larger contemporary discourse; its implications must always reach beyond the library. Both his published work and his career at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation manifest a generous commitment to scholarship as a form of public service.
This generosity is not restricted to his research. Cary is forever eager to share credit, and has demonstrated an almost compulsive preference for working with collaborators over going it alone. As a fieldworker, author, administrator, or bowler, Cary prefers company—the more the better—and thank goodness, because what a delightful companion he is.
As much as he encourages his friends and colleagues, he seems to enjoy provoking them even more. As an editor, a boss, or an invited speaker, he relishes and excels in the role of gadfly, setting sparks to intellectual tinderboxes while stamping out little flare-ups of foolishness. Many members will recall his plenary address in Williamsburg in which he challenged the VAF to slough off the complacency that comes with recognition and success. Others will remember a similar talk at Winterthur, "Material Culture History: The Scholarship Nobody Knows," in which he goaded his audience to engage more effectively with other disciplines and broader audiences. He also, memorably, took the opportunity to critique some colleagues’ fascination with Continental philosophy, suggesting that one, in particular, was so enamored with French thinkers that he should be registered as a foreign agent.
This last item hints at an aspect of Dr. Carson that may be less well known among the VAF but is no less praiseworthy. He is a great connoisseur of mischief. Many have been ruthlessly victimized by the glint in Cary’s eye, not least among them the innocent schoolchildren of Williamsburg, who endure unholy terror every Halloween as they run the gauntlet of Griffin Avenue.
Cary, this organization is intellectually richer and just plain more fun for your involvement in it. I am, therefore, delighted and honored to present you as this year’s winner of the Henry Glassie Award.
Jefferey E. Klee
Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
2009: Ronald W. Brunskill
The recipient of the Henry Glassie Award is Ronald W. Brunskill, RIBA, OBE, FSA, in honor of his long and distinguish career in teaching and the promotion of the study and conservation of vernacular architecture in Great Britain and in this country through his many written works and service on numerous historical commissions. Trained as an architect at Manchester University just after World War II, Ronald Brunskill also received his MA and PhD from that institution where he studied under the legendary R. A. Cordingley, who pioneered the study of regional architecture and offered him a job in the School of Architecture where he taught from 1960 to 1989. His academic training may have shaped Professor Brunskill's intellectual perspective, but his passion for vernacular building derived from his early holidays spent on farms of his relatives in the achingly beautiful Eden Valley on the edge of the Lake District. These encounters with stone farmhouses and barns in the region was eventually expanded and incorporated in Vernacular Architecture of the Lake Counties.
The pattern of his scholarship was set and would have a tremendous impact in Britain and the United States from the 1970s onward. "Brunskill's Illustrated Handbook of Vernacular Architecture is where we all started" observed Barbara Watkins, Secretary of the English Vernacular Architecture Group. This and others such as Traditional Farm Buildings of Britain, English Brickwork, and Timber Building in Britain have been primers for a generation of amateur recording societies and professionals alike. Their orderly presentation of plans, structural elements, and decorative details emphasize the richness of regional building practices in Britain, but most importantly, opened the sometimes esoteric study of traditional buildings to a broad readership. They emphasize that recognizing and preserving this architectural heritage is not merely the preserve of the scholar but beckons the lay person as well, appealing to an ethos that has not fully blossomed in this country in the way it that has long bloomed among the scores of amateur historical and antiquarian societies in Britain. In the United States we train students in special programs to record historic structures; in the British Isles, men and women from all walks of life come together to spend their weekends and holidays measuring neighboring farmhouses and a Brunskill volume has accompanied them in their kitbag.
Like the man for whom this award is named, Ronald Brunskill has been a highly successful missionary and publicist for vernacular architecture. J. T. Smith, the retired principal investigator for Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, described Professor Brunskill's lectures as "inspiring and beautifully delivered." He recalled that one of them given in the mid 1960s "aroused the audience's enthusiasm to a remarkable degree and made even a seasoned practitioner like myself want to rush out and record whatever lay to hand."
