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Celebrate the skilled artisans who create and preserve America’s built environment

The building arts—and the traditional architecture they enable—provide an important link to the past and support a strong sense of local identity. Together with other cultural expressions, they provide a foundation for the shared humanity of communities large and small.

As part of the Center’s focus on cultural sustainability and our longstanding commitment to the building arts, this project helps sustain traditional building crafts and supports new applications of traditional architecture across the United States and around the world.

Our Goals

  • Sustain the traditions of the building crafts by celebrating master artisans and attracting new craftspeople to learn and practice these important trades
  • Educate design and planning professionals about the value of the building arts and traditional architecture
  • Increase understanding of the value of the building arts, historic preservation, and traditional architecture through scholarship, publications, symposia, and public outreach

Explore this page to learn about the building arts, historic preservation, and traditional architecture; the occupational culture among artisans; and opportunities in the field today.


Films & Publications

Good Work:
Masters of the Building Arts

Directed by Marjorie Hunt and Paul Wagner (2017)

Academy Award-winning directors Marjorie Hunt and Paul Wagner reunite for Good Work: Masters of the Building Arts, a film showcasing American artisans in the building trades.

The documentary illustrates the diversity of beautiful and functional works of art, from stained glass to masonry to ironwork and handcarved lettering. Good Work celebrates the importance of American craftsmanship, occupational traditions, the beauty of our built environment, and calls for new generations to do “good work.”

The Stone Carvers

Directed by Marjorie Hunt and Paul Wagner (1984)

Winner of the 1984 Academy Award for Best Short Documentary, Hunt’s first film documents the skills and knowledge of Italian American master artisans.

The Stone Carvers captures the work and infectious spirit of a small group of highly skilled stone carvers who spent their lives carving sculptures and ornaments for the Washington National Cathedral, a fourteenth-century Gothic-style monument begun in 1907.

The Stone Carvers (Book)

The Stone Carvers: Master Craftsmen of Washington National Cathedral

By Marjorie Hunt (1999)

This book presents the lives and work of two Italian American master stone carvers—Roger Morigi and Vincent Palumbo—who spent decades creating the many sculptures and decorations that embellish the Washington National Cathedral.

Exploring the carvers’ underlying aesthetic attitudes, Hunt reveals the spirit of creativity and mastery that infuses their work. She describes their backgrounds and apprenticeships in Italy, showing how memory and tradition continue to shape their art. Based on nearly two decades of fieldwork and research, this generously illustrated book resounds with the stone carvers’ voices—with their memories, stories, and experiences, their values and ideals.


Festival Program

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Master blacksmith Philip Simmons shapes a scroll at the 2001 Folklife Festival.
Photo by Harold Dorwin, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives

Masters of the Building Arts

2001 Smithsonian Folklife Festival

From the soaring skyscrapers of New York City to the adobe churches of New Mexico, from the sturdy stone walls of New England to the majestic monuments of the nation’s capital, master craftworkers in the building arts have brought enduring beauty to our built environment.


Videos



Additional Organizations

Support the Folklife Festival, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, sustainability projects, educational outreach, and more.

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