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Cathedrals of Knowledge - The American Academy in Rome

Located on the heights of the Janiculum hill, overlooking Rome, the American Academy is housed in a 1914 neoclassical building by McKim, Mead, and White. In 1894, McKim founded the American School of Architecture in Rome. He involved not only artists and architects, but also the great financial geniuses of his time: J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, and Henry Clay Frick, all contributing to McKim’s enterprise. This evolved into the American Academy in Rome in 1911.

Charles Follen McKim

The Arthur and Janet C. Ross Library and Reading Room is a treasured resource for scholars and artists working in Rome and is home to over 160,000 volumes in the fields of classical studies and the history of Italian art and architecture. Each year the Library adds 2,500 volumes to its collection. With its majestic vaulted ceiling and its refined pared down detailing, the Reading Room is a sublime and elegant space.

Many famous artists, poets, and architects including Velasquez, Poussin, Rubens, Adam, and, of course, Lord Byron were influenced by a sojourn to Italy.

As classicists, we like to know that the best of culture is perpetuated. One of the most noble institutions that contributes to this goal is the American Academy in Rome, where scores of young and not-so-young Americans have gone to study humanities, archaeology, and the fine arts. Having never had the time or opportunity before, the author of these lines applied to and was granted permission to study as a visiting artist at the American Academy in Rome a few years ago. It was the most glorious way to spend my 60th birthday. My wife and I lived at the Academy for a month in the company of artists, a few American politicians, and scholars of many fields and nationalities. I did research on the work of Michelangelo in Rome and Florence, which has been a huge inspiration to my subsequent work. Just one anecdote: my Indian clients visited us in Rome and chose the same burnt sienna color of the plaster loggia walls of the McKim building of the Academy for their house in New Delhi.


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