Traditional/Classical Architecture- Part 2


I posted this thread less than a week ago but I haven't been able to check it until today. I was pleasantly surprised to see how many people commented. I genuinely appreciate that. I tried to add another comment to the thread, but I wasn't quite sure how so I decided to start a new thread. The link to the initial thread can be found here.


Anyway, again. I am a high school student looking into architecture programs for college. I am most interested in studying traditional/classical architecture, but if not studying it, at the least practicing it. For those of you who are wondering, I am not actually from Newport, but it is my favorite place. I happen to be from Long Island, New York. Its great to hear that UC Denver has a good program. I have heard very good things about the program at the University of Miami, however those two schools are a bit out of my comfort zone for distance and climate. I am really only comfortable with staying in the United States going as  far south as Virginia and as a far west as Illinois. The University of Notre Dame, based on my research has the best and largest traditional architecture program. It seems to be the perfect match for me, however the University of Notre Dame is quite selective, and my grades/scores are significantly lower than those of accepted students to the university, sadly. However I am absolutley still applying there. It seems like there aren't really many architecture programs that have formally have traditional programs. But to the knowledge of this community, are there programs that if the curriculum is not "traditional" per say, are they still accepting of those who may have a more traditional architectural philosophy so to say. In addition, a program with a strong architectural history component is a great plus. I also consider UVa's Architectural History program and then going into an M.Arch program, but again, UVa is very selective. I know one comment said something like, many students will learn contemporary architecture in school and practice more traditional architecture. But my concern is, if i'm not taught properly, how will I practice properly. I'm sure that plenty of people on this forum are rolling their eyes at me, "Oh no, not another traditionalist!" But, it is what it is. I am who I am. I just feel like the architecture of today in many ways carries little value to the future or its longevity or permancence. Many buildings today, seem to be temporary, and that they are not meant to stand for long, or even stand for something. It also seems like for centuries architecture has been changing, but has seeminly always respected and enhanced the ideas of the past. However within the past 50 years, and much more so within the last 10 years, architecture has taken an extreme deviation from the track its been going on, and has become very abstract and requires a complex analysis. Architecture shouldn't be so complex. We have to build buildings that people can easily understand, and not get a headache trying to figure out what a building means. Architecture does not have to be traditional (though nicer) it does need to be understandable and use familiar shapes and forms, and follow the same time honored track and traditions of the architects and buildings before us, to truly create a present that will last and inspire the future. But thats just one person's opinion. I am completely open to hearing the beliefs and ideas of others. I would appreciate it if someone could explain how to post additional comments. When I first went back to the thread it had a box where I could type another comment, but then it disappeared. Anyway, thank you so much for your comments and help. . 

Jul 23, 13 4:06 pm
boy in a well

for a young person, you're really bad at the internet!

who's to say that a program in traditional architecture (which is what? an aesthetic? an ecology? a decorative kit of parts? a material preference? a grounding in well-known forms?)

who's to say that such a program will teach you to practice properly - by which I mean according to the, let's say, ethics - which you appear to be developing?

Perhaps you should focus on what that is and how it is enacted through building, and then how it produces or takes on form. In other words, hold onto your convictions, but scrap your superficial sense of aesthetics. See what happens. Hopefully at least the reasons for your proclivities will become clear to yourself and you can judge the legitimacy of the soapbox you chose to stand on for yourself.

what are you resisting? the short-sightedness of most contemporary planning and building? What does that have to do with whether a building looks 'traditional' or not? Is what a building 'stands for' determined by its shape? is a john currin really better than an ad reinhardt because it uses familiar images? What is it to respect the past? To repeat it? To repeat its shape? What are the ways to participate in the very long tradition of architecture?

Your bit on meaning and people understanding buildings - you know what that sounds like? Like Patrik Schumacher trying to re-teach us all semiology - maybe you'll like reading his book - I can't bear to turn its pages. But what if architecture happens to be complex?

Is venturi complex? Is paul cret complex? Is palladio complex (yes)? Is bernini the architect complex (no)? Is a queen anne less complex than a neutra? Who gets a headache asking what a building means? Probably someone who doesn't know what questions to ask of a building.

I'm typing this with my chair swiveled round because I rolled my eyes so hard. Very difficult. But im glad you like architecture.

I am who I am? C'mon Yahweh - take some time to learn before settling on a tautology.

Here's a bit on Graves where he apologizes for his repercussions on post modernism.


ps - as a cyborg, I don't think he's afraid of a digital pen - but that's another conversation.

pps - fuck, that shit was hard to even look at, let alone read. try some spacing. total tldr.

ppps - puppies are great but I hate jeff koons - he's not complex.

Jul 24, 13 3:48 am

^ second most of this.

I seriously doubt you truly 'know who you are' as a student of architecture BEFORE even entering a program. Not to be rude, but you're not even sure if you'll get in.

Going to school for architecture is an opportunity to re-learn how to think, first off and foremost. If you enter with the attitude of already knowing what you want to do with architecture (which I seriously question; I don't know how someone in high school can have take enough classes in not only history but design to really understand A) what architecture is and B) what they want to do with it.. I'm still figuring this out and much older than you), you will be a far less accomplished student.

Go in with an open mind, which is true of most things in life.. those who are more willing to not have biases and absorb rather than push a certain agenda will always come out as better students... ask any professors about this.

I appreciate the fact that you're so convicted, but take a step back. Ask yourself why you really want to go into this field. If it's just because you want to make 'traditional' buildings, you may not have enough of a base to make it through all of the other rough spots you will have to go through in school (parts of it really suck).

And honestly, most people are reacting skeptically not because you appreciate classical architecture, but because you seem so sure of yourself without any architectural education. Just wait until you get into school with this stance.. may not go over so well. 

Just apply to some of the programs you mentioned, along with a few others, and wait to get accepted. Once you're ready to enter school, you'll have plenty of other things to worry about the 'traditional' vs. 'contemporary.'

Jul 24, 13 9:41 am

Regardless of the level of rudeness I have received, thank you to those who have commented. By the way, the comment box is visible (for now) on this thread so I can re-comment. To "Square" even though we differ significantly in opinion, I still sincerely value your opinion. I do know what type of "student of architecture" I am because I'm inspired by architecture, and always have been. Architecture is everywhere and almost anything. I have taken architecture from being a building (as most people see it), to much more. I have tried to understand the ideas, goals, and problems associated with a building or structure. I do not officially have any formal training in architecture, though I have taken summer architecture programs at the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University. If an individual knows what is what is right for them, what is their calling- you don't need formal training or education to realize thats. It comes naturally. Though formal education will enhance this calling and provide the individual with the skills and additional knowledge that he or she needs. I don't want to go into architecture solely to create building inspired by tradition, though that is very important. I plan on going into architecture to continue the basic ideals and values of the past are continued. Buildings need not be traditional to follow this. They don't need elaborate ornamentation to follow this. My question to you and the Archinect community is what is wrong with drawing inspiration from tradition and if not replicating traditional buildings than "speaking their language with a modern dialect" What is wrong with that? Why must architecture move in its current direction? What that is so right, and tradition so wrong? "Square" stated that my view of traditional architecture might not go over so well in architecture school, and that is precisely why I created this thread. So I can find an architecture program that if they don't teach traditional architecture, they at least teach or respect the time honored traditions and ideals of the past or a program that though they may have a contemporary curriculum, might still respect a student with more traditional taste. I hope that this thread won't get to ugly. The first commenter was leaning on the edge there. I hope we can have a civil discussion. Thank you!

Jul 24, 13 10:54 am

And honestly, most people are reacting skeptically not because you appreciate classical architecture, but because you seem so sure of yourself without any architectural education. Just wait until you get into school with this stance.. may not go over so well.

I said something quite different than your "view of traditional architecture might not go over so well in architecture school." 

Again, my point is your approach to learning might not be received well, which has nothing to do with classical architecture. The same problem can happen to someone who rejects classical architecture for modernism or postmodernism only.. 

That's why I said take a step back. Remove yourself from the classical vs. modern conversation for a minute, and try to see how you're approaching this whole dilemma.

My hope is that you can go into school a little more open-minded, without preconceived notions of the industry and how architecture are operating. Those introductory summer classes are great, but if you enter as a freshmen with the attitude that you've already figured out what is wrong with architecture and you want to fix it, you will not take full advantage of your education. 

You have a ton to learn, and honestly that is a great and exciting place to be. Think karate kid... be a student first. You're not in school to solve problems, you're there to learn how to solve problems; they're two very different things.

Jul 24, 13 11:36 am

I just realized karate kid might be an obscure reference for someone your age.. but I think you know what I'm getting at.

Jul 24, 13 11:39 am

I think it's great that you could enter as a freshman feeling you know what is wrong with architecture, more youngsters should. I just don't think you will find your answers in the classical. In fact, as you begin to experience architecture more, you will find that it is an even bigger part of the problem.

