- About the Authors
“The parts [of a building] ought to be so composed that their overall harmony contributes to the honor and grace of the whole work, and that effort is not expended in adorning one part at the expense of all the rest, but that the harmony is such that the building appears a single, integral, and well-composed body, rather than a collection of extraneous and unrelated parts.”
—Leon Battista Albert, On the Art of Building
The rapid growth of the classical Christian education movement means that hundreds of recently established schools enjoy a basic solidarity of purpose. They can also seize the opportunity to think together about how the architecture and design of their schools can best suit their identity and location.
In Making School Beautiful, Dr. Skillen draws out principles of campus design from the very liberal arts—rhetoric in particular—that shape our curriculum. His argument is that the rich intellectual, literary, and artistic heritage can inform not only what we teach but where we teach. From the campus layout to thoughtful design of rooms, buildings, and selected art, students and teachers can foster a love of learning, a care for their neighbors, and a desire for God.
The idea itself comes from the great architects of the tradition. From Vitruvius, who wants the architect to be “instructed in geometry, know much history, [and] have followed the philosophers with attention.” From Renaissance architect Leon Battista Alberti, who is explicit about the parallels between rhetoric and architecture and states that the architect should “take the same approach [to the art of building] as one might toward the study of letters.”
The organization of Skillen’s book follows Alberti’s three aspects of architectural decorum: every room should be fitting for its place in the building as a whole; every decorative element in a room to the room’s role in the building; and the building as a whole to its place in the surrounding townscape and landscape.
John Skillen holds a BA in English from Gordon College and a PhD in literature from Duke University. He returned to Gordon as the medieval and Renaissance literature specialist before founding the college’s arts-oriented Studio for Art, Faith & History, a program of seminars and retreats based in Orvieto, Italy, that includes summer programs, lead in collaboration with Classical Academic Press, for students and teachers from the classical Christian schooling community. Making School Beautiful works in tandem with Skillen’s book Putting Art (Back) in its Place (Hendrickson, 2016), in which he explores the new timeliness of how, in premodernity, the work of art was put to work in the life of communities of Christian faith. His present role as the Senior Advisor of Classical Initiatives has extended his engagement with the classical schooling movement.
Click here for color versions of and more information about the photos featured in this book.