- Elizabeth Meredith Dowling
American architect, teacher, historian, and writer of South African birth. Greenberg’s quiet, gentlemanly demeanor reflected the time-honored traditional and classical architecture he created over four decades. His stylistic choices are rooted in research and aesthetics. His fascination with 18th- and 19th-century American architecture is related to its genesis in the American Revolution and the commitment of those architects to expressing American democratic ideals in architectural form.
Greenberg graduated from King Edward VII School, a private preparatory school in Johannesburg, in 1955. He received a Bachelor of Architecture degree from the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, in 1961. Unlike American architecture schools of the period, his training was classically based and included drawing the historic models of Classical and Gothic architecture from memory. During his apprenticeship, he worked with Jørn Utzon in Hellebæk, Denmark, in 1962 during the design phase of the Sydney Opera House. In 1963, he continued his apprenticeship working with both Viljo Revell in Helsinki, Finland, and Ahlsens Arketekts in Stockholm, Sweden. He came to the United States to study under Paul Rudolph at Yale University where he received his Master of Architecture degree in 1965. After graduation, he worked for the City of New Haven’s Redevelopment Agency and served as Architectural Consultant to the Chief Justice of Connecticut from 1967 to 1979.
Although Greenberg first turned to classical and traditional design in the 1970s, his background differed from other architects who appeared to share his revolutionary sensibilities—he was academically trained in classicism, but he saw no contradiction in admiring the high modern masters Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier. Greenberg regarded himself as a modern architect, not a traditionalist, who was committed to a renaissance of the political idealism that created the American Revolution and the architecture of that period.
In 1972, Greenberg established a sole proprietorship, and over time opened offices in Washington, DC, Greenwich, CT, and New York City. Greenberg’s first classical project involved a 1973 addition to the State Library and Supreme Court Building in Hartford, CT, designed by Donn Barber (1871–1925) in 1908. After this initial exposure to working with a historic context, his approach quickly transformed from modern buildings that respected historic design to that of individualistic designs that could convey the essential expressive qualities of a historic period. His work includes public, commercial, institutional, residential, community master plans, interior design, and furniture design. He received his US citizenship in 1973.
In addition to architectural practice, Greenberg was a member of the faculty at Yale University’s School of Architecture from 1968 to 1974 and the Yale School of Law from 1974 to 1975. From 1975 to 1978 he was an Associate Professor at the University of Pennsylvania in the Department of Architecture at the School of Fine Arts. From 1982 to 1984 he was a visiting Associate Professor at Columbia University in the Department of Historic Preservation of the School of Architecture and Planning. He also served as a visiting professor at Temple University (1980–81); University of Illinois (1982); and University of Notre Dame (1991). Many architects apprenticed with his firm to acquire the knowledge of classical design that was not offered in the curricula at the major schools of architecture in America.
His architecture was both exquisitely detailed and employed the most current construction techniques. In his 1990 article “The Architecture of Democracy,” he wrote about construction:
Though Modernism claims to have brought technology to architecture, in fact it had been fully absorbed into the fabric of American classical architecture before the end of the 19th century. Classical architecture forged a new synthesis between the building industry and technology that revolutionized both the fabrication of materials and construction technology; it has always responded to the needs of architecture, current and future, at the same time reinterpreting the past and drawing it into the present.
In recognition of his achievements in classical architecture, he was awarded the Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts at the University of Notre Dame in 1997. Greenberg was selected as the first American recipient of the Richard H. Driehaus Prize in 2006. This prize is given for lifetime achievement in classical architecture and is the most prestigious award given in America for classical and traditional architecture.
- “The Sense of the Past: An Architectural Perspective,” and “Five Significant Buildings,” Chicago Architectural Journal, 1/1 (1981)
- “The Architecture of Democracy,” New Classicism: Omnibus Volume, ed. A. Papadakis and H. Watson (New York and London, 1990)
- “Making Architectural Judgements,” Architectural Design Profile 97: Paternoster Square and the New Classical Tradition, 62/5–6 (1992)
- Allan Greenberg: Selected Works, Architectural Monographs, 39 (London, 1995)
- George Washington, Architect (London, 1999)
- The Architecture of Democracy; American Architecture and the Legacy of the Revolution (New York, 2006)
- Lutyens and the Modern Movement (London, 2007)
- P. Goldberger: “Allan Greenberg’s Rooms in the Department of State,” Mag. Ant., 132 (July 1987), pp. 132–43
- “Allan Greenberg,” Architectural Design, 62 (May–June 1992), pp. 94–6
- E. M. Dowling: In New Classicism: The Rebirth of Traditional Architecture (New York, 2004), pp. 8, 13, 138–51