A School’s Modern Take on Chapel Design

By NanaWall Systems, September 9, 2020

saint mary's new chapel design with opening glass walls

Welcoming students with a modern take on chapel design, Saint Mary’s College High School’s new sanctuary offers a peaceful space for meditation and worship. Much to the nature of religious institutions, the new student chapel serves a multipurpose facility where students can not only immerse in worship and prayer but also hosts other special services throughout the year. The opening glass walls installed at the entrance adapt to the seasons and the needs of the buildings while enriching the indoor environment with fresh air and daylight.

interior of saint mary's new chapel design

The Need for a Dedicated Space for Prayer

Saint Mary’s is a college preparatory high school in Albany, CA that aims to prepare its 700 students for higher education while embracing values rooted in Catholicism. For over 35 years, the Catholic school utilized classrooms, auditoriums, and other campus spaces to hold liturgies and prayer services for the school community. The need for a structure strictly dedicated to fulfilling these functions was eventually resolved in 2018 with the unveiling of a new building featuring immaculate chapel design. Alongside Mark Cavagnero Associates, this new sanctuary was designed to blend with its natural surroundings and reap the benefits of natural light.

reflecting pond and courtyard through folding glass wall at saint mary's college high school

A Contrasting Modern Take of Cement and Glass in Chapel Design

Architect Mark Cavagnero designed a 4,400 square foot chapel that welcomes visitors and students from its site at the entrance of the campus. The chapel design aimed to blend in the natural surroundings and thus inspired the envelope of white cement juxtaposed by a façade of glass windows and opening glass walls. The glass walls encompassing two walls were not only designed to seamlessly transition the outdoors in but also to filter maximum natural light into the sanctuary. The interior white concrete walls mimicking the exterior of the chapel are meant to bounce off the light and reflect it into the interior space. “The light in the chapel, diffused and entering from all sides, is at once comforting and solemn,” comments architect Mark Cavagnero on his chapel design. “Windows and walls of glass to the south and west visually connect the chapel to the existing mature trees and adjoining meditative garden to give the relatively compact building a greater sense of connection with its surroundings.”

fresh air ventilation provides by opening glass walls in church design

Rear Glass Façade Offers Peaceful Views and Fresh Air

The buildings interaction with light and its surroundings is ever-present in the chapel design. The architect strategically utilized the glass rear façade to successfully blend the interior space with its natural surroundings in an effort to achieve a space of peace and tranquility. One of his solutions was to install an opening glass wall system that could be easily operated based on the needs of the chapel. Taking over an expanse of roughly 20 feet and standing at 9 feet tall, a NanaWall SL70 folding glass wall acts as a flexible opening that increases sense of space and invites the surrounding elements into the sanctuary. Six panels fold and stack out of the way when fully opened gliding on a floor supported stainless steel track. This, paired with the NanaWall thermally broken high weather performance sill, ensures utmost protection from rain and wind driven by inclement weather as well as water penetration from the reflective pond adjacent to the glass wall.

closed folding glass wall at saint mary's college high school in its student chapel

Final Thoughts

Saint Mary’s new sanctuary offers its students a tranquil space to meditate and worship with a minimalist modern take on chapel design. The creative use of stationary and opening glass walls not only fills the interior space with comforting diffused natural light but also promotes a healthy environment for its congregation. The NanaWall SL70 facilitates a natural fresh air circulation that promotes the overall health and wellbeing of students within the space. Ultimately, the chapel design offers students a safe environment where they can peacefully contemplate and destress after a long day of learning.

Learn more about how other religious institutions leverage NanaWall solutions at NanaWall’s applications page!