Community-based Structure Inspires a Connection to Earth and Sky
This project is the latest in a series of small design/build projects led by our office. The design process for these projects is ‘democratized,’ allowing younger designers to lead the process and test emerging technologies/methodologies. Architects, designers, and other staff are then invited to participate in the construction process to promote building knowledge, connection with community, and camaraderie in the office.
Sky Chapel is a work of experiential architecture,
seeking to connect the visitor to both earth and sky.
The ancient forms of the obelisk and the ziggurat both signify place by symbolically connecting the earth to the sky. The Sky Chapel explodes and deconstructs the facets of these traditionally monolithic forms, creating an interior space linking one to the earth below and the sky above.
Sky Chapel is our team’s answer to an invitation issued to local architects and builders to design, construct, and install several ‘bridges’ throughout downtown Middlebury, Vermont.
The slightly inclined form reaches out to the land before stepping upward in a spiral, culminating at a leaning spire. Pedestrians are invited to explore and discover that at its center is a single live-edge white cedar plank cantilevered off the structure, providing a bench for one person.
The main structure consists of custom-milled dimensional 2×6 Spruce/Pine/Fir. Each course of lumber is inset from the previous, creating a leaning series of walls. Courses are fastened at interlocking corners and intermittent spacers. Weathered materials help to blend the form into its surroundings. Inspiration was drawn from the method of storing lumber with ‘stickers’ to promote drying.
PUBLIC SCULPTURE, PUBLIC SPACE
Sky Chapel was part of a plan to entice visitors to Middlebury’s downtown, to offset distruptions caused by a major construction project during the COVID pandemic. This effort to attract visitors during a percarious time ultimately left the community with engaging works of sculpture that the public has worked to keep in their public spaces.
During this time, when the town was seeking to reconnect their community to the downtown, Sky Chapel served as a sanctuary, a place to be among community and yet be socially distanced. It is a place to feel grounded to the earth and find a place in the larger universe.
The slightly inclined form reaches out to the land before stepping upward in a spiral, culminating at a leaning spire. At the center of the space, a live-edge white cedar plank provides a seat for one person.
After serving its initial intention to entice visitors to downtown, Sky Chapel was auctioned to raise funds for the Middlebury Town Theater. The piece now resides at the outdoor Lemon Fair Sculpture Park in Shoreham where it continues to engage and welcome the public.