The fatal metaphor of progress, which means leaving things behind us, has utterly obscured the real idea of growth, which means leaving things inside us.
Tradition in architecture is predicated on a process of receiving, adapting, and transmitting technological and artistic method. Inheriting generations renew its relevance only through discerning critique and imaginative reapplication. For the past century, architectural education in America has tended to under-exploit this resource by segregating it into a historical past, one worthy of academic respect, perhaps, but no longer a legitimate spring point to inspire forward-looking designers. As contemporary culture confronts crises of dislocation and migration, mass-urbanization, social disintegration, climate-change resilience, scarcity, and banality, the utility and value of traditional architecture must be reconsidered in both academic and professional contexts.
Castle Howard, the eighteenth-century British country house and garden in Yorkshire largely designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor and John Vanbrugh will serve as the site for the semester’s design assignment. The Castle has recently initiated a visioning exercise for the restoration, regeneration, and revival of its nine-thousand-acre estate. In the context of this plan, students will be asked to create a school of traditional building arts and a new landscape element integrated into the grounds of the estate. The school is intended to train and educate young craftspeople for building work in Yorkshire, the broader United Kingdom, and other parts of the world. While oriented to address immediate demands of conservation and preservation, the school will be equally focused on the construction of new buildings and, like the studio itself, will be organized to aggregate, rather than to segregate, disparate design disciplines and to equip students to create contemporary rooms, landscapes, buildings, towns, and cities.
Throughout the semester, we will investigate ways in which traditional methods of design and construction can be marshaled, alongside more conventional ones, toward enduring and aesthetically worthy ends. The semester’s work shall span the pragmatic to the poetic and intends to foreground delight, beauty, and pleasure. We will endeavor to expand students’ artistic repertoires, liberate sensibilities, and consider how traditional architecture be recruited to expand, rather than limit, the power of a designer’s personal expression.
The studio will travel to the United Kingdom by way of Edinburgh, the Scottish capital nestled amidst ancient volcanos and constructed over centuries largely from stone quarried within the city itself. We will travel by rail southward to Castle Howard where, over the course of two visits, we will be toured through the house, grounds, monuments, and sites proposed for the studio’s project by the estate’s curator, Christopher Ridgway. En route to Castle Howard we will visit the city of York, home to the York Minster, a seventh century cathedral of carved limestone with an active stone yard carrying out ongoing restoration work. While there, we will tour local sites including Roman fortifications, abbeys, medieval guildhalls, and modern constructions. In addition, we will travel to Dumfries House, an eighteenth-century estate and now home of an educational and cultural center which includes the Prince’s Foundation’s Building Arts Programme. Here we will meet young student builders and their instructors to learn about tools, methods, ongoing projects, curricula, and professional application.
The studio will begin with a series of individual and team drawing exercises organized to familiarize ourselves with the architectural languages, materials, and construction methodologies which will be encountered throughout the semester. Working individually, or in teams, students will study building types, urban design, building structure, landscape, and site design in developing a master-plan proposal for the school of traditional building arts to be presented at mid-term. Following spring break, students will identify buildings within their masterplan to develop to a high level of architectural resolution, along with a design for a landscape feature, to be presented at the final review. Throughout the semester, habitual sketching, large-scale manual drawing, and digital drawing in various formats will be the grist of the work. Model-making will be encouraged from those with such an inclination though not required. Along with presentations in British landscape by Bryan Fuermann, we will host several visiting scholars to discuss research in sustainability, building technology, architecture history, craft, and culture. Throughout the semester, George Knight will attend all studio sessions in person with Bryan Fuermann attending numerous sessions in person.