Thursday, September 8, 2016


"TradArch" is short for "Traditional Architecture".  In the context of this essay, it refers to a listserv hosted by the University of Miami that carries the following description:

"Prof. Richard John runs an electronic mailing list from the University of Miami devoted to discussion of the theory and practice of traditional architecture. The list is an open forum for all topics related to this topic, including the posting of images of historic buildings and photographs of list members' own work. It is affiliated with the Certificate in Classical Architecture at the University of Miami School of Architecture."

I joined about three years ago and have really benefited from the perspective of architects, academics, historians, town planners, craftsmen, preservationists, students and laymen. Here are a few of the characteristics of TradArch that I feel contribute to it's success:

Uncensored - The moderators have an extremely light hand. I've not heard as much as an admonishment let alone someone getting banned. Granted the subscribers are by and large well behaved. Naturally (and beneficially I'd add) there is disagreement but for the most part this is kept on a professional level.

Democratic - There is no agenda. Folks post about their interests and what catches the interest of others gets discussed. It might also be thought of as a back channel for members of organizations and academic institutions to be able to compare, contrast and refine their approaches to traditional architecture outside the strictures of stated missions and manifestos.

Diversity - The listserv is open to anyone interested in traditional architecture. There are those with many years of practical experience, others might have a more academic pedigree. There are members still in school or just getting started in their careers. Some members are principals of large, well established firms while others are simply concerned individuals. Participation is entirely voluntary. Whether you read all of the threads or choose to actively participate is entirely up to you.

One of the criticisms leveled against the TradArch listserv was that it was a lot of talk behind virtual closed doors and no action. There was some validity to the charge. About the same time a couple of years ago, the tone on the listserv was getting noticeably irritable. Increasingly, comments were edging closer to personal attacks. Feelings were getting hurt. It was decided something had to diffuse the tension. A Garden Party!


The intention of the organizers was to create a gathering that was a reflection of the listserv and the aforementioned characteristics that made it unique and vibrant.

TAG 2015, image courtesy of David Brussat
The inaugural TradArch Gathering was held in Charleston, SC in April 2015. It began with a cocktail reception at the College of Charleston, followed by a day of sessions at The American College of the Building Arts and concluding with a day of touring infill construction in the historic district as well as the nearby I'on suburb developed according to New Urbanist principles. Despite prognostications of doom and fears of fisticuffs, everyone seemed to have a great time. Folks that had been on the listserv for years were able to meet for the first time face to face and communication noticeably improved. 

To my surprise there was renewed interest to do it again! This year it will be held in Historic Oakwood Raleigh, NC. Members of the Oak City Preservation Alliance in particular are doing the heavy lifting in playing hosts to what we're calling TAG2. Interested in attending? Join the list, join the conversation!
TradArch listserv

Below is a description of the event:

The TradArch gathering is based on 3 simple concepts in the spirit of keeping the event a reflection of the listserv itself, essentially a democratic forum for folks either independent or closely allied to organizations:

1. Non-discriminatory: Everyone on the listserv is welcome
2. No hierarchy: We're all professionals. A meeting of equals. Inspiration
can come from any of us
3. No preconceived agenda: With open session scheduling you can bring your
own ideas. If its got popular support it will be the subject of discussion

There has been feedback for improvement for our upcoming event including:

  • 2 days of sessions
  • An area for project displays open to the public 
  • Public evening presentations
  • A more structured agenda
  • Time for strategy
We've been working to incorporate all of these suggestions. The first three were easily adopted. The question arose as to how an open, democratic spirit while accommodating a preconceived agenda. Here's what we came up with:

  • Maintaining the first morning session for spontaneous open session scheduling as previously
  • Predetermining together, on the listserv beforehand the other topics we would like to take up for Friday afternoon and Saturday morning sessions. **Individuals may lead a discussion but no lectures PPT presentations etc. without unanimous consent
  • Concluding with a strategy session Saturday afternoon where manifestos, plans of action etc. can be addressed

The schedule for October 13 - 16:

304 Oakwood Ave., Raleigh, NC 27601

Thursday , Oct 13      
4:30 PM - 6:00                
Tour of Historic Oakwood led by resident architectural historian Matthew Brown. Matthew is a historian for the state of North Carolina and extremely well informed and interesting. We will include the house that caused the ruckus.

6:00 PM - ?                     
Cocktail party/heavy hors d'oeuvres at home of Carter Skinner, local traditional residential architect. His home is in Historic Oakwood and is a great example of the architecture. He and Chapman are looking forward to having you as their guests. They actually canceled an amazing trip to host for us.

112 S. Salisbury St., Raleigh, NC 27601

Friday, Oct 14            
8:30                               Breakfast in hall, provided by OCPA

9:00 - noon                    Closed sessions

10:30 - 11:30                 Andy Petesch

noon - 1:30                     Lunch

1:30 - 5:00                     Closed sessions

6:00                                Public evening sessions:

Dan Morales  
"A Gift to the Street: How to Speak about the Importance of Architectural Beauty"  

Tom Low  
"City Transformations"

Saturday, Oct 15        
8:30                                Breakfast in hall, provided by OCPA 
9:00 - noon                     Closed sessions
noon - 1:30                     Lunch
1:30 - 5:00                      Closed sessions
6:00                                Public evening sessions:
Nir Buras
"The Pleasure of Beauty and the Pain of its Absence"  

Anthony James (panel)
"Additions to Historic Buildings and New Design in Historic Districts"

Sunday, Oct 16          
12:00                              Tour of Duke Chapel

Contributed by Patrick Webb

1 comment:

  1. Great summary, Patrick! Looking forward to TAG 2 and seeing how we can further the cause of traditional architecture!