Catholic Architect Erik Bootsma of TAC & Notre-Dame Offers Online Course on Classical Architecture

Images: Bootsma Design

During my studium days in Rome I had the opportunity to meet a great many talented young up-and-coming classical architects of the Catholic world.  One of my favorites is Erik Bootsma, a convert to the Catholic Faith who studied in Rome as a Notre-Dame graduate student.  Erik and his wife are old friends of mine and I cannot say enough good things about them. They make a great team, based in Richmond, Virginia.  A lecture that Erik delivered for the Catholic Art Guild in Chicago can be seen here.  I encourage pastors and parish building committees to be in touch with Erik for professional design and consultation services.

I have always said a good church architect is one of the most important things in the world.  This is because with each new church construction, what counts is the degree to which the new building reinforces religious sensibilities and the cult of divine liturgy.  In short, God is the mystery behind all mysteries and behind all proper church construction.  In an often dark and troubled world, we seek God's presence in may ways, in many places.  Hopefully, we seek and find him especially in church, enhanced and reflected by the best possible architecture that speaks to the soul.  

Erik's education, professional mandate and portfolio speak of the unifying ideas that make a great architect produce great architecture.  What I most admire is his personal philosophy, a complete architectural cosmology.  His fine creations represent a harmony between the artist and the community of believers that also reflects by extension the divine liturgy which is the axis of human destiny.  The entire building becomes like an altar, set in the midst of the community.  Through a classical approach Erik is in touch with ancient ways of feeling and designing and praying and worshiping that are tested and powerful.  In fact, good ecclesiastical architects and artists define themselves in terms of their relationship to mystery.  Making the mystery a sweet, superb, and convincing reality is no easy task.  Good works of art must be animate with the soul.  It is exactly this that Erik gets right, proven by his schematic designs, commissions and religious buildings that reflect this animation of the soul.  

The role of the church architect is best expressed in vertical dimension uniting the community of man up with the mystery of heaven.  This is expressed by the architect who "gets it" and is felt in and by his audience.  His secret is seeking the harmonies of number, rhythm, balance, and proportion - the same things, consolations and delights found in the natural design of the universe.  Architecture, at its best, joins us all in an extended harmony.  Great church architects like Erik, revealing themselves always both classical and innovative, find a consonance between what they do and what the universe does, despite the speed at which both the times and the universe change.  At the same time, there is a bit of a contest.  The contributions of great artists contribute to the ordering of the visible, created universe amidst an immense hubbub of ugly, modern architecture that can be seen everywhere.  Erik's style is influenced by the best theories of the past ages of faith, where young architects studied the hermetic rules of such legends as Pythagoras or Vitruvius, where every where could be seen the eager search for the laws of harmony.  The rejection of classical architecture in our own day and the pillaging of it by many moderns is a type of larceny and does not faze or disconcert the Catholic architect.  Erik's style reflects an instinctively creative genius, a gift for spacial reasoning, a concentric, unifying form and Catholic sensus, which is animated by the best energies and influences of the past. This witness he gives, reflecting the mystery of God, is in a religious sense the role of every Catholic architect.   

Readers will be happy to know Erik and a fellow classical architect are offering a great opportunity for architects young and old wanting to learn classical architecture, to dig into the classical style.  This is also for students who may want to add to their portfolio, or anyone who may want to learn or improve their knowledge and grasp of something so great and important.  The virtual group class consists of a thirty minute talk and discussions Tuesday evenings, also with Thursday-Friday 1:1 studio reviews with critique/learning opportunities each week, resulting in a finished portfolio piece.  

From Erik: "For those who haven't been able in the past to take formal training, would you like to learn how to design classical architecture?  Whether you are a student or a practicing architect looking to expand your repertoire, anyone interested in classical architecture can benefit from our exclusive 8-week VIRTUAL CLASSICAL STUDIO."  

Although the Fall 2020 session is already full, I encourage all interested readers to get in touch with Erik and register for the next open session (January - March 2021).  Thanks be to God for these great new initiatives.  

Finally, below is a pic of an exciting project Erik worked on last year with a sanctuary renovation in Charlottesville, Virginia.  The restoration and design of the sanctuary is of exceptional merit, seen in the beauty of the altar and choice of natural materials.  See here for more photos of the very successful Holy Comforter project.     

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