Duncan Stroik, professor of architecture at the University of Notre Dame and an accomplished architect in the New Classical Movement, discuss how architects and craftspeople work together in today’s renewal of traditional design in his lecture, “Skillful Architects and Able Craftsmen: Today’s Renewal of Architectural Craft.” Stroik was an integral part of the planning process for the Transforming Culture in America strategic vision at Benedictine College. The talk was presented Sept. 19 by the Center for Beauty and Culture and the Angelico Fellows. Watch the presentation here. Ten quotes from the talk follow.
If you want your buildings to last, you’re going to build them well. If you want them to speak to the human spirit, they also need to be timeless. The classical aspires to the timeless and to speak to people today and to the future. One of the things that is crucial for buildings to be loved is beauty and beauty is reliant on good design and good craft.
2: Craft is Key
Craft is so important. No matter how good the architect was, no matter how good the drawing was, we want to see the masons use their talent; their mind and eye and hands make it happen.
3: The Greatest Tool
The hand is our greatest tool. The ties us to the human body which it is illustrating.
4: Computer Fails
If I were in charge of the architecture class — which I am — I would not allow the computer. If I were in charge of the office, I wouldn’t allow the computer. We have been using the computer for a generation, and we still haven’t designed a better building than our grandfathers. The computer isn’t helping us, it’s hindering us. When you design a better building than your great grandfather, send it to me, and I’ll change my opinion.
5: Worthy Materials
The things that really matter should be beautiful and permanent and we should use worthy materials. As much as we can, use natural materials. If you were interested in being a good steward of the planet you would also recognize this. These materials can be recycled, they don’t do damage to the earth because they don’t use chemicals. So we should think of materials that can last.
6: Pride and Joy
A building brings great joy and pride to the visitor and great joy and pride to the owner, long after industrial products are rotted, corroded and crumbled away.
7: America and Architecture
The architecture was part of the great experiment, part of the American project. … During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln had a lot to worry about with the war and his popularity, and a lot of money going out the window paying for armaments. But he said, “We need to keep building the U.S. Capitol.” That was the symbol of unity. That was the symbol of the Union. At the time, people thought his decision wasn’t smart. Now it’s clear why he did that.
8: The Market for Beauty
Americans and the Brits are among the most traditional cultures for architecture. Not South America, not Europe. I think it’s because we have more freedom, or we have more of a pioneer spirit. Campus architecture is one of the big places. All of our buildings at Notre Dame since 1994 have been traditional. Universities market themselves on identity and image. Some American universities and other buildings have been traditional, even through the dark ages of the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s.
9: Have a Hero
Andrea Palladio. Palladio is my hero. We all need heroes. We all need exemplars. We all need saints that we look to. We don’t have to argue about my saint is better than your saint.
10: Classical Renaissance?
When I graduated there were five architects I could work for. Now there are 100. A lot of good has happened. Benedictine College’s program is now a big part of that.