This ethereal chapel perched high on a bluff at the Rio Roca Ranch to the northwest of Dallas, Texas is the perfect marriage (excuse the pun) between the strength of wood and the airiness of glass. The breathtaking private church is organic by design, and provides a deep connection with the surrounding environment through its use of natural materials and transparent walls. The chapel was designed by Maurice Jennings Architect, who is known for their work building residences and chapels that adhere to the principles of harmony between built structures and natural surroundings, as well as a generous use of light. That last item is definitely evident in the Rio Roca Chapel with its glass walls and plentiful skylights.
Completed in 2010, the 1,080 sq ft chapel is a private facility and can be used for cultural, artistic and spiritual enrichment for up to 50 people. The organic structure is built from limestone, steel and glass with unobstructed views of the landscape from within. Perched over the Brazos River, which is lined with limestone cliffs, the chapel’s materials and rock wall reflect the locally-sourced rock. Visitors to the chapel shift between the plateau and the river bluff by passing by a large limestone retaining wall with a built in fountain and are treated to views of the river below.
Oriented along an east-west axis, the chapel runs parallel with the river as well as with the sun’s path through they sky. Three walls are almost completely transparent and a large skylight in the angled roof lets ample daylight enter from above and playfully reflect and refract through the space. The roof is constructed from wood and copper and the structure is elegantly braced with tension bars and turnbuckles. Use of the turnbuckles and tension bars allowed much of the structure to be prefabricated offsite and then assembled later. Since its completion, the chapel has received multiple awards including the national winner of the AISC 2011 IDEAS2 award, and the international winner of the 2011 Merit Design Award.
Images ©Walter Jennings