Benjamin Latrobe | America's First Architect

Benjamin's Latrobe: America's First Architect premiered January 2010.

PBS Presents Benjamin Latrobe: America's First Architect Follow the tumultuous life of the Benjamin Latrobe - architect of the U.S. Capitol.


About the Program

The Baltimore Basilica at night. Latrobe designed this building.The Baltimore Basilica at night. Latrobe designed this building.

Benjamin Latrobe: America's First Architect, a one-hour documentary, chronicles the life and work of early American architect Benjamin Latrobe and his lasting design impact on his country. His work ultimately defined the first uniquely "American" architecture. The special is hosted by noted architecture critic Paul Goldberger. 

Latrobe, who lived from 1764 to 1820, is well-known for his work on the central portions of the United States Capitol building; the design of the Baltimore Basilica, the first Catholic Cathedral built in the United States; and his designs for the White House porticos. His influence on the nation's capital also included serving as the chief surveyor for the Washington Canal; designing St. John's Episcopal Church, Decatur House and the main gate of the Washington Navy Yard; and consulting on the construction of the Washington Bridge across the Potomac River. Other distinguished works by him include the Bank of Pennsylvania and the Fairmount Water Works in Philadelphia.

Portrait of Benjamin Henry Latrobe by Rembrandt Peale, c. 1815.Portrait of Benjamin Henry Latrobe by Rembrandt Peale, c. 1815. Latrobe's tumultuous life was a series of creative triumphs, personal tragedies and constant re-invention. Benjamin Latrobe: America's First Architect explores his story from the early years in England, immigration to the young Republic and then his work on major constructions. The production features extensive computer generated animation, interviews with architects and historians, and visits to the sites of Latrobe's works. Host Paul Goldberger is the Architecture Critic for The New Yorker, a winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Distinguished Criticism, and the author of several books, including UP FROM ZERO: Politics, Architecture, and the Rebuilding of New York (Random House, 2004). 

Benjamin Latrobe: America's First Architect is a production of Kunhardt McGee Productions and WETA, Washington, D.C. Executive produced by Dalton Delan and David S. Thompson for WETA and Peter Kunhardt and Dyllan McGee for Kunhardt McGee Productions. Directed by Michael Epstein. Produced by Sabin Streeter and Michael Epstein. Written by Paul Goldberger and Sabin Streeter. Hosted by Paul Goldberger. Funding for Benjamin Latrobe: America's First Architect is provided by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Additional funding is provided by the Annenberg Foundation.

 

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© 2009 Kunhardt/McGee Productions. All Rights Reserved. Text by WETA. Photos courtesy of the Baltimore Basilica, the Maryland Historical Society and Michael Epstein.

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Benjamin Latrobe: America's First Architect

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