The Catholic University of America

March 23, 2009

Freshman Team Wins Basilica Dome Design Competition

From left: Provost James Brennan; Randall Ott, dean of the School of Architecture and Planning; Corey August; Monsignor Walter R. Rossi, rector of the Basilica; and Philip Goolkasian.

Two Catholic University of America freshman architecture and planning students were named the winners of a competition to conceptualize a design for the mosaic of the Trinity Dome in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Monsignor Walter R. Rossi, rector of the Basilica, awarded Philip Goolkasian of Fresno, Calif., and Corey August of Kensington, Md., first prize during the March 23 awards ceremony in the Koubek Auditorium of the Edward M. Crough Center for Architectural Studies. As the winners, they also will share a $1,000 prize.

Three other teams, all composed of graduate students, were among the other finalists. The second place team, consisting of Amy Boyek, John Peragallo and Adam John Schwartz, was awarded a prize of $750. The third place team of J.P. Mikolajczyk and Ryan Mullen received $500. An honorable mention went to the team of Spiro Gianniotis, Aundrae Lee and Nicholas Saylor.

"The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is our closest neighbor in so many ways and so it is an honor for Catholic University's students to have been invited to participate in this contest to decorate the underside of the basilica's great dome," said Very Rev. David M. O'Connell, C.M., president of Catholic University. "I congratulate all the students who dedicated their creative energies to this worthy endeavor and especially the two freshmen who submitted the winning entry. It is an extraordinary achievement for them and a proud moment for the university," he said.

James Brennan, university provost, noted "The competition was an amazing opportunity for our students to interface with the professional world they're going into. The fact that a team of freshmen won sets the bar high for our future freshmen."

The competition, which was announced on Feb. 25, challenged students to explore a number of complex design issues related to perception and experience of the dome mosaic, which will be viewed from many places throughout the Basilica. The dome, the underside of the blue exterior Great Dome and the largest in the Basilica's interior, rises more than 100 feet above the floor and is 89 feet wide.

Monsignor Rossi described the winning students' design as "the most comprehensive of all the entries." Their proposal included ideas for lighting, ventilation, acoustics and the font to be used for wording on the dome.

George Martin, associate professor of architecture and planning and chair of the competition, called the project a "highly studied overview of issues relating to lighting, materiality and color with a key attention to sightlines in the Basilica nave."

Four teams of finalists were selected from among seven teams that submitted entries. Earlier in the day, the finalist teams met with Cardinal Justin F. Rigali, archbishop of Philadelphia and chairman of the Basilica's Iconography Committee, along with other committee members. The committee selected the winner of the competition.

A rendering of the winning design for the Trinity Dome

Monsignor Rossi noted before the winners were announced that in a short period of time, CUA's students have given the Basilica many "wonderful ideas" for decorating the dome. "Your enlightened minds have enlightened us," he said. "The entries are inspiring and definitely creative. Skill, imagination, creativity and a good understanding of architecture are present in all of the entries."

The awards ceremony included animated presentations and synopses of the submitted designs. As freshmen, Goolkasian and August had to learn how to use new technology for the competition.

Goolkasian, who also composed and recorded the music for his team's animated presentation, said their goal was to build on the themes that already existed in the Basilica and to incorporate in their design how color progresses, how sound affects the perception of space and how one's eye circles the dome.

With a little more than two weeks to complete the design, August said working through spring break was necessary. "It was very stressful but it gave me a goal to work toward," August said. "This tells me that all our hard work paid off."

The prize-winning entries will be on display at the Crough Center, Miller Exhibit Room, through April 14. The competition was open to all students currently enrolled at Catholic University.

To view more information about the entries, click here. To read the Washington Post article about the winners, click here.

MEDIA: For more information contact Katie Lee or Mary McCarthy in CUA's Office of Public Affairs at 202-319-5600 or Jacquelyn Hayes, director of communications of the Basilica, at 202-281-0615.