Our Lady of the Egg


Back in 2002, when this was a brand new blog, I wisecracked about a group of lay people with the ambitious project of building an enormous monument in honor of Our Lady's Immaculate Heart, in the form of a triumphal arch in Buffalo, overlooking Lake Erie.

This was the design concept they were working with at the time:

I suggested they expand on the theme:

But nobody's called to thank me for my contribution to the effort. '

Anyway, they're still working, and they've reworked the design.

I'm afraid it's still not very appealing; it's weirdly futuristic and geometrical. The stark structure rising up at the end of a promontory doesn't look welcoming; it doesn't have the gentleness, delicacy, or stateliness suitable to a Marian shrine. It's a blunt object -- well, actually it's round-ended -- and really rather masculine in form. The only sign of motherhood in it is the use of abstract-looking egg-like ovals.

As for the structure at the base of the arch, that looks more like a shrine cafeteria than an actual shrine:

And I have to wonder -- is this to be built on reclaimed land? Putting a 700-foot monument on landfill might lead to some engineering problems.

But I'm not a pro about this. Maybe someone with actual knowledge of architecture could look at these concepts and comment more insightfully.


The golden arches! mmmmm

They boast some fine names in their list of endorsements. Unfortunately none are artists or architects of any sort, let alone those familiar with Catholic tradition and taste.

That thing at the bottom looks like a 1960s airport terminal, which is the one kind of building uglier than a 1960s Catholic church.

Obviously, this is a clever marketing ploy. If it looked like a traditional shrine, only pilgrims would stop.... but this... this monument that looks like it was built by raelians? It will make it into all the 'Oddball America' guides. Children will see it from afar and beg to stop, thinking it's an amusement park. Drunks and hippies will wander off the highway, attracted by the big gold glowing thingy!

And then they will hit the giftshop and buy ugly Catholic knicknacks! It'll be a money-bonanza! I should build one in MY yard! ;)

Alternatively, maybe it's a stargate... or an attempt to harness divine energy and attract a 'Marian' apparition? I mean, seriously... Medagorje is nearly tapped out... but this place... pilgrims could combine a trip to the arch with a trip to Niagara falls! How could it fail?

My favorite "modern" shrine is Our Lady of Peace in the very heart of Silicon Valley, at the intersection of 101 and Great American Parkway, across the highway from Intel headquarters.

A big beautiful, 60-foot aluminum statue in front of the church, which has 24/7 adoration, and has had it for decades.

A wonderful place and parish.


The original design was definitely better (even with your doubling up on it). The new design looks much more like something municipal than Marian.

I don't "get it." It seems cold and sterile... the exact opposite of what I would want a Marian shrine to be.

Ugly as all get-out, and no parking.

re: landfill

You know that Boston's Back Bay is landfill? Think of that the next time you're up in the 50 story Prudential tower.

I'm not very good at figuring out symbolism; why is the beige alien protectively spread-eagle atop the white thing?

None of this would call to mind anything about Mary, except that I've been told it's about Mary. When architecture has to be explained, that's usually a clue that the design needs more work.

Good architecture is often better appreciated with an explanation, but it never requires one.

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On life and living in communion with the Catholic Church.

Richard Chonak

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This page contains a single entry by Richard Chonak published on May 14, 2010 2:21 PM.

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