The Fairfield Jesuit Community Center's environmentally friendly design earned several awards from the American Institute of Architects.

Fairfield University officials and the Jesuit community worked closely with New Haven-based Gray Organschi Architects on the design of the one-year-old building, which balances the need for reflection among religious men with their gift for engagement and hospitality.

The university was presented with a 2010 New England AIA Design Award and two 2010 Connecticut AIA honors -- a "Building Award" and an "Encompassing Art" award for the chapel inside the facility. The 20,000-square-foot building was conceived as an apostolic outreach center for Jesuits at the university, Fairfield Prep and elsewhere.

The Rev. Gilbert Sunghera, a Jesuit who is an architectural designer who served as a consultant on the project, said, "I have to commend Fairfield University for their willingness to undertake this project. They were very open to allowing a new architectural vocabulary to emerge for this building, not `playing it safe' in the traditional sense of what people expect for a house for priests."

The AIA is the professional organization for architects in the United States. The design awards are juried by peers, typically from outside the region; AIA fellows from Chicago judged the New England awards. "Because it is peer reviewed, it has significance since design professionals are telling others in the profession to study these buildings," said Sunghera, assistant professor of architecture at the University of Detroit Mercy.

Jurors from the Connecticut AIA chapter cited the center with a special commendation. "The center reflects an intuitive connection between the mission of calm, meditative and community spirit with a plan that reflects spatial balance between individual and communal life," stated the jury. "The building captures views; the use of natural materials is confident and tranquil."