As you look out west from downtown South Bend, the spires of St. Patrick church are hard to miss. While I’ve often lamented the unfortunate misalignment of Wayne St. with the ornate structure (a missed opportunity of using streets to frame important views), the open space across Taylor Street has the potential to help reinforce both the church and its value to the rest of the area.
After writing an essay on the intersection of Sacred Spaces and the Public Realm, this space stood out as an opportunity to capitalize on the beauty of the church. Inspired by a trip to Jackson Square New Orleans, this famed public space both reinforces the church and its programming (outdoor weddings!) while also using St. Louis Cathedral to help shape the adjacent public space. Combined with the architecture of the French Quarter (blurred lines between the buildings and the streets/sidewalks, under 3-stories), this space provides an incredible experience at all times of the day.
The vision for the square in front of St. Patrick’s could feature some of the same elements. Shops that border the public space, all framing the views of the church from the downtown, combined with creating a more pedestrian environment directly in front of the church doors. Realigning the nearby statue with Wayne Street creates a terminus for that vista, while plaza spaces within the square itself provide opportunities for wedding photos, street performers, and shop goers alike.
With the already established architectural importance of St. Patrick’s church, knowing the value that has on people’s perception of the community, we should leverage that space to create something that has system value. Not squander that value with just any development offer that crosses the table. It starts with laying out a vision for the space.