Jul 24, 13 3:32 pm

I see what you're saying. I think it is certainly a good idea to go into school with an open mind. I get the karate kid reference though. I agree that students to to school to learn and then solve the problem later, though having a solution to the problem already that you can build upon with your education can ultimately be successful. 

Jul 24, 13 3:37 pm
chatter of clouds

So I can find an architecture program that if they don't teach traditional architecture, they at least teach or respect the time honored traditions and ideals of the past or a program that though they may have a contemporary curriculum, might still respect a student with more traditional taste.

i personally do not see the problem with this. should we not be past the naivety that modernism is necessarily progressive (based on what criteria and relative to which end?). the question whether neo-classical architecture is inherently regressive seems trickier but then again, regressive based on what criteria and relative to which end?

which of these fatalistically rationalized commitments/ideologies are the least progressive:. that modernism must override all else because it contains within it the future and all future values, apotheosis and end of human future therefore history (the blind seer's position). or that neo-classicism will encapsulate the past values, apotheosis and end of human past therefore history (the blinded king's position)?

Jul 24, 13 4:08 pm

Even though my questions haven't necessarily been answered (yet), I'm really happy to see that this has become a conversation with a much deeper meaning. Keep it going! To Tammuz x, I feel that architecture has of centuries followed a path. Not that everything in that path was necessarily related, but it all come together somehow. Within the last several hundred years, there have been tremendously successful revivals of styles of architecture in the past, that have respected the ideas of the past using the same core values while at the same time adapting it for modern use at that time.

Jul 24, 13 4:33 pm

I think one of the best examples of this is William Strickland's Second Bank of the United States, begun 1819, completed 1824. This building began the Greek Revival style, meant to make a connection with the young American democracy with the Athenian democracy of the past. Strickland used the strong form of the greek temple to create a home for the central bank at the time, though, instead of having the entire structure surrounded by columns with a small dark interior space, he chose to only put columns on the two pedimented facades, while leaving the other two facades flat with large windows to provide natural light into the interior. The Greek Revival style then became the inspiration for government buildings, banks etc. well into the early 20th century. This has been done many times with different styles for different purposes, with different meanings. It all shows that we have one way or another always looked to the past for our inspiration, sometimes combining elements of more than one style. Today we don't do that. For some reason, we have for the most part deviated far from the track that we have been one. Not to condemn the design of today, but it seems to have no figural foundation of roots, and exits in itself as a temporary structure, not meant to last. It seems like architects to intentionally steer far away from anything that might seem to be traditional by any means. I'm sure plenty of people appreciate traditional buildings but don't want to replicate them today. But if we don't replicate them or allow them to inspire us those time honored traditions and values of architecture will be lost. Turning architecture into something that is simply a thing that doesn't necessarily reflect its purpose, location, use, or such. It's evident that I have very strong opinions, that significantly differ from the vast majority of the architecture community, but I'm glad to be proud of what I believe in. 

Jul 24, 13 4:47 pm

Just another comment, this link explains many of the same ideas that I am talking about, that architecture doesn't need to be extremely traditional, but should respect it and continue the conversation of architecture,6

go to the bottom of the page and select the video that says Paul Goldberger Classicism. Top row of videos on the right.

Jul 24, 13 5:09 pm
chatter of clouds

i don't know if i agree with the premise that contemporary modernist/modernist-derived architecture is free of stylistic elements and combinations thereof. the difference is that the taxonomy (if we were to draw one up, immensely difficult as it might be) of contemporary architectural elements (numerous as they would be) would no longer be a closed set of elements that stand to architecture in a strict synecdochal manner.  a ionic, doric, corinthian...column stands -synecdochally (part referencing the whole) for architecture. this is a closed signification between a part of architecture and a whole of architecture. so would be the pediment, the vault, the gable...and so on. if these were miniaturized within pieces of furnture, say, this would be clearly a metaphorical referencing. in this case, architecture thus manages to clearly define itself on the basis of its own vocabulary of elements. this still happens to some extent wtihin modernist architecture (curtain glass wall, mullions/transoms, strip windows). but by swiftly breaking with a slowly evolving historical set of elements and replacing them with others, modernism broke the reverentially synecdochal tradition. i don't know whether that was a case of the the Emperor's New Clothes. Remember, it is the Emperor (i.e the then pre-modernist Architecture) not the sham tailor (i.e. the modernist architects)  who is the literal and moral object of ridicule. Instead of visible architectural elements , invisible architecure space now became the royal costume. anyway, in this way, the old costume, the visible one, could no longer be worn so easily, so unconsciously. it gained a self-awarenenss of its own contingency and newly gained ephemerality, a new sense of being trivial. what a humiliated king; he would prefer to wear these novel modern invisible clothes because it is precisely the old clothes that now signified a period gone and a respect usurped. in order to be relevant, after the collapse of this mythopoetic period of being a supreme  sacrosanct obscure subject, he must be a totally naked object, he must absorb and incorporate the new gazes of a changed consciousness around him so that he can start accumulating a new meaning. but that first moment of disclosure, the moment of humiliation, is -more than any stylistic element developed after- the crucible of modern architecture and its anxieties. can you so readily dismiss that and just go back to wearing an old costume? i don't know. you'll always know you're doing and therefor you won't really be "going back" or reinstating a smooth and easy continuity (as you suggest, devoid of complexity)  with the past.

