Our Approach

Architecture and urbanism are about how people build and live together. One is the natural extension of the other. Notre Dame’s architecture curriculum is unique in its focus on traditional architecture and urbanism, and in its dedication to principles that encourage community, a sense of place and a built environment designed at a human scale. 

The School emphasizes the principles of the traditional city and its architecture as a prism through which to learn about and solve the problems of contemporary life. It uses the past as a way of informing the future. Knowledge alone is not enough to create an understanding of the world. Knowledge reveals the basic facts, but we still need reason to prioritize and assemble this knowledge in a useful manner, and we need virtue to direct us toward just ends. That is why faith is a crucial aspect of education. Without steadfast belief in a better future, virtue and reason give way to futility and cynicism. Only through conscious participation in the broader cultural project of the world can we hope to achieve our personal and public aspirations. Architects are asked to act, and through their work, to illustrate a vision about how the world ought to be.


We teach students the timeless skills that serve as the basis for exceptional design: advanced rendering, drawing, material strength, and spatial awareness. These skills are transferable to a wide range of applications, allowing our students to explore their creative limits to express their individuality. Moreover, with this foundation in place, students can easily navigate design trends and technological evolutions to remain relevant in a swiftly evolving industry.


Well before the "green movement" came into vogue, sustainable architecture was the only architecture practiced. Local materials were used and the building adapted to local climates and culture. Notre Dame School of Architecture teaches graduates to design enduring buildings with materials and techniques appropriate to the environment and with consideration of the entire built ecosystem. The emphasis need not compromise style and design; it often leads to unforeseen innovations with stunning outcomes.


Our design principles transcend the buildings we create. Students are taught to nurture the relationship between buildings and public and private realms. We take into consideration the culture and craftsmanship of the people who occupy the land. The buildings are good neighbors, reinforcing the bond between humans and the built form, fostering a vibrant street life, and promoting health and well-being.


Students spend their entire third year in Rome, living within the cultural framework of a city that has been evolving for over 2,600 years to meet the demands of modern life. They live side-by-side with Romans to authentically experience the complementary relationship between culture and the built environment. Students not only grow as architects but gain a better understanding of a modern culture shaped by its historic built environment. Ultimately, students learn more about themselves in the process, returning to South Bend more mindful, and confident.


In order to evolve, improve, and nurture innovative change, we need to be unafraid of challenging norms. Our unique curriculum prepares students to approach architecture differently, addressing today's most critical environmental, social, health, and economic issues. The world's pressing challenges demands critical thinkers who view the built environment creatively, yet are energized and motivated to tackle challenges with audacious solutions. Notre Dame School of Architecture prepares and encourages students to be bold and confident in their designs.