The commission is an honest exploration of form, function, natural light and materials, providing an engaging and profound study in sacred space. The oratory is the focal point of its rural Roman Catholic campus, predominant by its unique placement and floating within the sacred precinct of a courtyard space.
The master plan creates a strong sense of place for all functions of the Parish, drawing a distinction between the program’s sacred and secular components. Secular components of the campus take form as linear or “edge” buildings framing a courtyard where the oratory is located. Traversing the courtyard in a clockwise direction, the path leads ultimately to the oratory. In the opposite direction, the path leads always back to the community.
The oratory, like a crescendo in music, creates a deliberate break in the fabric of the campus. Position, formal purity and height reflect the importance of the spiritual program and serve to distinguish the chapel from its surroundings. Rotation of the chapel further underscores the distinct orientation of secular and sacred lives. The resulting void between oratory and secular pieces creates an outdoor room appropriate for large communal gatherings, smaller gatherings or private meditation near the chapel.
Design of the oratory stems from the concept of identifying a pure, comfortable, sacred space every human has experienced – the womb. Since the womb has no orientation of up or down, all sides are treated equally, thus evoking a strong sense of mystery. All six sides of the oratory cube are the same size, color and texture to create this same lack of orientation and resulting in the same sense of mystery.
This careful and deliberate challenge of one’s sense of place continues through the rotation between exterior and interior spaces. Rotation of the chapel exterior is accompanied by a reciprocal rotation of the sacred…