Acknowledging the Presence of God in the Home: Architecture Thesis 20th Anniversary

…another venue for the little Wooden Painted Saints: my old Architecture School models that have been kicking around from one basement to the next …for 20 years!

Architecture and the Practice of the Presence

We’re in the midst of a couple family projects and I came across my Architecture School models from my thesis project completed this week in 1995!

I have probably whined and complained about my five years in Architecture School. My happiest year…was by far my fifth and last year. Bill and I were married and after a gazillion little details God worked out, we lived together in an awesome little apartment. Bill managed to take a leave from his full time job, took his GMAT and was accepted into the Masters of Business Administration program at the University of Ottawa…in the same city where I was finishing up my degree!

As well as having my new spouse/favorite roommate of all time, I enjoyed hand-picking my favorite prof as my thesis advisor. I also welcomed my good friend and University Chaplain Fr. Roger as my spiritual advisor for my thesis project.  After four years of studio projects tailored to the interests of professors, I was able to design my own project program for this fifth and final year.

St Benedict's Retreat House

For the first term, I measured and drew the only formal drawings in existence for the St Benedict’s Retreat House in Oxford, Michigan. As crazy as it sounds, this awesome building was built without formal construction drawings, under the direction of a partly-blind, extremely talented architect Bill Wizinski.

I remember returning to school after the Christmas Break, more than a little concerned that I didn’t have a proposal for my thesis project for my final term!

Newly immersed in married life and looking ahead to what I hoped would be a house full of kids, I decided to try to reconcile Studies in Architecture with a growing desire to draw closer to God and practice His Presence (inspired by Brother Lawrence and continuing talks with Fr. Roger).

thesis drawings

My final thesis project was entitled: Architecture and Spirituality: Acknowledging The Presence of God Within the Home and the concept actually unfolded during my prayer time, the night before I was to meet with my Thesis Advisor.

My Thesis Advisor…was likely not actually Christian. We never really talked about his Faith, but I was grateful that he was respectful of mine. That alone seemed pretty rare within the climate of Architecture School.

exterior view of thesis house

I built models, hand-drafted my drawings, created photo-collages of my model on the site and met regularly with my thesis advisors, delving into spatial design…and the spirituality of Practicing the Presence of God!

thesis renderings

The house design included dedicated space in the form of chutes, channels and light wells, further articulated by carefully chosen building materials. The (tithed) tangible circuit of space would impact surrounding rooms through light and shadow and sounds of the elements (rain/wind) and offer reminders of God’s Presence, hopefully impacting behavior and prompting prayer throughout daily life.

Sadly, when we built our 600 square foot addition to our current (and forever!) house, the reality of construction costs set in. Unsurprisingly, we were not able to incorporate fancy materials or tithe a 10% circuit of space acknowledging the Presence of God through shadow and light, but we have plenty of Sacred Art and statues throughout our house. We also have plenty of Catholic craft projects and programs circulating the house…and it’s often the younger kids who latch onto them and remind us to use them!

1995 portfolio

1995 Portfolio

And now, rummaging through boxes of cardboard models from Architecture School, it would seem that we have an endless playground for our little Wooden Painted Saints!

Architecture Thesis

I could never have known…exactly 20 years ago this month, how these models would come in handy!

acknowledging the Presence of God in the home

St John Paul II and friends

How do YOU use your College degree in real life?


  1. I am teaching a “keepers” class to young girl aged 7-12 in a week about God in Architecture. I ran across this article as I searched the web. I would love to read your college thesis. Is there a place where I can do that to help me with my talk to these young ladies about how God is present through architecture?

    • Let me think about that! I’m not sure that I have the digital file after 20 years! =) What a rich topic…God in Architecture!! My little house design pales in comparison to the incredible Churches and holy spaces…let me try to compile a list for you of a few must-include Churches I studied! I think I’ll dig out my Architecture books!

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

SUBSCRIBE for FREE Catholic Crafts and Family Traditions!