March 30, 2009

Leon Krier on the True Sustainability: Tradition

Many many apologies for the long hiatus yet again in posting. A few big projects came down the pipe these past few weeks so blogging has fallen to a lower priority rung. However these next few weeks should be much more sane.

Tonight I attended a lecture by architect, theorist and urban planner Leon Krier at Catholic University of America right here in DC. For those of you in the DC/Maryland Area, Mr. Krier will be speaking this Wednesday at University of Maryland on the same topic, the Architecture of Community.

Leon Krier (taken with cell, sorry for quality)

Tonight Krier spoke mainly on traditional urbanism, which makes up the bulk of his scholarship, but in light of our increasing awareness of environmental concerns and energy concerns. He gave a very good argument as he usually does for both traditional urbanism which centers planning around the 10 minute walk, ie, according to human scale and nature, but also on traditional architecture itself.

In previous posts I have made the argument that traditional architecture not only looks better, but that it is more sustainable. I have given a number of arguments showing how traditional construction details, and traditional materials are more adept at dealing with natural forces of wind and weather than experimental modernism. I have tried to show how tradition is not just an aesthetic choice, but is an actual functional part of a building. Tonight Krier was able to sum this up with just one statement, one that I think ought to be declared an axiom of architecture:
"Tradition is not about style, it's about technology."
Krier made the argument that traditional details, traditional construction is not about a style, not about aesthetics, but is entirely about technology. Not about experimental technology in the modern sense, but technology that works. Criticisms were raised in the questions after the talk about traditional architecture simply historicism. Krier gave the brilliant response that technology that works, such as the wheel or other discoveries, are not simply historic events, but are truths, and as such are outside of time.

We use wheels all the time, but don't worry about when they were invented, but that we simply recognize their utility and incorporate them into our lives. So too would the case be for construction technology, we simply don't need to reinvent the wheel.

So if it ain't broke, don't fix it!

March 10, 2009

Photos from the Dedication at Thomas Aquinas College

Cardinal Mahony greets President Tom Dillon and Vice President Peter DeLuca before the Dedication.

Architect Duncan Stroik speaks at the Dedication Ceremony.

College Chaplain, Fr. Cornelius Buckley SJ opens the doors.

Cardinal Mahony Processes into the Chapel, ahead of him is Bishop Cordelione of San Diego.

The founding professors of the college, followed by alumni priests, process in.

Cardinal Mahony speaks about the Chapel.

The Congregation gathered for the Dedication.

Cardinal Mahony presents a blessing to the President.

Cardinal Mahony presides over the Mass of Dedication.

President Dillon delivers an address.

Cardinal Roger Mahony Sprinkles Holy Water on the Congregation.

All photos courtesy of Thomas Aquinas College

New Chapel at Thomas Aquinas Finished

This weekend I was fortunate to have been on the campus of Thomas Aquinas College (my alma mater, undergraduate) to celebrate the dedication of the brand new Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel. The chapel only seats about 600, even with overflow, so I wasn't enough of a VIP to attend the actual dedication itself, but the college has posted up photos from the event, which I will attach to the next post.

I was able to however attend the first Mass the day after the dedication, a Traditional Latin Mass celebrated by the head of the Fraternity of St. Peter, Fr. Berg, a graduate of TAC in 1993. As an interesting liturgical aside, there seems to have been zero problems having the Traditional Latin Mass in the new church, as well as the Ordinary form, or Novus Ordo Mass as well. Blogger, and prolific Matt Alderman has written an excellent piece in First Things about preparing new Catholic churches for the use of both forms of the Mass, and it's great to see a new church functional for both.

One commentator here thought the church was renovated or was in Italy, but no, it's BRAND NEW. This church is in my opinion the best church built in America in the last 40 to 50 years. I'd be hard pressed to find a more beautiful church built since World War II anywhere else in the world. There are a few others which are fine churches, though as I said, very few, and certainly none that have been built in my lifetime even come close. If someone can find one I'd love to see it.

We are, it should be said, in just the opening stages of a renaissance with New Classicism and the church's few minor quirks are only to be expected. When one can honestly say that 30 years ago there were probably just a handful of Classical architects working in the world, and nothing like this was being built anywhere. The few practitioners there were out there were only able to preserve so much knowledge. Today we can see how far we've come in such a short time, but also knowing that this is only the beginning, and much is yet to be discovered and learned anew.

TAC's chapel isn't perfect, and though it is hard to believe today, but new and BETTER churches will be built. This church is the sign that we can do it. It is a sign to architects everywhere to what is possible. It is sign to the all churches of what a sacred place can be, and how beauty can exist.

March 5, 2009

Dedication weekend at Thomas Aquinas College

I leave this evening to fly to Los Angeles enroute to the dedication of the new chapel at my Alma Mater, Thomas Aquinas College. After ten years of planning and construction - I recall fondly the drawings for the three proposals - the dreams of many alumni and faculty and staff are coming true. Here is a little article explaining a little of the history of the Chapel and all of the events that will going on this weekend.

Photo by EventH on Flickr

I will be taking photos of the chapel in all its new glory, which I shall post Monday or Tuesday upon my return to Washington. I leave you with some recent photos of the interior, and with this thought: This chapel cost $23 million to complete, whereas Our Lady of the Angels, the Catholic Cathedral of Los Angeles, cost $190 million.

Photo by EventH on Flickr

I will do some work on factoring the different sizes and other cost adjustments, but I suspect that the TAC chapel still comes in at least equal, if not less than the Cathedral. Some may say "we just can't build this way any more," but borrowing from the President's campaign slogan, yes we can, and yes we did.
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