Holy Rosary Church Complex in Louisiana by Trahan Architects, 2004.
The Holy Rosary Church Complex, outside Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is composed of five parts: an administrative block, two linear classroom bars, a religious education bar, and a square chapel in a courtyard formed by the first four (click for plan). Trahan Architects designed this last part as the focus of the orthogonal composition, itself skewed towards an opening that links the chapel to the community beyond.
Rotating the chapel in plan from the other, ordered campus elements, activates the spaces between the chapel and the courtyards edges. These spaces take on different characteristics as the distance between the chapel and these elements changes from near (intimate) to distant (communal). Whereas the positioning of the chapel already places importance upon it as an object, its rotation further emphasizes this, creating a sense of expectation at what awaits inside.
With the chapel, or oratory, the architects imagined the interior as a womb, a "sacred space every human has experienced." This concept is evident in the uniform finish on the floor, ceiling, and walls, referring to the womb's lack of orientation. As well, the space is a pure cube, broken only by the complexly carved openings that bring light into the space without creating distracting views. The interior is reminiscent of Tadao Ando's equally powerful ecclesiastical spaces, while being something wholly new.
The architects worked with a limited palette (poured-in-place concrete with two types of glass) to create a meditative environment that places a high importance on spatial characteristics and the play of light on these materials. Even the toilet rooms are treated as equals to the rest of the complex, with concrete sinks that border on the poetic. Along with their design of St. Jean Vianney Catholic Church, Trahan Architects are creating thoughtful, sacred spaces that are unique "spatial embodiment[s] of spiritual experience."
[Thanks to NarrowLarry for the heads up on this project.]