The contrasting tones of the tragic yet majestic painting "The Death of Marat" lit the expectant faces of architecture students and faculty alike as Peter Waldman began his lecture.
The William R. Kenan Jr., professor of architecture at the University of Virginia School of Architecture, Waldman used the methods of artists such as Jacque-Lois David to illustrate to the audience how one frames the form of nature, emulating the order and dualities presented to express the region's natural culture. He emphasized that by being in tune with the preconditions of the land, architects can form a national identity through coupling agriculture and architecture.
Waldman's lecture, "The Word Made Flesh: On Specifications for Construction," served as the spring installment of the Robert B. Church III Memorial Lecture Series. Held each semester in honor of its namesake, the second dean of the UT School of Architecture, the Church Lecture Series hosted Waldman as its third lecturer of 2013.
"I love history and I love the fact that a lot of issues are recurrent," Waldman said. "Architecture helps people see things will come again and again. Nowadays in this age of information, nothing is the same worldwide. Architecture is some way to stabilize us in a world where everything seems to be changing."
Dr. Scott Wall, the director of the School of Architecture, was especially delighted to introduce Waldman. Wall was formerly Waldman's student.
"Peter has been a mentor for me for 27 years and he has supported our faculty at UT in a variety of ways," Wall said. "He has been great to our faculty because he does the stuff he does, not because he wants the fame, but because he is passionate about what comes out of that. Peter's perspective on the poetry of rational design is really amazing. He went from an abstract kind of storytelling to realizing that everything he had always been doing was part of a truly sustainable practice of not architecture but practice of inhabitation."
Waldman's influence is spreading across generations of students, beyond teachers and into the lives of students. Elizabeth Cagle, a fifth year undergraduate in architecture, was excited to see Waldman and learn more about how his work has affected her own.
"Professor Waldman teaches at UVA and my thesis advisor, Brian Ambroziak, also studied at UVA and Princeton, so he's definitely an influence on my thesis advisor," Cagle said. "Learning that particular school of theory is really interesting to me and is pertinent to my current work in my thesis."
Waldman said he draws from the passion of his former mentors when he encourages students to make a connection with all their past works in each of their projects.
"My influences were my teachers like Michael Graves who went to Rome and discovered ideas that were powerful there and took them back to America to share with his students," Waldman said. "I want (students) to begin to think that ideas come from somewhere. I can say that they come from the sun and the moon, gravity and the beautiful layout of gardens. I try real hard now for (students) to say yes these are not just aesthetic, but they come from ideas that might be eternal."