The Scottish Architects Who Changed the World

The Adam brothers reigned supreme in Britain during the last half of the 18th century as the ultimate arbiters of taste and style. Sons of prominent Scottish architect William Adam, Sr., the brothers transformed the direction of architecture and design across the western world. There was Robert, the most famous and talented of the architect brothers; James, an architect, furniture designer and scholar; William Jr., a landscape designer; and John, the business manager of the brothers’ architectural firm. Together they designed everything from country houses and London townhouses; to theaters, bridges, and government buildings.

Robert Adam introduced a new style from his travels on the Continent studying the ruins of the ancient world under the tutelage of Giovanni Battista Piranesi.Upon his return to England, Robert rejected the Palladian style of Lord Burlington as “disgustful,” and set about creating a style of architecture and decoration based on his travels. The groundbreaking Adam style was so influential that it found its way to remote places like Russia, where Adams style palaces were built for Catherine the Great and members of the nobility.

The Adams brothers were the first designers to fully integrate architectural elements into interior design. They designed curved walls, domed rooms, and elaborate Neoclassical plasterwork that meshed perfectly with a room’s fireplaces, furniture, fixtures, carpets, and textiles, resulting in a harmonious whole. These interiors featured new color schemes, such as sky blue, intense pink, soft lilac, pea green, and the red-brown terracotta color of Etruscan vases.

The brothers also worked with forward-thinking partners such as Josiah Wedgwood, Thomas Chippendale, and Matthew Boulton—who provided the icing on the Adam-style Neoclassical cake! The sublime beauty of the Adam Style in all its permutations will come to life in this lecture by Curt DiCamillo, whose heart beats with a Neoclassical rhythm.

Thank you to our co-sponsor: Institute of Classical Architecture and Art, Southern California Chapter

The chimneypiece in the Tapestry Room at Osterley Park, Middlesex ©National Trust Images Bill Batten

The chimneypiece in the Tapestry Room at Osterley Park, Middlesex ©National Trust Images Bill Batten

Curt DiCamillo

Historian and Author

Curt DiCamillo is an architectural historian and authority on the British country house. He has taught classes in Boston at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) and the School of the MFA. Mr. DiCamillo leads tours on the architectural and artistic heritage of Britain. Since 1999 he has maintained an award-winning website, The DiCamillo Companion to British & Irish Country Houses (, which seeks to document every country house, standing or demolished. In recognition of his work, he has been presented to the late Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother and The Prince of Wales.

He is a member of The Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and is an alumnus of the Royal Collection Studies program and The Attingham Summer School. He is currently Curator for Special Collections at the New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston. From 2004 to 2012 he served as Executive Director of The National Trust for Scotland Foundation USA (today he serves as Executive Director Emeritus). Previously, he worked for 13 years for the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

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The Saloon at Saltram, Devon ©National Trust Images Paul Barker


Monday, May 4 | 7:00 p.m.
This lecture is preceded by a reception at 6:30 p.m.





The Saloon at Saltram, Devon ©National Trust Images Paul Barker