...a good cause, a beautiful
site, an interesting program...
A Brooklyn architect is recruited to design a chapel
for his hometown in the Philippines.
Growing up in the Philippines, Carlos Arnaiz volunteered with the Chosen Children Village Foundation, a nonprofit that works with kids with disabilities—but
he never dreamed he would eventually be called on to design their chapel.
“I helped out on a few Sundays, cooking meals and playing with the kids,” says
Arnaiz, now an associate partner at Stan Allen Architect, based in Brooklyn.
“When they heard I had become an architect, they said, ‘Hey, do you guys
want to do this chapel?’”
The project, located in the town of Silang, had many appeals for the firm—a
good cause, a beautiful site, an interesting program—as well as numerous
constraints. The building would be located in a major seismic zone, the design
services would have to be donated, and the total budget for construction was
only about $250,000. But, as with much good architecture, those restrictions
eventually led to a breathtaking, primal building.
The 2,584-square-foot structure, which is built almost exclusively from
concrete (except for a few steel beams), is largely open to the outdoors, taking
advantage of the region’s temperate climate. “It’s really more of a pavilion
than a building,” Stan Allen says. “There’s no HVAC system, there’s no glass.
It’s not separated from the environment, and the wind blows right through. It
was an opportunity to make a very elemental piece of architecture—it’s just
about the space, the structure, and the light.”
To create a robust shell, the architects designed walls that are folded in
a gentle zigzag. “A straight wall is liable to tip over, but if you cant it like we
did, it’s intrinsically stable,” says Allen, who notes that continued on page 36
Stan Allen Architect’s design takes dramatic advantage of the
natural elements, letting in light and air through a variety of slots,
some created by the interlocking concrete fingers (below) that also
provide seismic bracing.