Jul 24, 13 5:54 pm
Modernism is strongly rooted in classical architecture. Pomo not so much. Recent works that look trad are often just skin on money, same as anything else. It's a dilemma if you think style is what makes us architects.

There are a few firms that do only traditional architecture. If that is what you really want to do then find out which school is feeding them and go there. Seems pretty straightforward really. A bit of a tight road to walk on but why not. It's a niche market with enough fans you don't need to feel odd about it.
Jul 24, 13 6:45 pm
Just re-read your post. Missed your main point.

If you can't get into trad school honestly you will hate the new normal architecture school. That is unless you don't mind being treated with skepticism for 6 years. You might thrive anyway but it will take a special personality to take the lessons from skeptical profs and classmates and turn it into great trad works.

I don't see you going the way of FAT, but if you can be serious but not ego-driven and if you can distance yourself from orthodoxy you might be in the right place. They sure have done so. If you see their work as sell out then you really better make your way into the schools that teach olde style just for your sanity.
Jul 24, 13 6:55 pm

I think it's great to study architecture from antiquity to modernism. I think you need to, or at least touch on all the different periods, including classical and Renaissance architecture.

There are two modernisms - coffee table modernism and bread and butter modernism.  You learn the former in school, and through reading the magazines, though most people wind up practicing the latter, because clients don't have budgets to accommodate a frustrated architect's ego.

Jul 24, 13 7:05 pm
vado retro

As John Soane once said, "start a new damned paragraph."

Jul 24, 13 7:47 pm
boy in a well

hey - we're trying to keep this thread classy-cyst.

no humor allowed, unless it is properly humoral.

Jul 24, 13 8:35 pm

I smell a too-mature-for-high-school hoax.

There's a very interesting relationship between the architecture of Strickland and Schinkel. For example, compare the (space-time) of the Neue Wache and the Second Bank of the United States. Did they know of each other's work? I have no idea, but the space-time similarities are sometimes uncanny. Did they just happen to have access to (and devour) the same books and 'magazines'?

Koolhaas/OMA has been steadily building upon the components of architecture's tradition of the last 100 years or so.

The more traditions stay the more they change the same?


Jul 25, 13 8:16 am
chatter of clouds

can a contemporary practice of 'period' architecture carry along a dynamic/progressive intra-architectural design methodology and symbolism without ending up in its historically engendered modernism? i think this should be one of your basic questions: can you avoid modernism altogether to draw a different-yet relevant/resonant- trajectory to our current times and starting from one of the historical styles? and without ignoring what you already know?

i suppose if you were so laissez-faire about it (which is not in itself a good or bad attitude, its a character thing) -and you do sound maturely easy going in your quest- i suppose, you have already removed ethical complications - and why not. but you know that you are casting 'period' architecture in a context that it definitely did not originate from, right? are you therefore advocting a kind of surrogate pregnancy of architecture, since the original mother/context can no longer engender ? what about this new mother, her diet, her consciousness, her proximity to the corruptible?

Jul 25, 13 9:49 am

I smell a too-mature-for-high-school hoax.

Seriously, just go outside and have some fun while you still can. I hear pools are a great place to hang out during the summer. You'll have the rest of your life to ponder these things.. I'm assuming high school is almost over, just go and be present  there.

And yes, paragraphs are a great way to organize and present your thoughts more clearly. At least you're well read on Strickland....

