HUUM was invited to submit a proposal to USAF for a competition to design a new Chapel.
Reverence for light is at the origins of this building. Light is the protagonist of our understanding and reading of space (both architectural space and celestial space). Light is then the means by which we are able to experience what we call sacred.
Therefore, the orientation of the building and its relationship to the light from the sky inspires our design. We placed the main entry to the south of the site, close to the majority of the parking for our aging congregation. But in a twist on traditional organization, the Narthex surrounds the chancel, which faces north. The nave seating radiating towards the raised chancel platform faces south. This solution provides several advantages, a more compact organization to minimize the distance travelled for those who rely on wheelchairs and walkers, as well as the added benefit of keeping the activity in front of the residents thereby eliminating the need to turn around to take part in the service.
This church is a work of contemporary vision, meaningful for our time and one that is marked by openness to the mysteries of the heavens. The floating roof defines an enveloping atmosphere in which the light from the skylights above create a luminous spatial experience, and the rays of sunlight serve as a mystic metaphor of the presence of a higher being. Transparency and light cascade down from the sky lit roof, literally invading the interior of the church and also penetrating from below through a narrow slot opened at floor level. People in the atrium are enveloped with this mystical light from the moment they arrive.
Shaped in plan like a modern aircraft, the administrative and associated spaces are literally in the wings. The Sanctuary expands symmetrically to the rear of the building where the northern wall consists of glass from floor to ceiling overlooking the community lake.
The program alone provides evidence of how this structure will provide value to the community. The revision to the Village entrance and the selection of the Chapel site amongst the existing Village center assures this daily community engagement. This design means to expand community value by linking visually and by a path to the lake a back porch of the church, meant to be open throughout the day.
Our expanded goal is to create a visual community icon; a man made object that refers to the common experiences of the entire community.
This chapel is intended to be an attractor, a compelling object immediately understood as the structure designed to shelter the community when it gathers together- a center of celebration and remembrance. Our design solution responds to this responsibility by creating a structure that communicates permanence and stability. Our intent is to create an original structure that makes conscience references to iconic objects in the Air Force experience of yesterday and tomorrow. The use of building materials-aluminum and glass- composed in aggressive angular forms refer not only to the airplane, the object of reverence for which they all served, but carries on the lineage of the Cadet Chapel in Colorado Springs.
Just as the Cadet Chapel celebrates the communion of religion and of a soaring unknown future, our inwardly focused Senior Chapel celebrates the experience of those who have returned back to earth.
Building type: Religious
San Antonio Texas
11,500 square feet
Primary components: Steel structure, Stainless steel wall panels, solar PV panels, full gray water and rain harvesting pond, triple glazed window systems.