Newman Center at UNO honored for building design

The St. John Paul II Newman Center is not only yielding spiritual fruit in the hearts of college students living there – it’s winning kudos for its physical beauty.

The center, located near the University of Nebraska at Omaha campus and home to more than 100 students, recently won four design and engineering awards.

“It’s evidence that … we’ve provided a beautiful home for our students,” said Father Joseph Taphorn, pastor and director of the center who was instrumental in its planning and development.

Read a feature on the St. John Paul II Newman Center in Building Stone Magazine

“So many people made this a reality, and it’s a win that it’s being recognized by outside parties,” he said. “And kudos to the great partners we’ve had, from the contractors, architects, engineers and benefactors.”

The honors, shared by the archdiocese and several of its contractors, include: awards of merit for energy from the American Council of Engineering Companies of Nebraska (ACEC Nebraska) and from the Illuminating Engineering Society for lighting design, both shared with Alvine Engineering; a Tucker Design Award from the Natural Stone Institute, shared with BVH Architecture, U.S. Stone Industries and Kehm Contractors; and an American Institute of Architects-Nebraska design award for excellence in masonry, shared with BVH Architecture.

The facility’s construction incorporated white oak wood and limestone, both materials common in St. John Paul II’s homeland of Poland.

“A lot of the awards surround the use of limestone, which is a material from the earth that’s beautiful – it’s simple, it’s noble,” Father Taphorn said. “There is that personal connection to John Paul, who worked in a limestone quarry himself as a young man during the Nazi occupation of Poland.” 

The center, which opened in fall 2016, includes student apartments, a commons area, multipurpose and meeting rooms, community and study lounges, indoor/outdoor fireplace, courtyard, rooftop deck, rectory and oratory. 

“It’s a space that’s suitable, appropriate and permanent – those attributes that help us do our mission,” Father Taphorn said.

“We’re material creatures, and we notice things that are beautiful, inviting and noble, so the surroundings themselves wake us up to that beauty,” he said. “They lighten the heart and tell us that something good is happening here.”

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