Opening remarks for the SCA Tuesday evening salon were provided by Professor Semes, and over the course of an hour and a half graduates, undergraduates, and professors engaged in discussion.

Professors Duncan Stroik, Steven Semes, Philip Bess and C.W. Westfall at the Salon.

Professor Semes opened with the two-fold education ideology of philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, that the aim of education should first enable students to learn and then join the intellectual and cultural traditions in which they live, and, second, enable them to add to it.  He went on to state that many have asked skeptically, “Where is our Borromini?” for they seek the great genius of Michelangelo, Borromini, or Lutyens, and are perhaps fearful that contemporary classicism is simply a revival that repeats forms learned from the past, rather than a creative enterprise.

Points brought up in discussion:

We cannot pretend that modernism did not happen.

What will make the classicism of this time memorable?

Contemporary classicism may grow too broad and head for breakdown, or become too narrow, too purist.

Landscape writer J.B. Jackson: “In order to change something, you must first love it; because if you try to change it without first loving it, you will only destroy it.”  Professor Semes offered that from this follows that genuine and fruitful contributions to the tradition will only come from those who know it thoroughly and love it passionately, and not from those who want to change it to conform to their own agendas.

Can there be a classical city without classical buildings?  Students decided that Paris was a classical city for its axes and object buildings, and it contrasts sharply with London, which is based on squares that have internal coherence, without a prevailing coherence.  The purpose of each city is very different, which is reflected in urban plan.  Washington, D.C., it was decided, is a city full of monuments and L’Enfant’s true vision was never realized.  Cities, then are geometric, topological, scenographic, or romantic.

Quinlan Terry’s philosophy of only building as big a house as you can build well.

Students William Rutledge, Gabrielle Stroik, Caroline Cole, Mason Roberts, Sylvester Bartos and Kasey Puls at the Salon.

Students were asked to name buildings that they think of when they hear the term “Contemporary Classicism”:

Bond Hall (The Notre Dame School of Architecture)

The Queen’s Gallery

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Regent’s Park villas

Magdalen College

Residence of Thomas Gordon Smith

George Hernandez’s Coral Gables Residences (Variations of Palladio’s villas and designed wiithin a landscape.)

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  1. Whitley says:

    Also to note, there was a definite reticence in the air when students were tasked to “name your favorite piece of contemporary classical architecture.” Some students either a)named something that wasn’t as all-too-contemporary (NY Public Library, for instance) or b)hesitated. What gives?

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