The Boston Society of Architects (BSA) has recognized Elms College Chapel with an Unbuilt Architecture Award. The sculptural chapel — designed for Elms College in Chicopee, Massachusetts —seeks to create a profound spiritual experience for all who encounter it.
The chapel is envisioned as a focal point on campus — accommodating users from religious to layman while representing the Catholic college’s mission and expressing peace and acceptance. Set within a forested canopy, the chapel faces the central quad and acts as a hospitable beacon. Organic in shape, its two arms embrace both the college’s spiritual needs and the gathering space requirements of a larger community. Welcoming to all, the arms draw visitors and worshipers into the nave: the heart of the chapel.
Representing the fluid spiritual journey, the organic shape of the wood and brick structure allows it to be permeable to light, providing an uplifting ambiance. Modulated rays of light radiate throughout, reflecting upon natural surfaces and the stained glass, which was recovered from the original chapel to respect the college’s heritage and history. Views to trees, a peace garden, and the plaza further connect the chapel to the environmental milieu, connecting the outside in, instilling hope and tranquility.
Universally designed with no fixed seating, the chapel is accessible and supports sacred space needs as well as musical ensembles, donor receptions, religious ceremonies and quiet reflection. The garden and student plaza are accessible for processionals and seminars. Sited on the campus edge, it is connected to the main pedestrian path, next to parking, and within walking distance of a bus stop. Natural and reclaimed materials, high ceilings, and well-placed glazing maximize daylighting, natural ventilation, and passive heating.