Christ Chapel Interior Architecture

Lofty and Lovely: The Rhetoric of Hillsdale College Architecture

Written by Sara Garfinkle

Our purpose here is high, and so are the ceilings. As students and faculty sit, studying, their voices carry lofty ideas upward, almost as if we are delivering them back from where they came. Those tall ceilings remind us to look up. Those long windows, evenly spaced invitations of sunlight, remind us that the things we study and our ideas about them expand far beyond the classroom walls.

The bricks that stack to make our walls are heavy and light. Heavy, sturdy, impervious to battering storms. Light in color, they appear young and fresh, quite like the students they surround. Our classrooms are fortresses. They protect those venerable principles and those that study them. At Hillsdale, we are free to study such subjects as the true, good, and beautiful.

After morning classes, students flock to the dining hall. All tables are communal, designed for a minimum of four chairs. Often, students pack ten, fifteen chairs around a single square table. This is not a nuisance. This is by design. We know that the crucial lessons of the liberal arts happen outside of the classroom. They happen around tiny tables, over piles of soft serve ice cream, and between accidentally knocking elbows.

They happen in dorms. We pass ideas from top bunk to bottom and volley arguments—counters—arguments—counters across basement ping-pong tables. We linger in the lobbies after Bible studies, continuing the conversation. We drag our whiteboards into the hallways. We plaster friends’ doors with encouraging notes before exams and, when nights are particularly sleepless, pictures of baby animals wearing preposterous hats. We are friends and neighbors, learning together inside and outside of the classrooms.

Central Hall stands in the middle of campus with its white columns and colorful windows. To enter, you must climb a set of stairs. To enter, you must ascend; you must literally rise to the occasion. Central Hall houses several departments. Whether you are visiting the Registrar in the basement to declare a major or the deans to interview for a resident adviser position, you must step up.

Christ Chapel is magnificent. Wall Street Journal declared it one of the best architectural endeavors of 2019. Columns, tall and strong, bracket the building. Lush marble spans the floor. Light filters through glass panels, angelic and lovely as the music that often swells between them. Christ Chapel’s high ceilings remind us to look up.

From dining hall to dorm room, Central Hall to Christ Chapel, the lofty and lovely architecture reaffirms the College’s purpose and reminds its students, faculty, and staff to marvel at the true, the good, and the beautiful.

Sara Garfinkle Sara Garfinkle, ’20, studies Rhetoric, Public Address, and Hebrew. She plans to be a speechwriter and teacher after graduation. Until then, you can find her baking bread, watching science fiction shows, going on adventures with her Pi Phi sisters, and pranking her younger brother Ben.