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Athenaeum Literary Award Presentation: Locatecture in the City with Witold Rybcynski

September 16 @ 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm

“It is in the search for beauty, the careful execution of each detail, that the ensemble of her buildings creates a city that is admired and loved. Charleston Fancy teaches us this is still possible.” —Joseph P. Riley, Jr., Mayor of Charleston (1975–2016)

Witold Rybczynski, two-time winner of an Athenaeum Book Prize, will give an illustrated talk about his book, Charleston Fancy: Little Houses and Big Dreams in the Holy City. The talk describes a contemporary example of what Christopher Alexander calls organic urban growth, which is the way that cities traditionally grew, often by accident, frequently without a predetermined plan, reflecting human hopes and dreams. Rybczynski emphasizes the importance of architecture and urban design on a local level, how an old city can remake itself by invention as well as replication, and the role that individuals still play in transforming the urban landscapes around them. There will be an opportunity for Q & A after the talk.

Witold Rybczynski has been described as “one of our most original, accessible, and stimulating writers on architecture” by Library Journal. He is the author of more than twenty books including Home, A Clearing in the Distance, and How Architecture Works. He has written for the New York Times, the New Yorker, and the New York Review of Books. has served as architecture critic for Slate. Rybczynski has received numerous awards including the Vincent Scully Prize, the J. Anthony J. Lukas Book Prize, and the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award for Design Mind. An architect as well as a writer, he is an emeritus professor of urbanism at the University of Pennsylvania, and lives in a loft in Philadelphia with his wife Shirley Hallam.

The Athenaeum Literary Award was established in 1950 to recognize and encourage literary achievement among authors who are “bona fide residents of Philadelphia or Pennsylvania living within a radius of 30 miles of City Hall” at the time their book was written or published. Any volume of general literature is eligible; technical, scientific, and juvenile books are not included. Nominated works are reviewed on the basis of their significance and importance to the general public as well as for literary excellence. In recognition of his role in establishing the Literary Award, presentations are usually part of the Charles Wharton Stork Memorial Lecture program which was endowed in 1983 by his children. Dr. Stork (1881-1971) was a member of the board of directors of the Athenaeum from 1919 until 1968.


September 16
6:00 pm - 7:30 pm
Event Category:


Athenaeum of Philadelphia