Alexandra Lange
Architecture & design critic

The Slide-Show Epiphanies of Vincent Scully

Vincent Scully in 1966. (Harry Naltchayan/The Washington Post)

My abiding mental image of Vincent Scully is seeing him stand at the front of the Yale Law School auditorium, a great wood-panelled room to which his course, History of Art 112a, had been moved because it had long outgrown the spatial resources of the art-history or architecture departments. He stood before us, craggy and tweedy, and beat the screen with a wooden pointer, making the silvery fabric billow. What was he mad about?

Nothing but architecture, whose effects roused him, year after year, to peaks of emotion. The low entryways and subsequent spatial release of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie-style houses. The thick, compressed columns of Frank Furness’s Philadelphia façades. The dramatic peak of McKim, Mead & White’s Low House, a caricature of the gables sheltering the American dream. The drama of what might, to others, have looked like just a bunch of brown buildings was the drama that launched his career.