I write from Detroit on the occasion of the 65th Annual Conference of the Society of Architectural Historians. I am in the Motor City to receive the 2012 Alice Davis Hitchcock Book Award for my sole-authored book, Pride in Modesty: Modernist Architecture and the Vernacular Tradition in Italy (2010). I am humbled to receive this prestigious award.
Although I have new research and writing projects, I still feel deeply committed to a number of issues that traverse Pride in Modesty such as the dialectic between tradition and modernity and the overlap of vernacular and so-called pedigreed design. The awards ceremony was held last night in the Italian Renaissance-inspired Detroit Public Library designed by Cass Gilbert and dedicated in 1921. At a time when American architects such as Gilbert visited and studied examples of Italy’s classical tradition, disenfranchised Italian peasants whose built environments epitomized the other tradition of vernacular traveled to Ellis Island to start new lives. Pride in Modesty is about the rediscovery and appropriation of the vernacular tradition by twentieth-century architects, artists, and literati.