There’s a new building in Livonia, MI, which is rigidly steeped in Christian humanistic values and deftly clad with one of the most ancient time-tested of natural materials. Madonna University’s overall mission is to instill its students with intellectual inquiry, a respect for diversity and a commitment to serving others through a liberal arts education based upon the truth. The overall design of the Madonna University Welcome Center was inspired by these values. 

“The Madonna University Welcome Center invites all people to visit a contemporary structure offering two mindsets,” said Matthew Teismann, AIA, NCARB, president/CFO at MKC Architects of Columbus, OH. “One being a location which provides a first view for incoming students; the other being a museum exhibiting history of the Felician Sisters of North America.” This second entity consists of a 4,300-square-foot wing, aptly named the Felician Sisters of North America Heritage Center and Archives. It celebrates the Felician Sisters -- an apostolic congregation of religious women founded in the mid-1800s.

Teismann described how the building’s interior theme embodies an updated version of “cloister design,” dating back to the basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi in Italy. “This five-year project was challenging, as we were tasked to come up with a contemporary building emanating historic significance,” he stated. “One way we were able to accomplish that theme was by specifying CupaClad® natural slate to clad the exterior of the Welcome Center.”

The architects initially planned to clad the facade of this 30,550-square-foot structure with black stone, but could not find material with the performance characteristics they were seeking. From there, they considered selecting various types of porcelain material. After that, black brick. “We ultimately decided upon CupaClad due to its contemporary clean lines, and also because this unique building material was historically significant. We also were pleasantly surprised when we were presented with CupaClad’s proposal, which indicated how cost-efficient it was, especially for higher-end buildings.”

The architect added that final specification of this natural slate product was not only based upon it being affordable, but also being exceptionally durable and offering incredibly low maintenance, as well.

CupaClad’s Vanguard 201 was the product selected for the Welcome Center. Modern and efficient, this system marries large-format slates with stainless steel clips, creating a clean contemporary combination. “Selecting Vanguard 201 ultimately results in someone seeing the building via a larger perspective,” said Teismann. “People can now perceive how the exterior was installed via the grids and clips, which is actually a nice ‘look’ -- especially when considering the horizontally formatted, large-scale blue slate modules by CupaClad. Also, to a more trained eye, because of the unique application method, the natural slate does not show expansion joints, which can break up an aesthetically rhythmic placement of exterior cladding.”

The architect added that final specification of this natural slate product was also based upon its being affordable, durable and offering very low maintenance.

“This building was not intended to be a religious edifice,” explained Teismann. “But even though it’s not religious in stature, overall, it is inherently very spiritual. CupaClad materials actually embody this.”