…It is an especially sad thing to note the passing of architect and educator Thomas Gordon Smith, a man who not only lamented the ugliness all around us but endeavored to make beautiful things, and to teach others to make beautiful things as well. He died on June 23, 2021, in South Bend, Indiana.
An accomplished painter, furniture designer, historian, and author, Smith is widely known for the radical re-creation of the University of Notre Dame School of Architecture curriculum that began under his tenure beginning in 1989, which transformed it into the world’s foremost academic center for the teaching of classical architecture as a living tradition. Before Smith (and still in most programs around the country), modernism was simply assumed, in the same way and for the same reasons progressivism is assumed nearly everywhere in the academy now. And naturally, not only assumed, but rigorously enforced.
When as a student Smith began to be interested in classical architecture, he ran up against the phalanx of the modernist architectural establishment. “Who gave you permission to design a Doric house?” said one of his professors upon seeing one of his designs….
At Notre Dame, Smith created a program unlike any in the country to provide students the opportunity to steep themselves and train in the classical tradition. This training did not, as some critics claimed it would, turn students into drones who could only produce copies of old buildings. To the contrary, their training in the disciplined principles and techniques of classical architecture allowed these students to be even more creative. Should it have been any surprise that their buildings would look unique, fresh, and beautiful when these students had been studying the architecture of the past two thousand years rather than what the star architects had been churning out in the past fifty years?…
Anyone who has seen Duncan Stroik’s superb Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity chapel at Thomas Aquinas has seen one of the fruits of Smith’s efforts to provide a place for classical architecture to flourish. Although fewer people may have seen the remarkable seminary and chapel Thomas Gordon Smith designed for the Confraternity of St. Peter in the countryside near Lincoln, Nebraska, it is equally beautiful and impressive….
The above comes from an August 5 story in Catholic World Report.
I appreciate his beautiful work every time I attend Holy Mass at Thomas Aquinas Chapel. May Mr. Smith rest in peace.
God bless Thomas Gordon Smith, and all his beautiful, classical sacred architectural works. Duncan Stroik was one of his collaborators in founding the classical school of sacred architecture at Notre Dame, and his works are beautiful, too. Would love to see the demise of diabolically ugly “modernism” in all its terrible, monstrous forms, someday, including ugly modern architecture in churches.
This chapel is very beautiful.
Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace.