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project description

St Mary’s /CHW Chapel
Description of Chapel Schematic
A replacement project for the existing St Mary’s hospital chapel – The chapel is currently located in a remote area on the fourth floor of the hospital - Our design proposal envisions converting underutilized ground office space next to the main floor garden terrace to centralize and enhance the accessibility to the Chapel. This chapel would then host relatives of patients as well as hospital staff .

At the request of the San Francisco Diocese to make the Chapel accessible and widen its appeal to serve a broader spectrum of its patient population, the plan departs from a traditional axial layout that focus on an altar.  To provide a larger number of differentiated spaces and functions so that the Chapel would serve a wider response to diverse needs, the altar is located to a strategic corner with adjacency next to the outdoor garden.  This allows for other spaces to be kept independent of each other, and allow simultaneous activities to take place with a minimum of disturbances.

Arrival - Rotunda 
The entry to the Chapel begins at the rotunda – the first space that is outside the confines of the hospital hurried corridors and halls. The rotunda has no central focus, the visitor becomes its primacy and the windows and gateways into the surround areas provide the visitor with dynamic choices while circuambulating along its curved walls and taking in the views and options afforded in the surrounding spaces. The rotunda is also a quiet space, with windows spaced to allow for leisure viewing.  Moving along the wall to the left takes the visitor into a natural garden setting, and further on options of an intimate  private garden or a more public garden. Moving along the wall to the right leads the visitor through a portal opening into a gallery that is columnar lined and illuminated by the  greenery through the windows across the Chapel. The visitor can choose to slip into main Chapel or choose to continue proceding along the gallery til the reaching the end with its contemplation niche. The rotunda also access to a quiet Meditation room. Views into the meditation space can be glimpsed through a modern etched sidelite at the doorway.

There is a main portal opening from the rotunda into a narthex before turning in-axis towards the Chapel proper.  The  visitor can find a traditional and processional entrance into the Chapel congregational space starting from there.

The Congregational Space is along side the garden, in a quarter round concentric seating arranged around the Altar area. Path to altar is processional flanked on one side by the quarter round seating plan along a perspective focused line of sight to the altar.

One could choose to take the alternate path through the gallery space to the rear of the pews.  The Gallery is for the Stations of the Cross, and the walls part to create exit ways.  The Gallery functions as an overflow space for larger services with clear views to the altar. It has a lower ceiling than the Congregation Space, designed formally in hierarchy.

Inside the Chapel, an Altar area is located at a corner, a natural focal point in the polygonal space, where the main level ceilings gives way to an elevated higher ceiling and suffused with hidden sources of light that entering at the boundaries. The Altar has an unmistakable vertical emphasis. Screens constructed at the back of the altar are proportioned to emphasize the vertical, and between the panels layers natural light from the garden terrace is filtered into the chapel from the flanking wall, and illuminating the natural wood and altar area.

Meditation - Spaces and Paths

The Meditation Room is also available as a destination and refuge space providing a quiet non-denomination small space, with glimpses of the garden shades to reinforce intimacy and privacy.  It will have its own a sense of bearing and centerness . The garden will incorporate a pathways to meander.

Leaving the Chapel will recall the attention to mindfulness upon entering. The path returns back to the rotunda.  Again temporal and physical space is given to make the transition back and time to recollect and recall a purpose for seeking the Chapel, for  renewal and to take time to experience the lights and solids and voids.