Saint Mary's Student Chapel

Mark Cavagnero Associates for Saint Mary’s College High School

 

Nestled into the entry of Saint Mary’s College High School campus, the rise of the Student Chapel’s sleekly articulated white concrete provides an icon marking the community.

The school’s mission of educating the under-served, and of striving to provide a sense of safety, calm, and comfort to their students has been manifested in a space that facilitates a journey from civic life into interior restoration, since opening its doors in 2018.

White concrete, glazing, Alabama limestone, and light American white oak set the tone for a space devoted to quiet for a community (high schoolers and their teachers) that can be otherwise bustling, noisy, and overwhelming. At 4,400 SF, the design of the Chapel utilizes simple forms and materials that distinguish it from the cluster of campus buildings that evolved over the last 70 years.

This one-story structure is housed under a flat roof and is punctuated by a vertical element that slopes from 20 feet to 38 feet tall on the eastern elevation; a narrow window within this form invites morning light to imbue the sacred space of the sanctuary. The strongly peaked roof form is both iconic and responsive, its shape celebrating different modes of light.

A west-ward oriented skylight keeps the sun’s path through the day a dynamic part of the interior experience. Windows to the south and west visually connect the chapel to the existing mature trees and adjoining meditative garden to give the relatively compact building a greater sense of connection with its surroundings.

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