California Baptist University
Title of Project: Journey of Ascension Christian Study Center
Studio Instructor: Dr. David Mwale Ogoli
The Christian Study Center is designed to bring the discussion of faith into academic spheres. A unique interaction between sacred and secular is allowed to occur here, as a path is created from the secular university campus, through the transcendent intermediary courtyard, up to the sacred chapel space. This center aims to create a space for pre-gospel witness through community and relationships, providing a welcoming and safe space to explore spirituality and experience the sacred.
Two languages of form are developed to create a visual distinction and sequence: the typical brick and mortar of Michigan that represents the secular school, and organic timber extending upward to represent the transcendent courtyard and sacred chapel. The brick exterior is a familiar language to Michigan, presenting the familiarity of the worldly life and its coercion to a static life.
Standing juxtaposed is the glowing lighthouse of the chapel, guiding those who are lost to the light, and encouraging them to strive for a purposeful, flourishing life. As one enters, they are slowly introduced to these organic, sacred forms, leading on a spiritual journey of ascension, upward to the chapel at the end.
The concept of the chapel’s form is derived from Matthew 5:14-15, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.”
The chapel sits atop a physical hill on the Michigan campus, serving as a beacon to the school, and is given hierarchy as a transcendent space. The forms of the chapel then begin to spiral down, covering the central courtyard.
This movement demonstrates the importance of the courtyard as a transcendent space where relationships can be built, and spirituality can become part of the conversation. These organic forms come down all the way to the entrance, creating intrigue and enticement to enter the portal and explore the transcendent space.
The dining center, offices, and library encompass the courtyard, pulling the user inward and upward. These spaces become the intermediate zones that invite users from all backgrounds to explore the center. They encourage movement to the courtyard, which is a space to play, read, eat, and connect with people.
Periodic pockets of space provide intimate zones for deeper connection and private conversations. These pockets mimic the chapel’s form to suggest that transcendence and spirituality may not only be found in the chapel space, but in everyday life and conversations.
This study center is aimed to be a welcoming building that questions what’s beyond the physical, and to wonder about the spiritual. This is a safe place to reach out no matter what stage of the spiritual journey one is on, and to be given a place to learn and read on matters formerly shunned on a secular university campus. The journey to finding truth is difficult to navigate, but this building serves as a reminder that no one is alone.