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2016 MCHAP

Chapel of the North American Martyrs

Craig Hodgetts and Hsinming Fung

Carmichael, CA, USA

September 2014


Craig Hodgetts / Hodgetts + Fung Hsinming Fung/ Hodgetts + Fung


Bruce Gibbons/ Thorton Tomasetti Group (Structural Engineer) Jeff Ambrosia/ Yamasaki Landscape Architecture (Landscape Architect) Stephen A. Myers/ Capital Engineers Consulting, Inc. (Mechanical/ Plumbing) Conrad Or/ CRO Engineering Group, Inc. (Electrical Engineer) Gilbert Sunghera/ University of Detroit Mercy (Architectural Liturgical Consultant)


Jesuit High School/ David Suwalsky


Joe Fletcher


Modest in size, with strong yet simple geometry, enduring materials, and light-filled spaces, the Chapel provides a multivalent icon for the campus, and anchors a symbolic progression from dynamic campus life to a more contemplative sacred space. In the design of this Chapel, a free exchange of ideas with a focus on the spiritual qualities of light, space, and procession led to a fundamental reconfiguration of traditional Catholic forms. A simple folded plane provides shelter. Braced by a thorny web of steel that provides security from earthquakes, the purity of the surface is unbroken save for colorful embossed recesses to capture natural light. Within, portals to the sanctuary spiral out between the curving walls of a semicircular ambulatory which itself is contained by a collage of translucent glass prisms. Colored to refer to the seasons of Catholic liturgy, and illuminated by the course of the sun, the prisms paint an ever-changing pattern on the walls of the sanctuary. A single aperture in the roof provides a passage for the mount upon which the cross is held aloft, and cascades light along its surface into the sanctuary, thus leading the eye of the parishioner upwards and outwards to share the sky with the simple, unaffected cross.


Positioned as an iconic structure to greet students on their daily arrival, the Chapel of the North American Martyrs at Jesuit High School is meant to be a welcoming presence when approached from the campus, and a symbol of spiritual aspiration from the nearby highway. In order to seat up to 500 students for Mass, and to provide the opportunity for community-wide occasions such as weddings, funerals, and Baptisms, with an emphasis on resonant acoustics, inspirational natural light, and the support of Catholic liturgy, the Church expressed its desire that the Chapel provide a simple space without the traditional hierarchy, in order to promote a more personal spiritual experience. To create a contemplative journey for each student, a new entrance to the campus from Fair Oaks Boulevard has gentle curves of the drives and pathways that take their cue from the existing campus. This extension is created to embrace a plaza and wooded field that envelop the space for the Chapel, which is positioned as the new apex for the campus; in its position it becomes an integral piece to the overall master plan of the school while maintaining a visual presence to the general community. The placement and height of the Chapel reflects its importance as the school’s signature building. The orientation of the building directs the highest point of the roof towards the student arrival area creating a transition point for students entering campus; the lowest points of the roof relate to the heights of adjacent campus buildings.


With a design based on geometric principles that date to the beginnings of sacred architecture, arcs, axes, and alignments have been carefully orchestrated to create a subtle yet inevitable path towards the sanctuary, and from there, towards the altar. Yet, in recognition of our multicultural society, and the treasure of individuality, the plan gathers, rather than focuses the paths of those who come to worship, encouraging a more evolving rather than prescribed participation in the Mass. On the South, a collage of transparent, translucent, and colored glass offers glimpses of the vestibule to passers-by, and scatters bright silhouettes with the passage of the sun. The simple geometry and limited material palette of the chapel creates subtle entrances and gathering spaces for students. Entrances are defined by a change in materials and lowered ceilings. The student entrance is orientated along the east/west plaza connecting to the existing campus and is the most prominent entrance as a long wooden wall juts out of plane to gather the students. The transition from the classroom to the chapel happens as students make their way through the plaza and up three short steps to the entrance. From the outside, the Chapel presents a simple sheltering form, under which are gathered the outward expressions of the worship space, the chapels, a modest student portal and a dramatic gateway for holy occasions.

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