A Sense of Wonder

In Maslow’s famous Hierarchy of Needs theory, the physiological requirements for human survival — including food and shelter — are at the base of the pyramid. These needs must be fulfilled before one can move to other stages of growth, ultimately reaching self-actualization and transcendence.*

In an effort to meet our most basic primary needs, we began creating structures for shelter. Motivated by Safety, we designed those structures to be secure. When we began to create those safe environments for ourselves and our families to call home, to pray, to gather, and break bread, this fulfilled our need for Love and Belonging. As we designed bigger and more ornate built environments, polished edifices with stylistic details located in prime areas, architecture began to reflect and meet our need for Esteem and value among others.

Too often, that’s where a building’s design intent stops. It never reaches a level of actualization or transcendence. We believe design can do more.

Our third core belief — a Sense of Wonder — means that we believe design can achieve this top level and become transcendental by converging the tenets of function, economy, performance, and beauty. As architects and designers, this is what allows us to inspire and be inspired. It means the potential for excellence in design is omnipresent, and we look for it everywhere. A Sense of Wonder means we are exceptionally curious while acknowledging and embracing the transformative power of design.

Students at the St. John Paul II Newman Center desired a place to which they could retreat for prayer and meditation. Dedicated prayer rooms at the end of shared corridors provide unexpected spiritual enclaves. Perforated white oak panels set the space apart to provide warmth and a textural contrast to its surroundings, dramatically filtering the natural light while giving the intimate space a sense of mystery. It is a physical echo of how the Spirit moves in the individual’s life.

The prayer room is an excellent example of how design can reach beyond mere functionality toward a higher purpose while becoming a transformative vehicle for those who encounter it.

The last several posts focused on our foundation, beliefs, and what will guide us as we move forward. We invite you to explore with us in upcoming posts as we continue to share how these elements are shaping our day-to-day practice and the people in our firm.

*Source: “Rediscovering the Later Version of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: Self-Transcendence and Opportunities for Theory, Research and Unification”

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