In addition to his academic responsibilities, Dr. Brunksill has more than shared his time as a committee member servicing as an advisor, reviewer, and leader of numerous architectural, antiquarian, and historical commissions and professional societies. He has served as President of the Vernacular Architecture Group, vice-chairman of the Weald and Downland Museum, and has been a member of the Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, the Heritage Lottery Fund, and the Friends of Friendless Churches to name but a few on an exhaustive list.
Ronald Brunskill's career bounded the Atlantic in ways that have allowed us to claim him as one of our unofficial founders. His wife Miriam was originally from Georgia and that bond that united our two countries gave rise to his deep interests in America over the past half century. In the mid 1950s hew was awarded a traveling fellowship at MIT and visited the newly reconstructed settlement at Jamestown Festival Park with its collection of cruck buildings that emphasized to him the remarkable limited understanding that Americans had of English vernacular building. Not long to be discouraged, he found an affinity in the farm buildings of Pennsylvania with those in his beloved Westmoreland in the Lake District and he was emboldened to introduce the term "bank barn" to vernacular building in England. In his teaching at Manchester and courses at the University of York he managed to attract American students including Charles Peterson, one of the founding lights of the Historic American Buildings Survey, and organized several exhibitions in England of HABS work.
Professor Brunskill traveled widely in the United States and met most people who were involved in the study of traditional architecture including Jay Edwards, Abbott Cummings, and Blair Reeves. Intriguingly, in the late 1960s he met with John Pearce, Rusty Marshall and others to discuss the establishment of an American organization equivalent to the English VAG but decided that the time was not yet ripe. More than a dozen years later after the VAF was formed, he attended a number of our early meetings including Sturbridge, San Francisco, Santa Fe, and Portsmouth. For a man who has been an instrumental force in shaping the study of vernacular architecture on both sides of the Atlantic, the VAF proudly presents the Henry Glassie Award to Ronald Brunskill.
Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
2007: Ronald Knapp
This year the Henry Glassie Award Committee solicited nominations of books published between 2004 and 2006 that made significant contributions to the study of vernacular architecture and cultural landscapes outside North America. The winner of the 2007 Glassie Award is Ronald G. Knapp. The committee, which consisted of Rebecca Ginsburg, Greg Hise, and Tom Hubka, was interested to see that Professor Knapp had been nominated for two books, Chinese Houses: The Architectural Heritage of a Nation, published by Tuttle Press (2005) and House Home Family: Living and Being Chinese, published by the University of Hawaii Press (2005) (and co-edited by Kay-Yin Lo). Both books were excellent examples of scholarship of vernacular environments. The committee noted that the first was based on over thirty years of fieldwork in China. We were impressed enough with these two volumes to want to see more. After reviewing Asia's Old Dwellings: Tradition, Resilience, and Change (2003), China's Old Dwellings (2000), China's Living Houses: Folk Beliefs, Symbols, and Household Ornamentation (1999), Chinese Landscapes: The Village as Place (1992), China's Vernacular Architecture: House Form and Culture (1989), to name just a selection of Professor Knapp's writings, we realized that this lifetime of scholarship dedicated to documenting, studying, and writing about Chinese domestic architecture for Western audiences deserved recognition. A notable strength of Ronald Knapp's body of works is his comprehensive approach to the study of housing. His books examine scales from that of interior decor to the layout of villages. He considers the role of fengshui in the placement of furnishings and provides extensive discussion of construction techniques and materials. Floor plans, diagrams that illustrate social use of space, village layouts, and historical drawings compliment his texts, which are consistently clear and accessible. Photographs are often stunning, especially in his later works such as Chinese Houses, which is a beautifully designed book (credit goes to A. Chester Ong, who did the photography). Ronald Knapp, who was trained as a geographer, has done more than anyone else outside of China to celebrate, analyze, and promote understanding of that country's domestic architectural heritage. We are pleased to present the Glassie Award to Ronald G. Knapp for the lifetime body of his work on Chinese houses.
2006: Tom Hubka
The Henry Glassie Award Committee, consisting of Dell Upton, Stephen Hornsby, and Rebecca Ginsburg, sought to recognize recently published books that have made significant contributions to the study of vernacular architecture and cultural landscapes outside North America. The VAF awarded the 2006 Glassie Award to Thomas Hubka for Resplendent Synagogue: Architecture and Worship in an Eighteenth-Century Polish Community (University Press of New England/Brandeis University Press, 2003).
