Location: Holland, Michigan
Renovation of a 1950’s-era Colonial chapel on a Midwestern seminary campus, classic in layout and appearance but limiting in use and lacking in media capabilities. The owner desired a refreshed space for a variety of activities in a range of seating configurations. Primary use is daily chapel services conducted by seminary students as part of their training in exploring fresh ideas in worship planning. Secondary uses include weddings, funerals, organ and chamber recitals, and lectures.
The architects were charged to:
- Provide a more generous entry to the chapel from the attached academic building
- Shift the spatial center to foster a sense of gathering and allow multiple locations for presiders and worshipers
- Provide up-to-date audio/visual and lighting technology along with outstanding natural acoustics for any possible seating configuration, along with user-friendly controls for mostly untrained and infrequent users
- Create a legacy project that radically updates the worship environment while respecting its heritage
The design team led the owner team through a visioning process that explored the team members’ sensibilities about spatial definition and enclosure, patterns of human gathering, styles of worship activities, and forms of worship environments. The design solution represents a poetic response to the consensus that emerged from the resulting discussions.
A refined arcaded enclosure made of wood and plaster is inserted within the walls of the existing space, inflecting toward a new central focal point and barely touching existing colonial details. These details are abstracted and echoed in the form and profile of the gently curving enclosure, establishing a dialog between old and new. The arched niches of the arcade extrude the shape of the existing round-top windows along shifting axes, channeling daylight toward the center. Panes of art glass bridging the niches modulate the light, mitigate the effects of glare, and articulate themes of creation and redemption with designs inspired by regional geography and universal Christian symbols. An articulated wood ceiling discretely integrates sound, lighting and projection equipment. It pulls away from the perimeter enclosure and frames a coved, illuminated oculus reinforcing the new central focus of the space. Additional ceiling clouds above a musicians’ apse on one end and under an existing pipe organ on the other set up an antiphonal relationship between traditional and contemporary instrumentation and enhance natural acoustics. The circular forms of the oculus and ceiling clouds are shadowed in the flooring, subtly defining liturgical zones and providing hard, reflective surfaces where they are needed. Liturgical furnishings further explore the shapes and forms introduced in the architectural elements, responding to the more intimate scale with a varied and tactile quality.
Completion: April 2012