Contract - Sacred Heart: Trinity School Johnson Chapel by Butler Rogers Baskett

design - features - education design



Sacred Heart: Trinity School Johnson Chapel by Butler Rogers Baskett

03 September, 2010


When Chaplain Tim Morehouse of the Trinity School on New York’s Upper West Side commissioned Butler Rogers Baskett (BRB) to design the Johnson chapel for the co-ed, K-12, private day school, an overarching goal was that “the space felt sacred without leaning heavily on religious iconography,” according to BRB project designer Mark Maljanian. “From the start, we imagined the space would be used by groups from various religious traditions, and for uses that would be spiritual but not necessarily religious,” he recalls. “So we dug as deeply as possible into the essence of sacred.”

The quaint, 1,000-sf.-ft. space offers a place of peace and quiet reflection amidst a bustling educational setting. To set the new chapel as a respite removed from the noisy hubbub of the school, the designers redesigned a 100-sq.-ft. vestibule area, known as "the node," to make it visually and acoustically quieter and to act as a connection between the main lobby of the lower school and the newer middle and upper schools. The previous chapel occupied only 700 sq. ft. and was dark and oddly situated in this space. The designers say that their methodology was one of subtraction, refinement, and integration. “We expanded a dark internalized space and cut new penetrations in the existing roof to introduce light,” Maljanian says, adding that in an effort to create a serene, low contrast environment, “concealing the light sources was an essential strategy.”

Trinity ChapelThese are natural illumination penetrating the space through a slot at the back wall and through an oculus cut into the ceiling. As the sun’s position changes throughout the day, the illumination levels in the room change, reflecting sunlight through the oculus onto one wall, and then gradually moving to alter light levels. Artificial sources complement the natural light. “The workhorse is the fluorescent uplighting set above the long bench and paneling [on one wall],” says Maljanian. “This lights the ceiling ‘cloud,’ reflecting light throughout the space. Additionally there is lighting set into the edge of the lower ceiling plane, which lights the side wall.”

With the overall goal of creating a peaceful place within the school setting, the greatest challenge, according to Maljanian, became eliminating the everyday elements of interior architecture that detract from the serenity of the space. The spare palette exudes simplicity, warmth, and authenticity.  “Essentially we used a white backdrop (painted GWB), walnut flooring, maple panels, some river rock, and blackened hammered steel,” he explains. Door pulls were hidden so that the door to the sacristy seems to be camouflaged within the ribbon of maple woodwork that wraps two sides of the space; hymnal slots are also incorporated into this woodwork. Local artisan Kristina Kozak hand made a simple blackened steel candelabra and a custom crucifix that can be easily removed when not in use, as the space also plays host to non-religious activities.

 “This chapel works better than I ever imagined,” says Chaplain Morehead, citing weekly Eucharists, yoga, and pilates classes for teachers and students, music recitals, memorial services, and reading groups for lower school children, among other activities. “Built space really can gather in and transform life and lives. This place has become the spiritual heart of our school. It has been and is a great blessing to have worked on and to be living with this project,” he says, adding that a Lower School student summarized the project best: “You saw our chapel with new eyes, thought of many improvements, and made this place more inviting than ever before.  Your work has taught us something about what happened when God said, ‘Let there be light.’”




Sacred Heart: Trinity School Johnson Chapel by Butler Rogers Baskett

03 September, 2010


Woodruff/Brown Architectural Photography

When Chaplain Tim Morehouse of the Trinity School on New York’s Upper West Side commissioned Butler Rogers Baskett (BRB) to design the Johnson chapel for the co-ed, K-12, private day school, an overarching goal was that “the space felt sacred without leaning heavily on religious iconography,” according to BRB project designer Mark Maljanian. “From the start, we imagined the space would be used by groups from various religious traditions, and for uses that would be spiritual but not necessarily religious,” he recalls. “So we dug as deeply as possible into the essence of sacred.”

The quaint, 1,000-sf.-ft. space offers a place of peace and quiet reflection amidst a bustling educational setting. To set the new chapel as a respite removed from the noisy hubbub of the school, the designers redesigned a 100-sq.-ft. vestibule area, known as "the node," to make it visually and acoustically quieter and to act as a connection between the main lobby of the lower school and the newer middle and upper schools. The previous chapel occupied only 700 sq. ft. and was dark and oddly situated in this space. The designers say that their methodology was one of subtraction, refinement, and integration. “We expanded a dark internalized space and cut new penetrations in the existing roof to introduce light,” Maljanian says, adding that in an effort to create a serene, low contrast environment, “concealing the light sources was an essential strategy.”

Trinity ChapelThese are natural illumination penetrating the space through a slot at the back wall and through an oculus cut into the ceiling. As the sun’s position changes throughout the day, the illumination levels in the room change, reflecting sunlight through the oculus onto one wall, and then gradually moving to alter light levels. Artificial sources complement the natural light. “The workhorse is the fluorescent uplighting set above the long bench and paneling [on one wall],” says Maljanian. “This lights the ceiling ‘cloud,’ reflecting light throughout the space. Additionally there is lighting set into the edge of the lower ceiling plane, which lights the side wall.”

With the overall goal of creating a peaceful place within the school setting, the greatest challenge, according to Maljanian, became eliminating the everyday elements of interior architecture that detract from the serenity of the space. The spare palette exudes simplicity, warmth, and authenticity.  “Essentially we used a white backdrop (painted GWB), walnut flooring, maple panels, some river rock, and blackened hammered steel,” he explains. Door pulls were hidden so that the door to the sacristy seems to be camouflaged within the ribbon of maple woodwork that wraps two sides of the space; hymnal slots are also incorporated into this woodwork. Local artisan Kristina Kozak hand made a simple blackened steel candelabra and a custom crucifix that can be easily removed when not in use, as the space also plays host to non-religious activities.

 “This chapel works better than I ever imagined,” says Chaplain Morehead, citing weekly Eucharists, yoga, and pilates classes for teachers and students, music recitals, memorial services, and reading groups for lower school children, among other activities. “Built space really can gather in and transform life and lives. This place has become the spiritual heart of our school. It has been and is a great blessing to have worked on and to be living with this project,” he says, adding that a Lower School student summarized the project best: “You saw our chapel with new eyes, thought of many improvements, and made this place more inviting than ever before.  Your work has taught us something about what happened when God said, ‘Let there be light.’”

 


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