‘The Only One in the World’: Architecture for the Ages at Benedictine College
Denis McNamara knows that the architecture world well, as a consultant on many leading projects to build churches and cathedrals. And he knows that what is on offer at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, in unique.
“What Benedictine has is a classical liberal arts curriculum and a fully Catholic studio design program, which as far as I can tell is the only one in the world. Benedictine’s program is the only one that has a 100% classical curriculum taught by people of faith,” he said.
He was speaking to Seton Magazine, the publication of Seton Home School, in a piece written by Benedictine’s Megan Fassero.
The college added architecture in 2016, and dedicated the program to designing places that draw people toward the true, the good and the beautiful.
John Haigh, the director of the program, said architectural companies “value employees who know how to think for themselves, and who tackle problems through the lens of a broad frame of references.”
To meet that need at Benedictine College, “We take pride that all our architecture courses have been designed to integrate with a singular philosophy that is rooted in the Benedictine tradition and the general liberal arts education,” he told Seton.
McNamara added: “Educating future architects who also study theology and philosophy as part of the college’s liberal arts curriculum has the capability of producing architects who understand architecture’s sacramental and revealing role in the formation of what people used to call the ‘good life.’”
“To let architecture be part of the beautification of the world, and draw people to God that way, that’s a really special opportunity, and Benedictine is doing that,” he said.
In addition to the college’s general education requirements and courses in art, engineering, math and physics, Benedictine’s architecture students are taught time-tested artistic skills and techniques such as drafting, rendering, painting, and drawing by hand.
“While it’s not quite so simple, I have been told by professional architects that all we must do is teach our students to sketch by hand and they will be head and shoulders above their peers,” said Haigh. In addition to mastering the latest technology needed in the industry, he said, “We want our students to be able to think outside the box, literally, and judiciously approach the tools of technology. A hand sketch on a jobsite or in a meeting can save a client tens of hours of back-and-forth, and ultimately many thousands of dollars through the span of a project.”
Dean of the College Dr. Kimberly Shankman is delighted by the architecture program’s emphasis.
“As we began exploring architecture as a new program, we were increasingly struck with the way this field of study is such a natural fit for our mission,” she told Seton Magazine. “We seek to educate within a community of faith and scholarship; architecture is the study of how to give concrete expression to the idea of community.”