Skip to comments.An Alternative Proposal for Ave Maria (University)
Posted on 05/17/2004 7:27:20 AM PDT by Pyro7480
14 May 2004
An alternative proposal for Ave Maria
Notre Dame students design campus plan for college
Proposed chapel for Ave Maria University designed by
Notre Dame architecture student Matthew Enquist.
| more chapel images | university images |
Three students from the University of Notre Dame have designed a campus and town master-plan for the newly-founded Ave Maria University in Naples, Florida.
Matthew Enquist, Ryan Nicholson, and John Doyle are undergraduate thesis students in Notre Dame's School of Architecture. In the final year of the five-year program students work on detailed plans for a hypothetical project of their own choosing.
Working under Professor Thomas Gordon Smith, the students also designed three major buildings for the Naples campus.
"Our program was to develop an integrated campus and town master plan," explained Enquist, "and then to develop three iconic buildings of this university town--the library, the civic center, and the church."
Enquist, who designed the church, said he and his thesis team were unaware of Ave Maria's plans when they conceived their thesis project.
In late March, Ave Maria University announced detailed plans for its proposed chapel (pictured at left). Widely criticized as an impractical eyesore, the architect's proposal requires three thousand tons of structural steel and aluminum, and is to be largely sheathed in glass. Aside from the impracticality of the design, it was also criticized for failing to reflect the historical tradition of Catholic church architecture and consciously avoiding any connection to the rich Spanish mission style so common to Florida for the past two centuries.
Ave Maria University founder Thomas Monaghan has expressed the desire to recreate Frank Lloyd Wright's "prairie style" architecture of the Midwest throughout the new Florida campus. That approach was also taken by University of South Florida's Manatee campus, with overly banal results.
The Notre Dame students took a decidedly different approach to the Ave Maria project, one that all three hope will generate some positive discussion among those who are involved in the Ave Maria development project.
"Maybe some ideas can be generated to influence the further design of the university," said Ryan Nicholson, designer of the library (pictured below).
Proposed library for Ave Maria University designed by
Notre Dame architecture student Ryan Nicholson.
| view library images |
"We really enjoyed exploring what kind of architecture and campus environment would reflect the culture and tradition of a Catholic university in Florida," said Enquist.
The Notre Dame students recognized that the campus architecture needed to respond to the hot and muggy Florida climate. "This led us to decide that our architecture should evolve from the Spanish mission style, which can be found as a regional architectural type in Florida," said Enquist.
The students placed the campus in the center of the proposed town, creating three small neighborhoods that grow out of the university.
Proposed civic center for Ave Maria University designed by
Notre Dame architecture student John Doyle.
| view civic center images |
The university is divided into two major parts: one centers around the library and its traditional mall quad; the other is arranged around the church in the best of medieval fashion.
The civic center (pictured above), designed by John Doyle, functions as a link that ties these two campus neighborhoods together. It also provides a place for students and townies to meet and intermingle, drawing the town into the university.
Proposed site plan for the campus and town of
Ave Maria designed by Notre Dame architecture
students Ryan Nicholson, John Doyle, and Matthew Enquist.
| view site plan images |
A viable alternative
Enquist's church design provides evidence that it is still possible to design beautiful churches today, churches that express the Catholic faith and respect the regional architectural influences.
The Notre Dame thesis proposal grows out of the past two millennia of ecclesiastical patrimony. Consequently, Enquist's proposed church design identifies itself in every way with the Catholic Church's rich history and tradition.
Ave Maria's proposal, not so.
In stark contrast to the Notre Dame student's design, Ave Maria University's proposed chapel (as reflected in the architect's designs published in March) is decidedly abstract and modernist in its architectural vocabulary. It pays respects not to the timeless patrimony of the Church throughout the centuries; rather it clumsily tips its hat to the missteps in church architecture taken over the past half-century, with particular reverence paid to several non-Catholic modernist chapels--Thorncrown Chapel, the non-denominational U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel, and the evangelical Crystal Cathedral in Los Angeles.
