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  • Ken Ilgunas

Campus Galli in Smithsonian Magazine

Andreas, a carpenter: “I hate pressure. We made a big mistake of the wooden monastery because our preparation was not finished, and then we were stressed. Our work is complicated. [We didn’t have] enough time to concentrate. If you work very concentrated, you have a better work as an end. I will return to the work and work slowly. I like the quality.”

I have an article out in this month’s Smithsonian Magazine, on a strange architectural project called “Campus Galli,” a living history open-air museum for which they’re using ninth-century tools, methods, and materials. They say Notre Dame will be re-built in 5 years. Think about an architectural project that might take 100.

I volunteered there for about a week, working with the basket-maker, rope-maker, and stonemason.

The longer version of this article would have included a call for a 21st Century revival of craftsmanship, a reflection on all of us whose jobs are going to be made obsolete due to automation, and the need for strong communities and a larger sense of purpose. I only had 1,800 words to work with, but I’d like to think that this tiny article has found a way to hint at all of the above.

Some photos from my stay…

This woman is an office worker who volunteers as a stonemason at Campus Galli. She told me that at her office desk she begins her day with a stack of papers on one side of her desk, and at the end of the day the papers are on the other side. Dissatisfied with not being able to see the product of her labor at the office, she comes to Campus Galli so she can. Here, she's driving a pole into a stone, which will eventually divide the stone into smaller pieces.

Michael, a carpenter: "It's about respect of the materials. Working with simple tools, not machines and a lot of noise."
Daniel, a carpenter: “For me, it’s mainly the craft. In carpentry today, we set up things a machine builds. Here, I can really work in my craft, think about how to build the things. It's quite a special building site because a monastery is quite complex. Lots of different buildings. Lots of different ways to build them. There’s a connection between the science and the craft.”
Martin, the potter: “We have so many different people from different backgrounds, different motivations. [When] they get their Medieval dress, they all look the same or very similar. You don't know why this person is here. We have volunteers, students, old people, families, craftsmen, or [people who] work in an office. Also, unemployed people who get used to work again. You put your dress on like a monk, and then no one can see whether your parents were noble or slaves.”
Maga, the basketmaker: “In the twenty-first century, people are looking for money. They don’t take care of the community. Here, I like the community, the people in [the] barracks.”
Inside of the church

Lars, the shephard: “I studied computer science and nature science, combining biology and computer science. I noticed I was sitting inside with a computer and not going outside. I have to be outside. I want to try new things.”
Nicole, the vegetable gardener: "[I like] to work in the fresh air, not in the factories."
Julian, a carpenter: "You have a lot more time here to make quality, and to get to know the wood before your eyes. [You can] develop a capacity. In the twenty-first century, you have a lot of different types of machines. It's cool, but I'm not developing a capacity to read the wood, to work with it. I was fascinated by this, and by the community."
Sophie, a carpenter apprentice: “I didn’t want to do textiles. I wanted to be cutting trees. Shaping the beams. I started to tell other female volunteers, you could do that. I really like to learn craft. In other places you can’t really learn so many different crafts. Here, you can make mistakes and everyone is okay with it. You have a master who will tell you the next step. It’s more individual.”
That's me
Jens, a stonemason: "I have worked on many old churches. I like to keep them alive. Make a stone, fit it in. When I’m gone, the stone is still there."


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