Architecture chair to speak at National Press Club

by Dennis Brown

Carroll William Westfall, chair of the University of Notre Dame School of Architecture, believes architects building in the ‘Monumental Core" of Washington, D.C., have a responsibility to contribute to the public realm, not to fulfill a personal vision. That will be the focus of his talk Nov. 14 (Wednesday) at the National Press Club as part of a conference marking the centennial of the McMillan Plan.p. Westfall will join other distinguished architects, historians, anthropologists and journalists to examine the plan, which was created by a commission chaired by Sen. James McMillan to build upon the layout for the nation’s capital established in the late 18th century by Pierre L’Enfant.p. The McMillan Plan provided a framework to build Washington so that its cityscape served the ideals to which government aspired. But as the plan’s influence began to fade in the 1940s, so too did the city’s beauty, according to Westfall.p. “Buildings moved from being citizens to machines demolishing the traditions that built civil and monumental Washington and replacing them with a personal interpretation of what architecture is,” Westfall says. “We do not tolerate that behavior in a person holding public office. Why do we allow it in a building?” A well-planned, communal vision has been the basis for building the best parts of cities from ancient Athens to the Washington of McMillan. But in Westfall’s view, over the last 50 years, architecture has become more closely identified with individual expression than with civic representation, and nowhere is that more evident than in Washington.p. “Discussion about law and civil conduct on one hand, and urbanism and architecture on the other, has fallen into almost complete disuse,” Westfall says. “Washington’s original builders knew that seeking beauty in urbanism and architecture was the complement to seeking justice through the law and the fulfillment of public duties. As a result, blocks, streets, open squares and parks ? buildings serving public and private purposes ? present an ordered urban realm serving the civil activities of government.”p. Just as we expect our government to promote social justice, Westfall believes, we should expect the same from our buildings.p. A member of the Notre Dame faculty since 1998, Westfall is the Francesco Montana Professor of Architecture. He is a leading historian of classicism in architecture and the architecture of cities, where the focus of his work ranges from the doomed Roman metropolis of Pompeii to the neighborhoods and boulevards of contemporary Chicago. Westfall is the author of two books and a member of the advisory council for the Study of Classical Architecture. Notre Dame’s School of Architecture offers the nation’s only fully accredited curriculum in and traditional and classical architecture and urbanism .

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