Project File: Uplifting architecture

Bigelow Chapel at the United Theological Seminary, New Brighton, Minn., realizes the school's request for a timeless, spiritually uplifting, ecumenical worship space.

The 5,300-square-foot building includes a processional, narthex, chapel and bell tower. Because the seminary serves a multi-denominational community of students, faculty, staff and visitors, the 2,200-square-foot sanctuary had to accommodate a diverse group of people.

The space is wrapped in curvilinear, quilted maple. The floors, the ceiling panels that overlap to create a canopy over the processional and the sanctuary, and the six vertical panels that wave along the interior of the west glass and stainless-steel curtainwall combine to create a sense of intimacy. The thin maple veneers were sandwiched between sheets of clear, non-reflective acrylic in order to filter and modulate light coming through the glass wall. The thin, suspended planes of the glass fins and curving maple panels also are echoed in the narthex roof, which cantilevers almost 20 feet of space, and the freestanding 40-foot-high twin walls of the bell tower, which houses chimes made early in the 20th century.

The chapel has an intimate relationship to the surrounding landscape. Visitors move down into the chapel, which is at the same level as the campus lawn, on the chapel's gradual sloping processional.

The architect is Hammel, Green and Abrahamson, Inc. (Minneapolis).

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