Troy Luttman, associate vice president for design and construction, said the chapel is intended to be an inviting type of building, both figuratively and literally.
Luttman spoke about how they would preserve the individuality of the chapel while also introducing new initiatives.
“We’ve reinvented the building based on the current needs of the students,” he said.
The new addition to the chapel — The Pamela Davies Center for Faith and Outreach — will hold additional offices and meeting spaces for different spiritual life organizations.
The building is designed to be inviting for the disabled community. The space is more ADA (American Disability Association) accessible with multiple ramps, modified pews around the sanctuary, and with all restrooms being handicapped accessible.
The chapel will also be physically inviting with the new entrance and transparent doors. When the doors are swung open, students will be able to view a museum that tells the story of the Belks. The space is intended to be used for anything from a classroom to a wedding reception.
The entrance will also have a rotunda with a dome on top.
“It’ll be a special ornate space that allows just enough light to pour through the top of the dome,” Luttman said.
There will additionally be upgrades to the existing part of the chapel with new carpet, new paint, new lighting and new audio and visual components.
Bringing the faiths together
Hailey Kater, a senior and president of Catholics on Campus said she hoped the new space would centralize spiritual life on campus.
“When we had actual chapel services, that’s what I felt most people looked forward to,” Kater said, “and that’s gone downhill since we haven’t had actual chapel services.”
Recent graduates say spiritual life on campus is not as central as it once was. With more developments on campus such as the Levine Center, students tend to gravitate away from the chapel.
Brennan Shearer, a 2013 graduate, also looked back at how much the chapel influenced her Queens experience. She talked about how she felt that the chapel is a sacred space on campus and how important it is to her that they preserve the beauty of the building when they do the renovations.
“We’re going to encourage different spiritual clubs to meet there,” Joey Haynes said.
Haynes is the seminary intern for the Belk Chapel as well as a 2011 graduate of Queens. He spoke about how it’s an exciting time for Queens with the changing landscape.
“We can include more voices and conversations about faith, social justice, and inclusiveness,” he said.
The idea behind the renovations was to serve the students and be more pluralist.
Dr. Diane Mowrey, university chaplain, said she is enthusiastic about the renovations.
As chaplain, Mowrey said she has always tried to appeal to all students, but the students are more diverse now. When she came to Queens 26 years ago there were only a handful of people who were not Christians and that demographic has shifted.
She said the new space would enable the chapel to connect to a broader range of students, faculty and staff.
“I wish it were done tomorrow,” Mowrey said.