One of the key goals of the new renovation of the John W Hallahan offices was to present a modern, welcoming face without losing sight of the religious institution's values and rich history.
In that spirit, studio modh began seeking out symbols that would be appropriate for a non-sacred space but still reflect the Catholic faith. With a tight budget, the project already sought to mine any character the early 20th century building offered - a buried wood floor, tall concrete ceilings hidden behind a dropped ceiling, and uncovering a previously buried interior window to the hallway to visually connect the students and the administration ["no running in the hall!"]
When we began looking for artifacts that would symbolize the goals of the School, we tried to find material that possessed a connection to the history of Catholicism in Philadelphia.
Through Roberty Beaty, co-owner of Provenace Old Soul Architectural Salvage in Philadelphia, we were connected to a terrific mill-worker in New Jersey named Kalle Fauset who regularly finds incredible re-claimed woods at demolition sites. During one such excursion he found some remarkable hickory beams left over from the demolition of the Convent of the Contemplative Sisters of the Good Shepherd in northern Philadelphia. Inspecting one of the many piles of debris, he found that while the upper layers of the building had been made in the 1800s when the convent created a workshop, the lower levels were significantly older, displaying joinery and milling styles from the 18th century.
These beams that were part of a 19th century renovation to create space for educating the Convent nuns are now forming a part of a 21st century renovation in the form of a 6' tall Holy Cross that will greet visitors to this school of Catholic education. The rough hewn edges and mortise slots will still be visible on the edges while the face will be milled to reveal the color of the original wood and give the cross a new face.