Placed among the calm forest of its pond-side setting, Ramapo College of New Jersey has created an area for members of the campus community to quietly reflect, pray, or integrate spiritual exploration in whatever way they wish.
- FUNCTION: The 1,525-square-foot center’s Padovano Peace Pavilion contains 50 moveable seats. Two seperate meditation room buildings, designed for two to three people each, sit close by. A separate utility building has a kitchen, rest rooms, and storage space.
- CHALLENGE: Ten years ago, it occurred to Anthony Padovano, a founder of the college who is now a distinguished professor of literature and philosophy, that the campus lacked a way to help students search for meaning and values. In classrooms, residence halls, dining halls, and other buildings, he says, "universities seek to deal with students on all significant levels of their life. ... But a significant aspect of student life is finding a way to define what is ethically decent and what is unacceptable." He felt students needed a place to practice world religions or simply think about their spiritual journeys. It was "to be a place where everyone is welcome and where no one feels alienated," Padovano says, "where weddings and anniversaries are celebrated, where funerals and memorials take place, where prayer and meditation occur." He also envisioned "a place to ensure that those who come to campus see that the college has tried mightily to heal and enrich student life."
Some faculty were concerned the facility would attempt to affiliate the institution with a particular religion, and some students did not want their tuition funds going toward such a project. Officials moved forward with the project, but as privately funded construction.
- SOLUTION: The center’s design includes an all-glass entrance and two bands of windows that wrap around the four sides of the room, plus a continuous perimeter oak bench from a tree taken down during construction. The Peace Pavilion is shaped like a tent, the symbol of world religions, and the meditation rooms have curved windows and walls. Architect Ben Caldwell of Holzman Moss Bottino says the appearance "has helped make the center very popular with a wide variety of users, just as Dr. Padovano had hoped."
Various religious services take place at the center, such as Catholic masses, Protestant services, Jewish seders, and Zen Buddhist worship. The meditation rooms have been used for student gatherings and Padovano says that the project has gone infinitely better than he expected.
The building was constructed near a pond and the two meditation rooms look out on the body of water. Five wildflower gardens also surround the center. Padovano hopes that this building can serve as an example for other colleges and universities. "We made it equal to everyone and the fact that it is there compels people to come," he says.
- COST: $1.5 million (raised from private donors)
- COMPLETED: October 2010
- PROJECT TEAM: Holzman Moss Bottino Architecture, New York City.