Mark Maddalina

Legacy Building

Architect Mark Maddalina '87 makes his mark on the Nazareth campus

by Joanie Eppinga

“I never even considered architecture as a career,” says Mark Maddalina ’87. When Maddalina graduated from Nazareth with a degree in studio art, he was thinking about painting and graphic design, not buildings.

He would never have believed that one day he’d be asked to design Nazareth’s new math and science center, Peckham Hall. Nor would he have expected to be leading the upcoming transformation of Carroll Hall into the Wellness and Rehabilitation Institute. “The only living architect I knew of was Mike Brady from The Brady Bunch,” says Maddalina, “and he was fictional.”

The new graduate was dabbling in several art forms—“none of them meaningfully”—when a client asked him to repair a job a carpenter had botched. Then the client asked him to build something. Later, the client was unhappy with the architect he’d hired and, Maddalina says, “asked me to do something I was completely unqualified to do at that time.” That was when the revelation struck: “I need to go back to school for this.”

Maddalina’s B.A. turned out to be extremely valuable, serving as a natural foundation for his degree in architecture from the University of Buffalo. “All my art history classes from Nazareth absolutely came with me,” he says. “It was a huge advantage—still is—to have an arts background and to know how to draw.”

He remembers “fantastic” art history classes with Sister Magdalen LaRow, who showed her classes paintings of stunning buildings and shared her experiences. She told them that once, at the Leaning Tower of Pisa, she had asked why the structure was rough on one side and smooth on the other. A tour guide explained that people were afraid of falling when they were on the leaning side, so they backed up against the tower. Hundreds of backs had polished the marble over the centuries.

That interaction between human and architectural elements intrigued Maddalina, and he brought the concept with him when he designed the new buildings for Nazareth’s campus.

On both projects, he knew he wanted to retain the warm, human scale of the campus.

“The buildings at Nazareth are not massive,” Maddalina says, “not overwhelming, not brutal. They’re a beautiful collegiate Gothic. You get a very comfortable feeling being on the campus, and it was important to us to bring that forward.”

Maddalina and his team used the Cloister Walk as their inspiration. “It was always one of my favorite places at Nazareth,” he says, “so I’m glad there’s a component of this new building that resembles it. The entry canopy has a wood ceiling and a pedestrian scale. It’s very inviting.”

The team also worked to bring other elements of Nazareth’s existing architecture into the new buildings. The choice of brick masonry was deliberate: “We tried to match the Golisano Academic Center and Smyth Hall,” Maddalina explains.

He observes that the new math and science building has the most direct comparison to Smyth Hall. Overall, he notes, “I think our project took some of the best elements of the architecture and history of the whole campus and brought them over to Peckham Hall.”

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Thinking about the past, Maddalina considers architectural styles; thinking about the future, he considers people. As the manager of sustainability at SWBR Architects in Rochester, he always has an overarching theme when he designs a building: discerning what is good for now and for the next generation.

“There are considerations we can bring to every project,” Maddalina says. “It’s not about a brick or a building, but about a practice that includes human health and comfort. We can invest a little bit more now and benefit long term.”

But sometimes, Maddalina says, the best option is doing a bit less, going with the least expensive solution. An emphasis on sustainability can both bring costs down and ensure the longevity of a building. Maddalina reports that LEED certification, a green building standard, is currently being finalized for Peckham Hall.

Nazareth was equally dedicated to sustainability. “They hadn’t built a major academic building in roughly 30 years,” Maddalina says, “and they were deeply committed to doing this right.” That meant emphasizing green construction materials, enhancing energy efficiency, and reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

Maddalina reports that in addition to sharing his emphasis on environmental conscientiousness, the College is a wonderful partner in general. “I don’t want my opinion to be suspect because Nazareth is my alma mater, but they’re just terrific to work with,” he says. “They provide a ‘project shepherd’ who resolves all issues and is invaluable. They give you the information you need and are an essential part of the conversation.”

Teaming for the future was important to Maddalina, but there was another element of working with Nazareth that he loved.

“Every project feels like it has its own purpose, its own soul,” he says. “But when you get to go back to your campus, where you consider it to be home, that is powerful, and you take it very seriously.

“Being a student there, I knew a lot of the best spaces,” Maddalina continues. “There are places that are unique to Nazareth, and feelings that are attached to those places. There’s the Cloister Walk, and a beautiful residential quadrangle with a tree-lined path—how do you see that and not say, ‘I want to be a part of this’?”

Maddalina says that contributing to his former school feels incredible, “like a homecoming.” He adds that doing it through an abiding art form is especially rewarding, because “graphic arts and advertising are fine, but they don’t have the longevity of a building.

“It’s a legacy,” Maddalina concludes. “Decades from now, I’ll be there with little kids who can say, ‘Grandpa designed that!’”

Maddalina wishes to acknowledge the key contribution of Peter DeBraal to the new Wellness and Rehabilitation Institute. DeBraal, Maddalina’s project manager and friend of 16 years, died recently and unexpectedly.

Joanie Eppinga is a freelance writer and editor in Spokane, Washington.

For more Information

For more information, see Peckham Hall and the York Wellness and Rehabilitation Institute.