Thomas Monaghan's penchant for the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright has been particularly detrimental to the development of Ave Maria's campus, and most visibly in the design of the university chapel. It is well known that Wright, an American, publicly rejected the European heritage of churches, disdainfully referring to them as "sepulchers."
Back to the drawing board?
A week after Ave Maria trumpeted its proposed design in an expensive all-out media blitz (resulting in newspaper headlines such as "Giant Jesus will greet students to Catholic college"), the university removed the chapel images from its website.
After suffering much ridicule by conservative Catholics who would probably otherwise support the stated goals of Ave Maria University (see the Windex spoof for a particularly hilarious reaction to the proposed design), university officials appear to be distancing themselves from the architect's proposal.
Father Joseph Fessio, S.J., chancellor of the university, admitted he's received a flood of criticism about the proposed chapel design. Even so, in a March telephone conversation with this writer, he explained that he supports the ongoing design and believes it to be an "essentially Gothic structure."
The official form letter response from Ave Maria officials responding to criticism about the design takes a queer tack, not merely backing away from its trumpeted proposal, but actually disavowing its previous public relations efforts.
The letter, signed by VP of University Relations Dr. Carole Carpenter, states that "by the time of the press conference [unveiling the proposed design], our thinking on the [chapel] had already moved beyond the materials presented: for example, the exterior of the church was not all glass at the time of the unveiling. Nor was it intended that the facade and crucifix would be glass."
This is a curious choice of words considering that the models, drawings, and the written March 24 press release identified the chapel as "glass-skinned," and clearly identified the facade crucifix as 60-feet of glass.
Carpenter's letter emphasizes that the Ave Maria campus design, especially the design of its chapel, is a work in progress. "The unveiling was really the commencement of the next stage in our efforts--on what we like to refer to as our pilgrimage," she wrote.
It is ironic that students from the University of Notre Dame would be the ones to present such a beautiful, well thought-out alternative to Ave Maria's first stab at campus planning and design.
Ave Maria officials have jokingly referred to its new Naples university as "the new Notre Dame," and "the Notre Dame of the South." Ave Maria founder Thomas Monaghan has even expressed the hope of defeating the real Notre Dame on the gridiron.
Thus far, it's Notre Dame 7, Ave Maria, 0.
Another suggestion for Ave Maria: Why not at least attempt a field goal by inviting Matthew Enquist, Ryan Nicholson, and John Doyle down to Naples to present the incredible work that they have produced? Why not listen to their ideas? They have made the images of their work available here for all to see. You can bet they won't distance themselves from their proposal. It is an impressive accomplishment, and something to be learned from.
Respond to this article
Michael S. Rose is the author a several books on church architecture including Ugly As Sin. His forthcoming book In Tiers of Glory: A History of Catholic Church Architecture in 100 Pages is due out in November. He is editor of Cruxnews.com.
Email author: firstname.lastname@example.org
It looks like the students have a good teacher!
I like the Windex spoof.
Bump for Michael Rose and for the faithful Catholic architecture department at Notre Dame.
This sounds like a trivial issue, but actually it will be an important test. Anyone who is thinking of supporting Ave Maria should pay attention to the outcome of this chapel controversy. If they back down, and scrap their plans, and respond to the wishes of their supporters, then there is a chance that something good could come out of this megalomaniac project in Florida. But if they bulldoze ahead with no concern for the objections of the faithful, then they will have made it clear that these "conservatives" like Fessio and Monaghan are essentially no better than the liberal bishops who have destroyed virtually every diocese.
What's surprising is how strikingly modernist the Ave Maria design looks. I truly expected something traditional, even if it wasn't as nice as the truly outstanding design offered by the Notre Dame students.
