In 2012, Doshisha University held a competition to build a new chapel and Center for Christian Culture sited upon adjacent sites on their Kyoto campus.

Architects BAKOKO, in collaboration with engineers Structured Environment, proposed to connect the two new facilities with a bridging roof. The notion of continuity is extruded within the cores of this figure-eight formation, to house two sanctuaries devoted to religious worship and culture.

It is a building where structure, form, and function are moulded into a singular totality. Our intention is not to draw attention to the form of the building, but rather, to merge floor, walls, and roof into an immersive experience prioritizing personal reflection and human interaction within the central sanctums.

At the point where the loops merge, the roof arches over a campus thoroughfare, linking two new buildings dedicated to worship and parochial classes, gatherings, and exhibitions. The green roof reduces rainwater runoff and also helps to offset the loss of plants and trees which previously inhabited these greenfield sites.

One of the university’s motivations to build this new facility was to host lucrative weddings in the chapel, with the complementary cultural center serving as an occasional reception venue. The wedding procession can symbolically walk across the undulating roofscape from chapel to reception – via an elevator and stairs – to mark the special occasion. In day-to-day operation, the roof will be a publically accessible gathering and relaxation space for students.

Nested within the opposite cores are twin sanctuaries devoted to worship and education. The smooth concrete forms encircling these spaces have no hard corners or boundaries. They appear limitless and are intended to permit and encourage free flexible forms of worship and communication.

Suspended cable nets support the glazed roof above each core – held in rigid tension due to their saddle-like curvature – without visually obstructing views to the sky above. A gradated frit pattern is applied to the overhead glass, shading worshippers in the center, but becoming less dense at the edges where sunlight filters onto the concrete.

The curved concrete walls and floors arch up and outward, deriving their structural integrity from their shell-like double curvature. The roof cantilevers outward over the support and circulation spaces arrayed around the facilities’ perimeter. The building is almost entirely wrapped by a full-height glass facade that exposes the concrete form of the sanctuaries to views from the exterior. The concrete floors of the building follow the subtle topography of the site. and merge with the sanctuary walls – a move that enhances seamless continuity with and gives the impression that the structure is an extension of the ground.

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