place: Columbarium and Garden of the Senses
Chapman University Orange CA
2009 AIA Award of Excellence
Chapman University is a private college with a tradition of religious pluralism. The Fish Interfaith Center, where this project is located, is a testament to that tradition. It is open to all religions for worship and fosters interfaith dialogue through its programs and teachings.
We received the commission to design two spaces - a columbarium and a garden. The two spaces were sited adjacent to each other, flanked by the center's chapels. We were asked to evoke the spiritual and the sacred, but without reference to any religious iconography.
This project grew out of the relationship between the two spaces: the inherent poetry of a garden filled with life located beside the silence of the columbarium, a place of death.
The garden became the Garden of the Senses – it is a cacophony of plantings, fragrance and the tactile. A celebration of our physical being, designed to heighten our awareness of the senses.
Like the garden, the columbarium is open to the sky. We raised and inclined the walls to open the space and frame the heavens. The reflective blue marble extends upward and brings the sky into the solemn space. On a cloudy day, sky and columbarium merge.
“On most days, it’s almost like you’re stepping into the sky.”
Rev. Ronald L. Farmer, Dean of the Wallace All Faiths Chapel at Chapman. New York Times