UPMC Presbyterian
Interfaith Chapel

  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Completed April 2013
  • 1,800 Square Feet
  • $550,000 Project Value

As part of a larger reorganization in the hospital, the existing chapel needed to be relocated to make room for diagnostic programs and to give the chapel a more integrated position in the daily experience of patients, family, and staff.

The chapel’s new home landed it on the eleventh floor of the hospital just off the corridor that links the main public elevator with the cafeteria and conference center. This new location, while on a more prominent circulation route, would land the space in what was a former patient room cluster. The challenge here was to develop a space that allowed for the intrinsic qualities of a chapel to come through in spite of the limitations of much regularized space that could not be modified. Our questions were:

“How do you break out of the box that is the patient room?”

“How do you translate patient room windows into inspirational chapel adornment?”

“How do you transition from a busy hospital corridor into a quiet introspective space?”

The simple nature of these questions does not reveal the challenge in front of the design team to present a space that would respond to the intentions of the mission or the pragmatic needs of the vision. Our goal was to disconnect the visitor from the hospital world while being immediately adjacent to it.

Shifting the axis of the room onto the diagonal and introducing curving elements behind and above the alter area gave the space its own order and helped to overcome the regular nature of the previous spaces. These moves were reinforced by obscuring the shape of the existing windows, thus allowing for natural light without the figure of the existing hospital windows showing through. This was critical in maintaining the perception of separation from the hospital.

A stone passage was developed as a threshold for entrance. This massive entrance helped with the feeling of leaving the hospital behind when you passed into the chapel. It also provided a striking visual cue for entrance that was substantially different from the other visual elements normally encountered in a hospital corridor.

Additional embellishments of the chapel included the use of commissioned art glass at the corridor. The goal of this glass installation was to lend the buoyancy of color and light normally seen in this kind of space without the specific traditional imprint of religious tradition. The use of cast glass was also incorporated to give reference to water, a theme shared across many religious traditions and a calming element useful in reflection and meditation.

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