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Tuesday, June 18, 2024
The Observer

New Remick Family Hall will serve University’s educational mission and student needs

Remick Family Hall, the new home of the University of Notre Dame’s Institute for Educational Initiatives (IEI) and the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE), opened its doors in December 2021 after two years of construction.

The Observer spoke with Jamie LaCourt, project manager and architect for the University’s Facilities Design and Operations and took a tour of the building with Theo Helm, director of communications for IEI and ACE, to learn more about Remick Family Hall’s history and the role it will play on campus.

Serving the University’s educational initiatives

IEI was founded in 1996 to house ACE and other educational initiatives. IEI now also houses the Education, Schooling, and Society (ESS) major and minor and the Global Center for the Development of the Whole Child.

“IEI is the home of Notre Dame’s K-12 educational work,” Helm said.

Every summer, hundreds of teachers and administrators come to campus and take classes for two programs, the ACE Teaching Fellows and the Mary Ann Remick Leadership Program. The University needed more space to allow the programs to continue growing, LaCourt said.

“ACE has a long history of being very entrepreneurial and with that has come great growth,” LaCourt said.

Aside from the classroom need, ACE and IEI “wanted to have a space dedicated for student use,” Helm said. Remick Commons used to serve that purpose, but it could be reserved for events and dinners so it wasn’t always available for students.

In addition, ACE and IEI sought collaboration space for “people — students and staff — to come together formally or informally,” Helm said.

The Remick family, Jack (’59) and Mary Ann Remick are “super supportive of ACE,” Helm said. Aside from the new Remick Family Hall, Mary Ann Remick has endowed the Leadership Program and funded Remick Commons, ACE’s former home in Visitation Hall.

“We are very grateful to Mary Ann and Jack Remick,” Helm said.

Thoughtful design: traditional exterior, modern interior

Remick Family Hall is located on the north side of campus, between the Main Building and Lewis Hall. This region of campus is known as the University’s French Quarter because buildings here are constructed in the Second Empire Style, which LaCourt described as “an American interpretation of French architecture most popular in the latter half of the 19th century.”

Aside from Remick Family Hall, other examples of the Second Empire style on campus include the Main Building, the Basilica, the Presbytery, St. Edward’s Hall and Visitation Hall.

“Being the first new building in decades constructed in the direct shadow of the Main Building, the architects worked tirelessly to detail the exterior envelope of the building so that it would blend in,” LaCourt said.

Courtesy of Jamie LaCourt
Architects designed this rendition as a model for the exterior of Remick Family Hall.

The previous building in the space, Brownson Hall, was built in 1855 and was the second-oldest building on campus after Old College until it was demolished in 2020.

“Brownson was older, so things developed around it,” blocking views, Helm said.

In comparison, Remick Family Hall has expansive views of the French Quarter through its many windows. 

“The architects did such a great job of maximizing the location,” Helm said. “[The building] takes advantage of space and views,” particularly of the Basilica and the Main Building.

Remick Family Hall is located a few feet further away from the Main Building than Brownson was, providing easier access to the courtyard between it and Carole Sandner Hall. The goal was to make the courtyard “more open and inviting,” Helm said, adding that there will be patio furniture there when the weather improves.

Despite its traditional exterior, the design team strived for a modern interior that would provide the most welcoming experience for staff and students.

“The use of natural light was a primary design consideration and is used very effectively,” LaCourt said. “People remark how bright the interior feels compared even to Carole Sandner Hall.”

“There is lots of light, even on a gray day,” Helm agreed.

Architects and designers followed this model of the first floor lobby when constructing Remick Family Hall’s interior.

The first floor comprises office space for faculty and staff of ACE Teaching Fellows as well as St. Anthony Commons, a dedicated student space open from 7 a.m. to midnight every day. St. Anthony Commons is named for Mary Ann Remick’s favorite saint and offers coffee and snacks for students.

The second floor has a library, also a dedicated student space open from 7 a.m. to midnight every day, as well as classrooms and offices for the Remick Leadership Program.

The third floor is not yet fully occupied, but there is currently a conference room that will soon be open for reservation by student groups.

On the conference room walls are photographs of depictions of the Virgin Mary from schools served by ACE that take their names from Mary. These portraits reflect the diversity of ACE’s communities, with Mary represented in several as a woman of color.

“We’re trying to serve as many kids as possible,” Helm said. The pictures “capture the many different kids that ACE serves and the ways they think of Mary and of their faith.”

Also located on the third floor are doors leading out to the terrace, which looks out on the Main Building. The terrace will eventually be similar to the outdoor seating areas at Campus Crossroads, Helm said.

This architect’s sketch shows the design of the third floor outdoor terrace space.

The architects and designers emphasized aesthetic continuity as well. There is an oval pattern that appears throughout Remick Family Hall, including on the classroom windows, stair railings and the cupola.

“Some people say that [the pattern] looks like the fish that symbolizes Jesus,” Helm said.

The building was also designed with sustainability in mind. While the accreditation is not yet finalized, LaCourt and the design team expect Remick Family Hall to be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Certified by the U.S. Green Building Council, the second-highest rating a building can receive for its level of environmental responsibility.

Vision for the future

Helm hopes that more students will take advantage of the spaces available to them in Remick Family Hall, namely St. Anthony Commons and the library. These spaces are open to all students, not just those involved in ACE, ESS or other educational initiatives.

The purpose of Remick Family Hall is not only to foster the continued growth of the University’s educational programs but also to place them in high esteem.

“When you think about law schools and med schools, campuses have beautiful spaces to educate lawyers and doctors. Remick Hall reflects the demands and grandeur of the profession [of teaching],” Helm said, paraphrasing Fr. Lou DelFra, faculty and director of pastoral life for ACE.

“Teaching is a profession that is taken for granted,” Helm said. Remick Family Hall is “such a good testament to the impact teachers and educators have on students and their lives. It reflects aspirations and goals and all that teaching can and should be.”

Editor's note: A previous version of this article misstated the Remick Commons is in Carole Sandner Hall. The Commons is located in Visitation Hall. The Observer regrets this error.