From sacred caves to ornate mosques and soaring cathedrals, people have dedicated structures to metaphysical devotion for thousands of years. The Salameno Spiritual Center at Ramapo College of New Jersey in Mahwah, N.J., however, is striking in several respects.
Located on half an acre of land next to the campus’ Cameron Pond, the center was commissioned by the state college to serve not as a religious facility, but as a spiritual one. It is a place for both individuals and groups, including religious organizations, to come for community connection and personal meditation. The larger Padovano Peace Pavilion is intended for gatherings while the two smaller McBride and Marino Mediation Spaces allow individual introspection.
In a bold mix of the old and new, the evocative design by Malcolm Holzman, a partner at Holzman Moss Bottino Architecture in New York, speaks to ancient spiritual traditions but also uses bright galvanized steel surfaces cut into sharp-edged geometric shapes to encourage inward searching and enlightenment.
The center opened in October of 2010, but the idea—inspired by the United Nations Meditation Room—was first raised by college founder and professor of literature and philosophy Anthony T. Padovano in 2001. Around that time, Holzman Moss Bottino had completed construction of a separate arts center for Ramapo College and was asked if it would be interested in designing the new endeavor.
“It was a very interesting topic,” says Holzman. “It’s not really a religious facility, but one where people in the college community could go in times of celebration or crisis and have a sense of spirituality.” Holzman notes that one of the challenges of designing this building was that the space would be used in many different ways by various types of groups; “The question for the architect was how does one make a space spiritual for all people to come and use?”