Faculty Book: Elizabeth Macaulay-Lewis

Elizabeth Macaulay-Lewis
Antiquity in Gotham
(Fordham University Press, 2021)

Image of book: Antiquity in GothamThe first detailed study of “Neo-Antique" architecture applies an archeological lens to the study of the NYC's structures 

Since the city's inception, New Yorkers have deliberately and purposefully engaged with ancient architecture to design and erect many of its most iconic buildings and monuments, including Grand Central Terminal and the Soldiers' and Sailors' Memorial Arch in Brooklyn, as well as forgotten gems such as Snug Harbor on Staten Island and the Gould Memorial Library in the Bronx. Antiquity in Gotham interprets the various ways ancient architecture was reconceived in New York City from the 18th century to the early 21st century. 

Contextualizing New York's Neo-Antique architecture within larger American architectural trends, author Elizabeth Macaulay-Lewis applies an archeological lens to the study of the New York buildings that incorporated these various models in their design, bringing together these diverse sources of inspiration into a single continuum. Antiquity in Gotham explores how ancient architecture communicated the political ideals of the new Republic through the adaptation of Greek and Roman architecture; how Egyptian temples conveyed the city's new technological achievements; and how the ancient Near East served many artistic masters, decorating the interiors of glitzy Gilded Age restaurants and the tops of skyscrapers. Rather than classifying neo-classical (and Greek Revival), Egyptianizing, and architecture inspired by the ancient Near East into distinct categories, the Neo-Antique framework considers the similarities and differences — intellectually, conceptually, and chronologically — amongst the reception of these different architectural traditions. 

This fundamentally interdisciplinary project draws upon all available evidence and archival materials — such as the letters and memos of architects and their patrons, and the commentary in contemporary newspapers and magazines — to provide a lively multi-dimensional analysis that examines not only the city's ancient buildings and rooms themselves, but also how New Yorkers envisaged them, lived in them, talked about them, and reacted to them. Antiquity offered New Yorkers architecture with flexible aesthetic, functional, cultural, and intellectual resonances — whether it be the democratic ideals of Periclean Athens, the technological might of Pharaonic Egypt, or the majesty of Imperial Rome. The result of these dialogues with ancient architectural forms was the creation of innovative architecture that has defined New York City's skyline throughout its history.

Macaulay-Lewis is an associate professor of Middle-Eastern Studies and Liberal Studies and executive officer of the M.A. Program in Liberal Studies at The Graduate Center.

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Submitted on: MAR 19, 2021

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