In Resplendent Synagogue, Tom Hubka closely analyzes the design and use of an eighteenth-century synagogue in the Polish town of Gwozdziec, in the process uncovering the social, historic, and artistic relations that pertained within a small Eastern European community during the height of its prosperity. While the synagogue no longer stands, Tom Hubka makes critical use of historic photographs, contemporary religious texts, and archival documents, as well as modern scholarship, to reconstruct the history of the Gwozdziec synagogue and place it within its various contexts. These include both a tradition of wooden synagogue construction that was common in Eastern Europe until the 19th century, and the synagogue’s specific location within the Gwozdeziec community, where its designers drew on local and foreign, Jewish and Gentile, folks and fine art traditions in building and decorating the house of worship.
2005: “Big Jim” Griffith
James "Big Jim" Griffith’s lifetime of dedicated scholarship on the cultural landscape of the American Southwest and Arizona/Sonora borderlands region was recognized at the 2005 conference of the VAF in Tucson, Arizona, with the presentation of the Henry Glassie Award. This award, bestowed intermittently by the Executive Committee for special achievements in vernacular architecture studies, went to Big Jim for twenty-five years of researching, publishing, and celebrating the traditional lore, customs, arts, and architecture of this important American/Mexican region. Jim’s publications include Southern Arizona Folk Arts, Beliefs and Holy Places: A Spiritual Geography of the Pimeria Alta, and A Shared Space: Folklife in the Arizona-Sonora Borderlands. He also established the Southwest Folklore Center at the University of Arizona and organized the seminal "Tucson Meet Yourself" festival, which celebrates the food, art, music, and other traditions of the city’s various ethnic communities.
2004: Don Yoder
At the 2004 meeting in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the Henry Glassie Award was given to Professor Don Yoder of the University of Pennsylvania. Professor Yoder has expanded our understanding of the Pennsylvania Germans through a lifetime of folkloric research on their foodways, customs, religion, and popular politics. His work, disseminated in many books and articles, arises from a fervent attachment to Pennsylvania German culture, but always preserves scholarly and analytical rigor. Professor Yoder was instrumental in starting The Pennsylvania Dutchman and Pennsylvania Folklife journals, and served as mentor to a generation of young scholars who took it upon themselves to document and interpret the varied meanings of the Pennsylvania German cultural landscape and its rich architectural traditions.
1999: Albert Lorenz and David Macaulay
The VAF presented the Special Recognition Award at the annual conference in Columbus, Georgia. The winners were Albert Lorenz and David Macaulay. VAF selected winners whose contribution to the scholarship and appreciation of architecture is unique by virtue of the audience for their work. They write for children.
More importantly, they write and draw splendidly for children. In presenting this award to David Macaulay and Albert Lorenz, the VAF is recognizing that the appreciation for architecture and its historical meaning can and should begin early. Further, in selecting these two authors, we hope to encourage excellence in children’s architectural literature–excellence in historical research, intelligent and engaging historical narrative, and revealing illustrations.
There could be no better ambassadors to world of children than these two authors. David Macaulay is a name long familiar to parents, educators, and children. Beginning in 1973 with the book, Cathedral, Macaulay has produced a delightful shelf of books on architecture and the world we’ve built around us. From Roman cities in City to modern urban centers in Underground, and from studies of historic mills, in the book, Mill, to sailing vessels, in Ship, Macaulay has illuminated with great clarity, in black and white line drawings, the structures (and infrastructures) of everyday life. David Macaulay has also created a series of videos based on his works that further explore the fascinating world of constructing objects.
Albert Lorenz’s style is entirely different. He uses color, multiple panels, ravishing detail, and selected narratives to show change, diversity, and pattern over time and place. His first work in 1996, Metropolis drew crowds in bookstores. It was followed by the compelling House in 1998. In both books, he worked with Joy Schleh. Lorenz’s work is an example of the highest achievement in the art of informative and seductive illustration. He has given children a rich context for understanding building within cultural, geographical, and historical settings.