Honestly, if Ave Maria falls down over this, the design of the students ought to be picked up by someone else. It's not only architecturally beautiful, but it's well thought out in terms of function - including the important function of respecting Catholic tradition in a University trying to dedicate itself to that practice.
=== But if they bulldoze ahead with no concern for the objections of the faithful, then they will have made it clear that
They lack sensibility where order, beauty and comfort are concerned. I can't imagine what the AC costs of a crystal palace in Florida would be.
All glass in Florida...........dumb idea!
I'm not sure I would go that far but, what must be known about Monaghan is his "my way or the highway" mentality. If Monaghan wants Frank Lloyd Wright it doesn't matter much what anyone else wants. I think the University will be solid and conservative but a lot depends on the influence Fr. Fessio has over Monaghan. Monaghan likes to be in charge, nothing wrong with that in business but when religion is involved unless those around him are very good and not dependant on his money, the look of this place will be less than what conservative Catholics had hoped for.
It's so hard to believe that Fr. Fessio would approve of that glass monstrosity.
The architecture of the place isn't what interests me. I just want to know that if my kids go there, their faith won't be diluted or worse, ridiculed by the faculty. It sounds as though the Catholic Faith will be taught unapologetically, so that's all I need to know.
Apparently Tom Monaghan prefers "modernist" over "traditional." Here is a previous example of his taste in church architecture:
Caption: "The new cathedral (above), known to some as the Nippledome, is decidely modernist in its realization."
I don't think so. That's not what I hear about Ave Maria in its current incarnation up in Michigan.
Fr. Fessio, call Notre Dame asap!
Please provide examples. All I've read is that Ave Maria College in Michigan and Ave Maria University in Florida are about as orthodox Catholic as one will find. If you've heard otherwise, please expound. If you can't, please refrain from making such comments. Thanks.
I know it is not going to be 'traditionalist', but frankly that's not what I'm interested in. The Latin Mass holds no fascination for me. I like Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, but not all of the devotionals so popular when I was young are particularly important. I want our kids to be taught a timeless Faith, not just a bunch of outward things that can change like fashion.
From what I've read, and I've been a supporter of the University for the last two years, it sounds as though the college will offer Mass with several different worship styles so that not just one style predominates and those who prefer different styles can be accomodated. I like the 'organ music' style with hymns like those sung from the Oxford Hymnal, but I also like the more modern 'Praise and Worship style like that used in Life Teen Masses. As long as we're praising Jesus and preparing to receive His Body and Blood, that's what's important to me.
I've written about this topic many times here on FR. Perhaps you should read some of the relevant threads before you challenge other Freepers.
All I've read is that Ave Maria College in Michigan and Ave Maria University in Florida are about as orthodox Catholic as one will find.
I'm not sure where you have read that, perhaps in their fund-raising literature, but that is not the case. Ave Maria is not nearly as "orthodox Catholic" as Christendom or Thomas Aquinas College or some other small places such as Thomas More and Magdalen in New Hampshire. And since they plan to accept federal student funding, they will soon lose whatever veneer of Catholicism they have had.
Schools that wish to remain Catholic cannot accept money from the federal government. Christendom, for example, refuses all student aid, including loans. Doing so has meant that it has taken them 25 years to reach a student population of only 200 or so. Ave Maria wants to have 6,000 overnight.
Yes, the students' design is so much better than that glass monstrosity!
BTW, one of my graduating seniors is attending Ave Maria in the fall. Great kid! I hope he does well there.
Someone should take the Pizza Boy aside and have a long talk with him. Followed by four years of intensive Catholic studies beginning with Art and Architecture. If he still wants radical ultra-modernism, he should be spanked.
This is a new university with "Uncompromising Catholicity." It will start out slowly in leased buildings and grow eventually to a 2,500 undergrad student body with 500 grad students. It is a Technology, Business and Media university. The curriculum is on the website and they plan to open in 2005.
I've heard that their buildings will be in the California mission style. They will NOT have a green house for a chapel!!
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