Colombiere Jesuit Community Residence

St. Claude la Columbiere Community, Baltimore, Maryland

 
As with most works of architecture, circumstances of site and program play a significant role in the design process, particularly so in the design of Colombiere Residence and Chapel. Our challenge as architects was to create intelligently crafted spaces suitable to house day to day activities of the Jesuit priests and brothers who were to live there, along with a chapel that would serve as a vessel to transport these men of prayer to a place where God could be found.

Faced with this undertaking, we understood the critical need to respect the traditions and rituals of the Catholic faith and those of the Jesuit order, while avoiding a conventional or familiar construction vocabulary tied to past architectural styles. We set out to make a silent place of meditation and prayer using a simple palette of stone and wood enlivened through the interplay of light, space, and matter.

To achieve our objective, the light would have to be of a sublime and divine nature. A "tree canopy," crafted of thin steel plate and ash, provided the means to realize this objective. Evoking the many trees in the bucolic setting of the new residence and chapel, the canopy endows the chapel with the qualities of a sacred place of prayer. It collaborates with the movement of the sun as it arcs across the sky to weave a constantly changing tapestry of dappled light, enabling the construction to transcend mere bricks and mortar. While the canopy may not fit into any traditional architectural vocabulary, Gothic architectural forms and light giving elements inspired its upward thrust and aspiration to produce a sense of heavenly light.

The design and making of the chapel were a labor of love. It is our hope that it will serve the Colombiere community for many years to come as the silent place of prayer and peace that we set out to build for our Jesuit friends.

Awards

2013 American Architecture Awards
The Chicago Athenaeum and The European Center for Architecture
2012 Honor Award for Design
AIA Philadelphia
2012 Divine Detail Honor Award
AIA Philadelphia
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