Strong Foundations: Connecting Architecture and Christianity
Andrew von Maur, M.Arch
Professor of Architecture
Interviewed by Adriana Santana
How long have you been teaching at Andrews and how long have you been in the architecture profession?
I’ve been working in the architecture field since I graduated from Andrews in 1999; I started teaching in 2003.
What made you want to come here and study architecture?
I grew up in Germany so I was interested in studying in the United States. I also grew up Adventist, and Andrews University was the only Adventist school that has an architecture program.
Your wife is also here teaching too, so what made you guys want to teach here?
We weren’t planning to come back. We were in graduate school together at (University of) Notre Dame, and we had job offers elsewhere. But then we got this email from one of our colleagues, and we felt that God was calling us to at least give Andrews a shot.
How do you feel about seeing students using the lessons they learned in the real world, and do you see them do it spiritually?
Well, my own awareness of what goes on here has changed. When I first came to teach here, even though I was interested in being an Adventist and architecture, I didn’t necessarily see the connection between architecture and the Christian mission as clearly as I see it now. Today I see it differently, and as a result I teach differently and I see our students eager to make that connection. Of course it’s up to the individual student, but I think that we have been given an amazing opportunity here to help our students connect the dots between their faith and their mission to their profession.
How do you feel about the Ubuntu Project, and how it’s going?
Well it’s not a project we started; it’s a project that was started by a former student, Wandile Mthiyane (Master of Architecture, first year), who is from South Africa. He decided to take a year off so he could make his project come true. It’s ironic that when we were trying to bridge that gap between between someone’s faith and their profession it drove them to leaving our school. However, we had no idea how we were going to do this; I had never been to South Africa, but I decided to follow Wandile’s faithfulness and it worked out. Since then we have gotten the whole graduate studio involved in essentially assisting the Ubuntu Design Group, which is the nonprofit he founded.
I don’t want to hype it up too much, but our students who participated would say it was transformational; it was a real way to see how you can connect your profession to your faith, and our mission as Seventh-day Adventist Christians. It has been a good project, but we’re not finished—we still have work to do. We’re not going to be done until December and students already want to help. It’s not yet sorted out, though. It looks like we’re going forward with the motto that we’re just going to take it one step at a time, be faithful, and if God wants it to happen, it will happen.
Is this the first outreach program to be happening outside Michigan?
No, we’ve worked in different countries before like Honduras and the Bahamas, but there was something different about this trip. For starters, our team worked really hard connecting with God by having Bible studies. There was also a stronger sense of purpose, a stronger sense of awareness of education and of God’s presence. Also, because of Wandile, and because God made everything possible, we were able to have a deeper relationship with the people of Ubuntu.
Lastly, what would you say the merits of teaching Architecture are?
It’s an awesome job, and when I was in Africa I had surreal moments where I was like “this is my job,”—I get to be halfway across the world sitting with young people exploring how being designers can change the world, while being able to point to Jesus in the process. I mean it’s not always like that—there’s a lot of paperwork—but it’s a rewarding job in general and I’m very grateful. I do think there are so many ways we can incorporate God in everyone’s line of work, and I believe the University should make it easier to do these types of trips. We have to go way beyond to make these experiences happen.