It was now time to select a suitable architect.
A planning group made up of trustees and donors, construction specialists and College personnel met regularly over a two-year period. A substantial amount of time was given to the selection of the architect.
Fourteen architectural firms from across the Northeast responded favorably. It was unexpected that so many prominent, prestigious and creative architects would be interested in such a modest proposal. The answer they gave to queries was that a spiritual center was not a conventional building, such as a classroom or a residence facility where so much is predetermined by the use and the need. A spiritual center, especially the one we envisioned, would allow an architect to be poetic and creative, transforming the ambiguity and resilient nature of the building into art and beauty. Malcolm Holzman, from New York City, recognized as one of America’s leading architects, was chosen in 2006.
The initial proposal to build one structure with one room for meditation was converted into an assembly of buildings. Holzman wanted the architecture to express the original vision for the Center as a place for both dialogue and solitude. The complex of buildings, pond, woodlands, and gardens would be situated in the midst of student activity and on the most scenic site of the campus.
The largest gathering place would be the Padovano Peace Pavilion. Its design was creative, indeed startling: triangular and trapezoidal, with sloping planes and 800 square feet of interior space, accommodating eighty people. There would be views of the sky at its apex and two bands of windows, three feet high, composed of translucent and transparent glass, affording views of the pond, the woodlands and the horizon. Wood from a large oak tree, removed to build the Center, would be used for benches on three sides of the pavilion and in the meditation rooms.
The Padovano Peace Pavilion would be built in the shape of a tent, one of humankind’s most ancient symbols of the presence of the divine or the cosmic spirit and, indeed, a traditional symbol of hospitality. The building would be called a “pavilion” from the Latin for “butterfly”, a sign of stunning transformation from earth-bound caterpillar to freedom and flight and beauty.
Gracing this site would be two other structures, the McBride and Marino Meditation Rooms. They would be curving structures, each with a small window allowing light to enter at the top and a lower window providing a view of the pond. These spartan spaces would accommodate up to three people and provide an environment of solitude, silence and serenity. The bend of the structures toward the horizon suggests spiritual yearning.
Five gardens planted with indigenous flowering plants alter the landscape throughout the year and complement the buildings.
Transported to the center is a glacial erratic, a huge boulder remnant of the last ice age that shaped the terrain of northern New Jersey. Near the Padovano Peace Pavilion, at the edge of the pond, a deck offers unimpeded views of the water and the woodlands.
The Center occupies 1,525 square feet of the one acre site. The buildings are geo-thermally heated and environmentally sensitive. A gracious field-stone wall and pavements surround the Center.
The construction costs for the Center came to $1.2 million of the total $2 million project cost.
One first encounters the utility buildings on entering the Center. They serve as a wall shutting out the hurried pace of everyday life. To make this point clear, a talented sculptor at the College, Professor Jay Wholley, donated his time for two years to construct a sculptured, workable gate. The gate is a two-part circular structure, with one half on each side of the aperture. The sculpture’s imagery is derived from the mystical beast, the Ouroboros, holding on to its tail, with the encirclement symbolizing protection of the spiritual life within the universe and constant renewal.
The major donors played an indispensable part in making the Center happen. A number of donors verbalized how touched they were by the vision of the Center. At the end of this written record there is a list of all the other donors who were indispensable for the success of this endeavor.
The Salameno Spiritual Center
The entire Center is named after Lawrence and Theresa Salameno for the magnitude of their gift. Together, they support a wide range of philanthropic and public service initiatives. Lawrence was trained in law and worked for financial service institutions. Theresa had a career in hospitality management. Her clients included the Queen of England. Theresa also worked in conflict resolution strategies. Both of them have received honorary degrees from Stonehill College, in Easton, Massachusetts. Their daughter Francesca graduated from Ramapo College in 2006. The Salameno family felt a kinship with the Spiritual Center and saw it as a further expression of their desire to make the world a better place.
The Padovano Peace Pavilion
Anthony and Theresa Padovano have been active for years in issues of social justice, global education and non-violence. Anthony is a distinguished professor, College founder, author of 29 books, and world-wide lecturer. His personal and professional papers are preserved in the archives of the University of Notre Dame. Theresa has been an educator and a nurse and has been recognized for advocacy work with the New Jersey Legislature. Together they have also initiated the Anthony and Theresa Padovano Endowed Lecture Series at the College.
The McBride and Marino Meditation Rooms
Pamela and Peter McBride have had a special relationship with Ramapo College from its early years. Pamela is a licensed architect and volunteer with Habitat for Humanity. Peter works with McBride Enterprises in residential, industrial and office development projects. Peter is a College Trustee and serves on the Board of Governors. They have generously supported many Ramapo efforts.
Anthony and Gail Marino manage and direct the family-owned Century 21 Construction firm. They donate regularly and generously to philanthropic enterprises, including Ramapo College. Century 21 built the Overlook and original Maple residence halls and the Trustee Pavilion. Their endowed scholarship fund provides students with an opportunity to pursue international study abroad.
The Mann Contemplative Terrace
Emily Kosstrin Mann is on the Ramapo Foundation Board of Governors and has been a College Trustee. Sam Mann is founder and CEO of the multi-national Inverness Corporation. Active in a variety of causes that support the arts and education, they have also received numerous awards as vintage automobile collectors.
Architects and Donors became the authors and patrons of the Center. They caught the vision and provided the concrete resources which gave visible expression to a dream. They made the Spiritual Center not only an idea that could be shared but a home all could enter.