Serra Catholic Chapel

Rancho Santa Margarita, California

The Chapel and Gardens at Serra Catholic are the culmination of a phased campus master plan developed over 25 years with the school. The 180 seat chapel was envisioned to be simple yet inspiring to allow young person’s heart to explore the messages of Christ within the Catholic tradition. The building configuration is simple and rectilinear, defining shaded courtyards between building volumes that bring natural daylight to all classrooms. Inspired by Mission style churches, the architecture uses carillon walls, walled gardens and a spiritual path to transition visitors from the secular to the sacred.

The sequence of worship begins by walking beside a linear fountain that spills three ways (the Trinity) into the pool. The walls enclose around the garden to embrace those to pray the rosary in solitude. On axis with a statue of the Virgin, the garden features a contemplative rosary walk for the individual that doubles as forecourt to Chapel gatherings. Simple wood doors open into a foyer for acoustical buffering, and then into the chapel interiors. The space includes a side chapelette for adoration, seating for students, teachers and parents, and an altar for the liturgy of mass. The walls are unadorned, the ceiling is made of cedar, and the crucifix is suspended through "a hole in the clouds". Stone flooring helps give the space a sacred silence, while providing reflective materials for the liturgy to be heard throughout the space. The chapel is accessible within the school campus for everyday use.

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