Architect Duncan Stroik Asks 'Is There A Sacred Architecture?' at Hesburgh Lecture

News Story: March 1, 2010
Duncan G. Stroik, M. Arch.

Duncan Stroik, University of Notre Dame professor and renowned practitioner of Catholic architecture, captivated an audience Thursday evening, March 4, at Sacred Heart University’s Schine Auditorium with a lecture that addressed the question, “Is There a Sacred Architecture?”
 
The event was part of Notre Dame’s annual Hesburgh Alumni Lecture, and was sponsored by the University of Notre Dame’s Alumni Association and in conjunction with Sacred Heart University’s University College. The Hesburgh Lecture is named for the legendary Father Theodore M. Hesburgh, who served for 35 years as the president of the University of Notre Dame.
 
It was also presented as part of the Human Journey Colloquia Series and is an element of the Year of the Chapel, a year-long series of events at Sacred Heart to celebrate the opening of its new Chapel of the Holy Spirit.
 

Dr. David Coppola talked about the symbolism of the mosaics in SHU's new Chapel of the Holy Spirit

The event was followed by a tour of the Chapel of the Holy Spirit by Vice President of Strategic Planning and Administration David Coppola, Ph.D.  Dr. Coppola gave attendees an in-depth look at the chapel, explaining the symbolism of the original mosaics by renowned Jesuit artist Father Marko Ivan Rupnik. Since its creation, Sacred Heart’s chapel has garnered widespread attention and praise.
 
In 1998, Mr. Stroik founded the journal titled “Sacred Architecture," which is
devoted exclusively to issues of church architecture. “Twelve years ago when we founded the journal and titled it 'Sacred Architecture,' liturgists and architects thought I was crazy and that the sacred was irrelevant today. Yet, now it is a buzzword for many in the field,” he said.
 
Mr. Stroik received his architectural education from the University of Virginia and Yale University. Following graduation, he served as a project designer for the architect Allan Greenberg, with whom he designed a number of prestigious civic, institutional, collegiate and residential projects. In 1990, Mr. Stroik was invited to help form and implement a new curriculum in classical architecture at the University of Notre Dame. He is also the principal of Duncan G. Stroik Architect, LLC also located in South Bend, Ind.
 
During his lecture, Mr. Stroik reflected on the importance of chapels and church architecture in colleges, and showed photographs of some of his projects that include the design of the chapel of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity at St. Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, Calif. Mr. Stroik said the central location of the chapel on the St. Thomas Aquinas campus “reflects the central role of faith in the pursuit of wisdom.”
 
Like St. Thomas Aquinas’ chapel location, Sacred Heart University’s chapel is prominently located in the heart of its campus, underscoring the University’s dedication to the pursuit and expression of faith and its foundation in the Catholic intellectual tradition.
 
“Many Catholics believe the adage that the study of liturgy should inform the design of churches, as well as the reverse, that the architecture of our churches informs the liturgy,” said Mr. Stroik. “The idea that the understanding of liturgy or theology is necessary to design a Catholic church has been foundational for church architecture since Vatican II and has even spawned a new type of expert, the Liturgical Design Consultant.”
 

Mr. Stroik said that according to the ancient architect Vitruvius, there are three major principles of architecture: Firmitas, Utilitas and Venustas. “These principles of Durability, Convenience and Beauty make clear the importance of durable construction, the ennoblement of function, and visual beauty to the definition of architecture,” he said. “These principles apply to all architecture including the architecture of the church.”
 
Mr. Stroik said that as an architect and a teacher, he is engaged daily with the exigencies of budgets, building codes, and worrying how to keep water out of a building.
 
“To conceive of the church first of all in theological terms before getting into the requirements for the liturgy, the limitations of the budget, space requirements, or the specific language or character of the building, allows us to see the big picture,” said Mr. Stroik. “These requirements are certainly important issues in the design of a church, but if we get sidetracked by them, we are often left with a compromised building.”
 
“However, I believe that the crucial issue in church architecture today is the development of the theological understanding of the ‘church as a sacred place,'” said Mr. Stroik.

To watch a video of this lecture, click here.