John Massengale to speak at 51st IMCL Conference

We’re excited to hear John present ideas and designs from the fantastic, recently released book, Street Design, which he co-authored with Victor Dover. John, an architect and board member of the Congress for the New Urbanism, says that he designs buildings with a human scale that look like they were made by human hands. He values craftsmanship and intelligent construction, and at all scales of design—from arranging rooms to arranging buildings to organizing street plans—he emphasizes the importance of making places where people want to be. 

“Architecture is a forgotten language”, said Goethe, but unlike literature and poetry, architecture communicates primarily at an unconscious level. The fact that we are often unaware of its impact, suggests that architecture may have an even greater influence on our thoughts, feelings, and how we relate to others than we realize[1].

Together with Stendhal, John believes “Beauty is the promise of happiness.” The places where we have the greatest sense of well-being, he proposes, are those formed by architecture that refers, through materials, form, and color, to positive emotions of friendliness, strength and intelligence – an argument well presented by philosopher Alain de Botton in his book, The Architecture of Happiness.

Modernism rejected the belief that our cities and buildings have an emotional effect on us. Modernism was intended to reject all reference to emotion, and therefore seems to be cold, even hostile to the human being. It’s clever intellectual manipulation of space and form often deliberately negates human behavior and human scale.

John, however, designs for the complete human being, for their physical, emotional, behavioral and spiritual needs, and frequently finds Classical and Classically proportioned buildings the most beautiful. He is an expert in the design of Palladian architecture, the Classical and Classical Vernacular of 18th century and early 19th century America, the American Renaissance of the early 20th century, and the Modern Classicism of today.

John Massengale has won awards for architecture, urbanism, architectural history and historic preservation. His urban designs, such as the subway suburb, Paradigm Park in the S. Bronx, foster a sense of community. “If the street is properly sized, planted with trees at the right distances, and bordered by buildings of enough uniformity, the spaces become more important than the buildings.” By attracting people to the public realm, you increase the opportunity for encounters, dialogue, and social networks to flourish.


[1] Crowhurst Lennard, Suzanne H. (1979). Explorations in the Meaning of Architecture. Woodstock, NY: Gondolier Press.