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.

- Michael Lykoudis, Francis and Kathleen Rooney Dean

Classicism is…


The School emphasizes classical, vernacular and regional architecture within traditional urbanism; principles that encourage community, harmony with nature and economy of resources and energy. Around the world, regional and local building and planning traditions respect local climates, resources and culture with cities and buildings that are beautiful, enduring and do the least harm to the earth. Our curriculum offers our students studies in how buildings reflect the landscape and culture of a given location through the use of local materials and building methods.  Our students engage the design process that respects conservation and investment in buildings rather than consumption and waste.  


For millennia, durability was central to the practice of architecture; buildings were made to last as long as possible, with materials and techniques chosen toward that end. Today short-lifespan construction has become the norm. Increasing the lifespan of buildings is crucial to environmental sustainability. The School is part of a continuum from the past to the future, learning and inventing from it - carrying it forward with enduring principles of construction along with new technologies.


Buildings must be designed and built to fulfill their purpose at the time of construction, but also so that the buildings can be adapted for future uses if their current utility becomes obsolete.  Without functionality, building and cities become wasteful and unsustainable. The School teaches students how to design and build buildings that will be adaptable to future purposes and roles so that functionality is seen as a commodity that reaches far into the future.  


The School teaches the Vitruvian values of beauty, utility and durability all of which are necessary for the cultivation and sustainability of the built and natural environments. Architecture is an art. There is beauty in the process of designing – our students learn to express their designs in hand drawings and watercolor renderings that are themselves works of art. The pursuit of beauty is essential to being human.  Beauty is what gives us the strength to continue and to persevere.  It is what makes places sustainable and life enjoyable.