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Chapel Hill, NC

Chapel in the Pines

To begin the design process, the Building Committee of Chapel in the Pines was given the task to establish a philosophy statement which would provide a framework for the design of the structure. Their statement is as follows:

“Chapel in the Pines reflects God’s majesty by being in harmony with its surroundings, welcoming to its community, and aesthetically original.”

The first key phrase within this sentence is “being in harmony with its surroundings”.


So the question is, how does this get applied to architectural design? There must be a transparency, a blending of interior and exterior spaces. The structure must sit quietly within the pines, and respect the environmental impact of the developed area by minimizing site alterations such as grading and tree removal. Design elements should mimic those found in nature.

Next comes “welcoming to its community”. In a way, this is similar to the first phrase except that it refers to how the structure will be in harmony with people. There must be a gradual transition from out to in, and be of human scale in order to make it welcoming to the community. Spaces must be created to encourage interaction, contemplation, and worship. First time visitors must not be confused, but naturally drawn to their destination.

“Aesthetically original” indicates a desire to be unique. This feature will be guided by the phrases “harmony with surroundings” and “welcoming to its community” So in this case unique is not odd, but a steady appropriate structure worthy of being called a chapel in the pines.

The final design solution features a pine timber frame structure, entry courtyard, outdoor amphitheater, and a memorial garden.

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