Jul 25, 13 10:07 am

"Ludwig did not set out to copy the entire Palace of Versailles; in fact, he conceived Herrenchiemsee as something of a shell, in which only two rooms were of consequence--the State Bedroom and the Hall of Mirrors. He commissioned architect Georg Dollmann and, later, Julius Hofmann, to faithfully duplicate the center block and side wings, He eventually wished to include two longer auxiliary wings containing the chapel and court theater, but money ran short before these schemes could be executed. The king never intended that all the rooms should be completed: From the beginning, Herrenchiemsee was to be a set piece into which certain rooms were to be introduced. Their bare plaster walls, bricked up windows, and vaulted stone ceilings only served to fill out the space behind the palace's facade, providing an eerie contrast to the extravagant rooms of the piano nobile. By the fall of 1885, the palace was ready for a royal visit."

Earlier today (2004.04.14), while driving to the local post office (which is within a large local shopping center, which years ago was the site of Heinz Manufacturing), I passed by what until a year or two ago was a K-Mart. For some reason the entrance to this place was wide open, and inside was an enormous, cavernous space. I thought to myself, "Gosh, the interiors of these stores are so ephemeral." Then I thought, might it not be interesting if homes were treated/designed like BIG BOX stores. Now, thinking of Herrenchiemsee, why can't all BIG BOXES look like Versailles on the outside and empty shells on the inside. Or, is that what is kind of already happening, and Ludwig was a "dreamer" just a head of his time.

Personally, I would like a truly eclectic house...

...showing my love of all architectur[al education].

Jul 25, 13 11:19 am

I will take note on the paragraph idea for the future, but sometimes you just want to get your ideas out. Anyway, I am a high school student. I am going into my senior year. I assure you, this is no hoax. I am simply relatively well read in architectural history and some of the problems that are faced in the practice of architecture. You have all brought up very interesting ideas and viewpoints. Bringing up the rest of the summer. I'm not really  having too much "fun" so to say, at least not right now. I fractured my ankle so I'm trying to stay at home as much as possible after being on it a lot while I was at a summer architecture program at Drexel a week ago.. I'm in the process of writing college essays. And in early august i'm going on a college trip with a good friend of mine. And to top it off, when I was in Philadelphia I went to a great independent bookstore. I purchased two great books that I can't seem to put down- Tradition and Invention in Architecture by Robert AM Stern (favorite living architect) and The Study of Architectural Design by John Harbeson. Though both books do touch on classical architecture, the latter teaches students the beaux arts method, I would still recommend checking them out

Jul 25, 13 12:55 pm

When it comes down to it, there are very few schools that offer a traditional curriculum, and I can't imagine that many other schools (with modernist curriculum) would have much respect or understanding of someone who prefers more traditional architecture. Thats not to say that I can't appreciate some modern buildings. Some buildings  work wonderfully in their surroundings for their purpose, while others are just horrendous

Despite that, I feel that I can work with modern buildings. Thats not to say that I can't get into a traditional M.Arch. program or at some point in the future earn an ICAA certificate or a certificate in classical architecture from the Boston Architectural College. As far as I know these are the only non degree classical architecture programs.

When it comes time for me to practice architecture, I hope that I will be able to design wonderful buildings for my clients that will not only suit their needs and taste but will belong and fit seamlessly into its surroundings and respectfully continue the conversation of architecture.. 

Jul 25, 13 1:02 pm
Erik Evens (EKE)


I think that it's great that you have such a clear vision of what you aspire to do.  I wish that I had realized when I was your age what path I would ultimately follow.  It took me years and years to shake off the programming I received in college.

The advice to "keep an open mind" is good advice, and advice you should take seriously.  Now is the time in your life to stay inquisitive and receptive.  However, an open-minded environment isn't really what you will experience in most architecture schools. 

Harbeson's book is a very good one, and it's great that you recognize its value and importance.  The Beaux-Arts method is much, much more than simply an exposure to the details of Greco-Roman classicism.  It is a complete teaching methodology that stresses a deep background in the arts, including observational drawing, sculpture, technical drawing by hand, ink wash rendering, watercolor, geometry, proportion, literature, etc., with direct and comprehensive integration of these disciplines with a concurrent design studio.  The core curriculum of the Institute of Classical Architecture and Art is based on this Beaux-Arts prototype. 

I'd look at Notre Dame, U Miami, or U Colorado Denver.  Or, do your undergrad at a good technical school, and do the ICAA Certificate.  That, and a good portfolio should land you a job at a decent classical office.  There are lots of them, by the way - many more than people think.  The overwhelmingly modernist lens of the mainstream architectural press would have you to believe that architects specializing in traditional and classical work are rare, but that is a skewed perception.

PM me if you'd like to chat more about this.

Jul 29, 13 5:57 pm

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