FROM THE ARCHITECTS:
Trahan Architects and Loyola University New Orleans recently held a ground-breaking ceremony to celebrate the beginning of construction of a new chapel and community gathering space. The new building will be the sacramental and liturgical center of Catholic life for the Loyola community, a spiritual home at the heart of campus that is open and welcoming to all.
“The Gayle and Tom Benson Jesuit Center will place our Catholic identity at the center of campus and of campus life,” said University President Tania Tetlow. “The Center will hold a new Chapel of St. Ignatius and house spaces where students can come together across faith traditions. We hope it will be the most beautiful and welcoming place on campus and are thrilled to have the brilliant and collaborative team at Trahan Architects on board.”
Located on a quad outside Monroe Hall, the new Chapel of St. Ignatius and Gayle and Tom Benson Jesuit Center will be a circular-shaped and light-filled modern building that draws on aspects of Jesuit spirituality and the natural world for its architecture and design.
Construction of the sacred space and community center begins this summer, with build out expected to last approximately 12 to 15 months and all construction occurring on the interior of campus. The Tobler Company LLC, a New Orleans-based company, serves as program managers, guiding the project through build and closeout.
Trahan Architects’ Founder and CEO Victor F. “Trey” Trahan III, FAIA said, “The building was designed to connect it to the natural world, including the circular and interconnecting circles, the long glass slit on the side of the building that will look out on a live oak, and particularly the choice of cast-in-place concrete as the main building material. The latter will be formed using cypress and other types of wood to give the cylindrical building a variegated and natural look.”
Trahan added, “Much of the design concept was developed during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and experimentations in poured concrete—prototypes of concrete-filled balloons were scorched, subject to various degrees of saturation, and punctured—were conducted in the backyards of the project team. The renderings reveal the impact of that research; the chapel will be hewed of variegated light-grey concrete striated by the formwork and will transition to a softer natural clay plaster at the interior. The process of concrete design and making is beautiful due to the unpredictability of the pour and the planar quality of the formwork. It is similar to a cylinder of geological formation, almost extruded from the earth, and we have exposed the layers below. It will age and patina as a canvas of the Louisiana environment.”
“A faith that does justice is core to a Loyola education and this new space will be transformative for our Jesuit Catholic mission,” said the Rev. Justin Daffron, S.J., Vice President for Mission and Ministry. He added that while the Catholic chapel provides a new place for Mass and Catholic devotions, the Benson Jesuit Center will also provide community gathering spaces welcoming people of all faiths for prayer and reflection.
Trahan Architects is a multi-disciplinary firm based in New Orleans with additional offices in New York City whose projects include the renovation of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans and the Coca-Cola Stage at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia. Trahan Architects is ranked the number one design firm by Architect 50, the annual ranking by Architect magazine, the official publication of the American Institute of Architects which topped the list by building “dramatic, sumptuous and well-detailed projects.”