Monday, August 29, 2011

Pernille Christensen - J. Neel Reid Prize Winner, 2003

Pernille Christensen won the 3rd Neel Reid Prize in 2003. (Read more about the prize and the winners.)

Pernille's prize project was "Retracing the Footsteps of John Ruskin." That is a tall order. Ruskin remains the artistic polymath: artist, poet, critic, teacher, philanthropist, champion of Turner, Pre-Raphaelites, and gothic. He remains contemporary and influential.

"(Pernille) documented the current state and preservation of classic carvings and decorations that have since deteriorated from the time of Ruskin’s first sketches in his 1853 book, The Stones of Venice."

At the time Pernille (pronounced: per nell' in "southern") was an intern architect with Niles Bolton Associates. She already had a B. Architecture from Mississippi State, and 2 masters, MARCH and MCRP. from Clemson. She's is now pursuing an academic career as a 2012 PhD candidate, graduate instructor, and research associate at Clemson's Richard H. Pennell Center for Real Estate Development.

When I met Pernille this July at Barnes & Noble in Alpharetta, I knew nothing of this. If you follow design, architecture, the arts, or preservation, Ruskin is hard to miss. But what did he do, really? Quite a lot. Thanks to Pernille, I'm studying.


In fact John Ruskin's The Stones of Venice is an architecture treatise, illustrated historical preservation document, history, and travelogue.

John Ruskin from Chapter 1:


"(Venice is)...a ghost upon the sands of the sea, so weak—so quiet,—so bereft of all but her loveliness, that we might well doubt, as we watched her faint reflection in the mirage of the lagoon, which was the City, and which the Shadow."

"I would endeavor to trace the lines of this image before it be for ever lost, and to record, as far as I may, the warning which seems to me to be uttered by every one of the fast-gaining waves, that beat, like passing bells, against the STONES OF VENICE."

Pernille found her way to the places Ruskin illustrated 160 years ago. She photographed them to document how much further they'd deteriorated.


Pernille told me that The Stones of Venice still worked as a travelogue.

She explained that Ruskin sought to document things exactly as they were at the time. Which is what she sought to do with her photographs.

The breadth of information in this excerpt on dripstones hint at why Ruskin remains influential.

"Today, his ideas and concerns are widely recognized as having anticipated interest in environmentalism, sustainability and craft." - Wikipedia

Congratulations to Pernille Christensen for her prize, for her career and for introducing us to John Ruskin.

Bringing this back to the 21st century, Pernille explains the prize winning "Seed Project," a collaboration, working to develop a method to convert the shipping containers into homes.

The illustration are from Where you can find scans of all 3 volumes of The Stones of Venice.

The Book Supports the Prize
"J. Neel Reid, Architect by William R. Mitchell. Jr., published by The Georgia Trust, gives new life to Reid's rich legacy, keeping his influence fresh in this new century. The J. Neel Prize, provided by a Georgia Trust fund produced from the sale of the book, helps ensure continuation of Reid's influence among a new generation of architects." Buy the book to support the prize and to delight your family.


  1. Really appreciate the Ruskin explorations. And Ms. Christensen is doing such fascinating and important work with the Hurricane proof shipping containers/temporary housing project.

    Thanks for this inspiring post Terry!

  2. Wonderful post. I am from Atlanta and had to read it when I saw Neel Reid. He has had such a huge impact on this city.


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