Concept for Interfaith Chapel aligns skylight with the Polaris for 'otherworldly' connection
Collaborating practices Brooks + Scarpa and KZF Design Studio have released their concept design for a new Interfaith Chapel at the University of North Florida. The 7,000 sq ft facility takes a flowing form inspired by the traditional gowns used in many religious and institutional ceremonies such as weddings and graduations, gliding across the grassy site in a smooth motion.
The competition brief invited architects registered in Florida to imagine a ‘non-denominational place for meditation and reflection for students, faculty, staff, and the public as well as a venue for intimate events’ which could ‘embrace the natural environment in which it is built by taking advantage of the lake and the surrounding woods’ on a budget of $4.5m.
Brooks + Scarpa and KZF Design Studio’s proposal engages directly with symbols and elements of nature to connect visitors to spiritual icons. The Polaris (North Star) has played a major role in the design, with a large skylight at the apex of a wooden lattice spire whose shape is inspired by the symbol of infinity directed at this particular star.
Throughout history the Polaris has been a significant navigational source and therefore the skylight faces directly north at 30 degrees above the horizontal so that at night users can gaze skyward towards the star. The team explains: “This direct connection from the sanctuary’s interior to an important cosmic symbol encourages the viewer to reflect and forge a deeper and more meaningful understanding of the fundamental, yet delicate relationships that exist between themselves, our collective cultures, the natural world and its vital resources.”
Lifts in the flowing façade afford views of the natural environment that surrounds the building site, including a serene lake and peaceful woodland, with windows specifically aligned to the winter and summer solstices.
Also playing an important part in the design is sustainability with Brooks + Scarpa and KZF Design Studio looking to keep the chapel’s energy usage to a minimum. Passive and active energy efficiency measures include a roof structure which offers shade to cool the interior whilst supplying natural light and ventilation, and incorporating low flow fixtures and storm water management.