ENVIRONMENTAL DESIGN: St. Mary’s Hall Refresh

2017–2020
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The University of Dayton has recently renovated this space in an effort to bring together student services by making the spaces closer in proximity to one another. The UDQuickly published an article on September 27, 2016, written by Shannon Shelton Miller that describes this space. Miller writes, “Flyer Student Services, formerly known as the Office of Student Accounts and Flyers First, provides assistance with financial aid, registrar/registration, student accounts and veterans services. The new office is the culmination of University efforts during the past year to reorganize St. Mary’s Hall by moving student-focused units to an expanded space on the first floor.”2

The students and faculty of Ligature Studio ( in the Department of Art & Design) developed a holistic design concept that fosters a community-oriented environment for this unique space. Inspired by the Marianist charism and the students’ vision of the future, the design concept evokes a spirit to this hallway and its physical passage of individuals through time and serves as a metaphor to students’ educational, spiritual, and life journeys. The environmental design carries on the themes of student-oriented, nature, history, heritage, community space, Marianist Charism, and the recognition and embodiment of Mary. 

The layering of graduate names symbolizes the relationships and human connections that are created throughout this university. The moments where certain names gain hierarchy, represent the moments when UD has undergone remarkable and positive change. These names are also an expression of everyone past, present and future who pass through these halls. They represent the layers of lives, cultures and experiences that will continue throughout time. The top layer of typography that rests on top of these graduate names are the Marianist values that continue to protect and guide each of us at UD.

Bringing in the natural world through live plants stems from how the original space was designed by the Marianists. The early Marianists kept the entire area from St. Mary’s Hall to Brown Street as lush as an arboretum—including the gazebo that still remains. The potted plants installed in the space were originally intended to include those from the Mary’s Garden exhibition, which was on display earlier in 2017 in Roesch Library.

The previous space lacked the opportunity to gather and connect. Because the hallway provides services for all students, the two 10-foot benches connect as one—providing a common space for students to fill out papers and engage in dialogue. The benches are made of repurposed ash wood to remain local and sustainable while preserving this species of wood that has been infested with the emerald ash borer throughout Ohio.  Our needs as a University demand change throughout time and the buildings, spaces and environments should reflect this positive adaptation and celebrate more meaningful projects.

Originally, one would enter St. Mary’s Hall from the west to the east into a T-configuration—under the sign of the Marianists. The ash wood bench denotes the location of this original entrance which connects to the root explanation of our University address of 300 College Park. College Park was given this name because the Marianists kept the entire environment full of living plants.

Old images show a dense “forest” of plantings—referring back to deep history of monasticism where they were deeply involved in the cultivation and tending of plants.

An even earlier renovation of this space eliminated the east and west axis which restricted it solely to north and south. This redesign proposes bringing back the sense of centralization by placing new benches in the exact location where the original entrance once resided. People now come together in this space to conversate, fill out papers, relax, or simply engage in dialogue. 

The inclusion of plant life strives to bring visibility to that connection of the Marianists to the land. In 1870 when St. Mary’s was dedicated, a principal characteristic of Marianist thought was a deep connection to the natural world, as much as the human world, in addition to their community and service mission. This connection is cultivated visibly.

The students and faculty of Ligature Studio were inspired by this physical/natural and poetic/inspirational heritage. Furthermore, in the spirit of this being about the students, these designers were moved by the history of all who have passed through this hall. This hallway of St. Mary’s stands representative of all of UD’s halls. 

The physical passage of individuals, through time, is metaphoric to students’ educational, spiritual, and life journeys. This new space is a reflection on the physical history of St. Mary’s. It is for the students past, present and future. This hallway embodies the spirit and ideals of the Marianist charism and students’ hope for a better world. Most importantly, it shows the power in the relationship and collaboration between students and teachers