St. Dominic Inspires Ruane Center

July 31, 2012

In June of this year, Providence College, a ministry of the Province of St. Joseph, began construction on a new academic building, the Ruane Center.  The center is meant to express the College’s commitment to the humanities.  Recently, the Providence Journal wrote an article on the new building, designed by the S/L/A/M Collaborative, explaining some of the classical sources that influenced its design.  An excerpt of the article is below.  The full article can be seen on the Providence Journal website, on the Architecture Here and Now blog

St. Dominic inspires P.C.’s Ruane Center

By David Brussat

Providence College inhabits almost five score of hilly acres near Smith Street, in Providence’s leafy Elmhurst neighborhood. The campus offers a somewhat discordant face to the world, with some academic buildings that might strike observers as collegiate and others that, well, seem to reflect the absence of concordance that characterized the scholarly life, and indeed life in general, in the last half of the 20th Century. What the 21st Century has in store for P.C. has in recent months grown a bit clearer, more coherent and more congenial. The school was founded in 1917 by the Dominican order of friars with the blessings of the Catholic Church and Pope Benedict XV. Today it teaches liberal arts in a Judeo-Christian context to students, mostly undergraduates, of all faiths. St. Dominic (1170-1221) sought to purge the Dark Ages from the ecclesiastical intellect, and P.C. carries forth that mission for the lay learner. An early Dominican, St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), believed that faith and reason both enlighten a single truth. “Truth as light” is the motto of Providence College. * * * Named for P.C. Board of Trustees chairman Michael Ruane ’71 and his wife, Elizabeth, the building, with its Collegiate Gothic design, represents a sort of homecoming for Providence College. President Brian Shanley, O.P., says that P.C.’s Western Civilization program “implies the continuing relevance of the past to the present, hence a building that draws from the past [is] contextualized to the present.” “This is an education in the humanities,” Father Shanley said at the groundbreaking, “to ask the deepest questions about what is true, what is good, what is right, what is beautiful.” A close relationship between the first three and the final key words in that passage should exist in a world of benevolent design. Indeed, the campus should look like that idea. Beauty is the good, the right and the true made visible. In its history, Catholicism long reflected this overarching faith in its church design. The last 50 years reflected a departure. The “Church of St. George Jetson” architecture of that era marked a backsliding toward the Dark Ages in almost every realm of life. At P.C., at least, a return home to first principles is in evidence. It is seen in such buildings as P.C.’s St. Dominic Chapel and its Smith Art Center, both completed in this century’s first decade. “Truth as light” beckons the faithless no less than the faithful — or at any rate it ought to.  

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