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AIA Publications: 2005 Annual Design Awards Competition Gallery 
Saint Raphael Cathedral Steeple Restoration
Madison, Wisconsin


Facility Engineering, Inc., Madison, Wisconsin


Diocese of Madison, Madison, Wisconsin


J.H. Findorff and Son, Inc., Madison, Wisconsin

Project Description

A tower and spire of Saint Raphael Cathedral has been a Madison landmark since 1885. In order to rehabilitate the steeple, the architects conducted extensive research and presented design solutions focused on the structure, masonry, ornamental metals, roofing, fenestration, clocks and bells, lighting and lightning protection. The Diocese of Madison elected to proceed with complete replacement of the spire structure, ornamental metals and roofing systems as portions of the original structure had failed. The remaining systems were rehabilitated. A design consistent with the original spire was selected for replication. The owner and architect were aligned in the goals of retaining Christian symbolism, historic authenticity, scale and architectural quality of the structure. The project was recognized for the detailed investigation involved in the steeple’s restoration. Unfortunately, after the jury recognized the project, a fire in March laid waste to much of the historic church; but the restored steeple remains standing.


Jury Comments

One of the interesting aspects in the documentation for this project is the level of investigation that the architect had to undertake in order to understand the different components and how they would have to be detailed. The steeple may be one of those unsung heroes that no one really noticed. Now, people must notice it as a new steeple in town. It is a nice element to be preserved and restored.

The architect’s drawings are interesting and, in some cases, collaged with their technical drawings that explain to contractors what they are doing.

The steeple’s illumination is interesting. The care taken to highlight three areas on the steeple with dark gaps between creates floating elements in the night sky. It becomes an icon both day and night.

The submission was one of the more complete and clear packages for us to review from the narrative to the design and the technical execution of this project. The research really seems to be complete.

One interesting element is the use of the copper shingles when the original surface of the spire was actually painted wood. The architect was innovative in terms of the use of materials, which has a very different effect esthetically, especially as it ages over time. They were innovating the image of the spire and not just copying what was there before.

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— Click on Photos for Full Size —
Photo Credit: Facility Engineering Inc. or J.H Findorff & Son

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