THE Saint John Paul II Building, a striking new addition to Australian Catholic University Brisbane, arrives at an especially apt time in the history of the campus, the university nationally and the Catholic Church.
ACU Associate Vice-Chancellor (Brisbane) Professor Jim Nyland captured this at the official opening and blessing of the building on May 25.
“I cannot imagine a better way to celebrate our 25th year anniversary,” the associate vice-chancellor told the gathering.
“Looking deep into the mirrored wall and reflecting back to when the bishops of Australia came together to form the Australian Catholic University in 1990, I have no doubt that they had but one vision in mind.
“That was to see that you would be sitting here today – a mere 25 years later – laying claim to being involved with one of the finest Catholic universities in the world, as well as one of the largest Catholic universities in the English-speaking world.”
Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge blessed the new building, and Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and ACU Chancellor John Fahey officiated at the opening.
ACU Vice-Chancellor Professor Greg Craven, State Member for Nudgee Leanne Linard, Holy Spirit Provincial Seminary rector Monsignor Tony Randazzo and many ACU staff members were also present.
Prof Nyland also noted the Banyo campus “had always been a sacred site for learning”.
“It has a strong Catholic history spanning more than 150 years, and that history is complemented by a deep indigenous history over tens of thousands of years as a meeting place for Elders from Queensland and Northern New South Wales,” he said.
“We have a wonderful indigenous garden on campus overlooking the sacred Bora rings designed by our university Elders, complemented by our new Catholic garden – the ‘Francis Garden’ – lined with three white rose beds.
“The roses are the emblems of the three Franciscan Sisters here in 1941 assigned to care for the first seminarians; as well as being the emblem for St John Paul II in the Vatican.”
Prof Craven paid tribute to Prof Nyland’s role in driving the project, noting the new building was “a monument to the trajectory of the ACU”.
“Six years ago, the university had 14,000 students; today it has 33,000,” he said.
“And six years ago the campus had 1500 students; next year it will have 6000 students.”
Prof Craven said the new building was always going to be a challenge.
“The problem was the campus had that wonderful, beautiful religious art deco building and we wondered how the hell to fit the new building in without ruining the feeling of this place,” he said.
Prof Craven found inspiration for such a building when he visited Chicago’s Loyola University.
A building there “was like a giant mirror” and this became the template for the Saint John Paul II Building.
Prof Craven also paid tribute to architects Conrad Gargett, led by Sipen Rojnivibul, and Tomkins Commercial & Industrial Builders.
“Through Sipen and the team we got this wonderful building that absolutely reflects the wonderful old seminary and its chapel, and reflects it physically, intellectually and spiritually,” he said.
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