|14 May 2004
An alternative proposal for
Notre Dame students design campus plan for
chapel for Ave Maria University designed by
Notre Dame architecture student Matthew Enquist.
| more chapel images | university images |
students from the University of Notre Dame have
designed a campus and town master-plan for the
newly-founded Ave Maria University in Naples,
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.
under Professor Thomas Gordon Smith, the students
also designed three major buildings for the
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."
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.
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
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
some ideas can be generated to influence the
further design of the university," said Ryan
Nicholson, designer of the (pictured below).
library for Ave Maria University designed by
Notre Dame architecture student Ryan Nicholson.
| view library images |
really enjoyed exploring what kind of
architecture and campus environment would reflect
the culture and tradition of a Catholic
university in Florida," said Enquist.
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,"
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
Notre Dame architecture student John Doyle.
| view civic center
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
Proposed site plan for the
campus and town of
Ave Maria designed by Notre Dame architecture
students Ryan Nicholson, John Doyle, and Matthew
| view site plan
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
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.
proposal, not so.
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 , and the
evangelical Crystal Cathedral in Los Angeles.
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
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.
suffering much ridicule by conservative Catholics
who would probably otherwise support the stated
goals of Ave Maria University (see the for a particularly
hilarious reaction to the proposed design),
university officials appear to be distancing
themselves from the architect's proposal.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
it's Notre Dame 7, Ave Maria, 0.
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
Respond to this
S. Rose is the author a several books on church
architecture including . 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.