Page C1.1 . 04 April 2001                     
ArchitectureWeek - Culture Department
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    Sleek Modern Papal Center

    by Michael J. Crosbie

    The recently dedicated Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, D.C. is a crisp, sleek structure that restates some of the basic language of modern architecture in a fresh, new way.

    Designed by the Washington office of Leo A Daly, the 100,000-square-foot (9300-square-meter) center houses artifacts from the Vatican, interactive exhibits exploring faith and culture, and an "interfaith think tank."

    It's been described as "perhaps the best new building constructed in Washington in the last ten years" by Greg Hunt, the architecture dean at Catholic University, the western edge of which is just across the street from the new center.

    The Pope John Paul II Cultural Center dedication on March 22, 2001 drew dignitaries of the Catholic Church and official Washington, including the president.

    What some might detect as a contradiction in a signature building commemorating a papacy viewed by many as "conservative" (especially by American Catholics), the new cultural center is refreshingly open, airy, and filled with light.

    The design is reassuringly modern to architecture aficionados. But to the general public half a million of which, it is anticipated, will visit the building annually the architecture will surely register as bold and contemporary. This is not what one might expect of a religious institution that has just entered its third millennium. For this, it is to be applauded.



    ArchWeek Photo

    The Pope John Paul II Cultural Center opened in Washington D.C. in March, 2001.
    Photo: Maxwell Mackenzie

    ArchWeek Photo

    The exterior combines rectangular, angled, curved, and cylindrical forms arranged compactly on the site.
    Photo: Maxwell Mackenzie


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