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Landmarks Association of St. Louis honored Aquinas Institute of Theology on Thursday, May 18, with an award given to organizations that rehabilitate historic buildings. The association recognized the school for investing in an abandoned, century-old manufacturing space and transforming it into a fresh and contemporary graduate school of theology.

This was the 11th annual “11 Most Enhanced” awards. Landmarks presented the honors at the Centennial Malt House, a newly restored building that also won a “Most Enhanced” award.

Landmarks Association strives to preserve and promote the city’s architectural heritage and encourage well-planned contemporary design. It calls attention to creative uses of aging spaces. This year’s honorees completed their restoration projects in 2005 and early 2006.

In December 2005, Aquinas Institute of Theology moved from Lindell Boulevard to the intersection of Forest Park and Spring avenues in Midtown. The school is now more than twice the size it was and far more visible. The $5 million job was the first in a $50 million restoration project; developers intend to rehab remaining buildings for residential, commercial and parking space. Although those projects are not associated with the school, Aquinas Institute expects to use a portion of the residential space for students.

The renovation of this factory-turned-seminary-and-graduate-school kept the best of the building’s past and made it better with a contemporary touch. Exposed ductwork, bricks and beams blend with hues of purple, blue, green and yellow; 15-foot-tall windows, originally intended to illuminate manufacturing space, now brighten a library and classrooms.

And the look of the building fits well with the work of its occupants. Aquinas Institute is a Roman Catholic graduate school that honors the rich tradition of the Church and works to show its usefulness and vibrancy in the 21st century. The school is sponsored by the Order of Preachers, which has a history of establishing ministries and schools in urban settings.

As Fr. Charles Bouchard, O.P., president of Aquinas Institute, said in accepting the award: “We can be sure of one thing. We’re the only former adding machine factory in the world that now has a chapel in it.” 

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