A white aluminum façade wraps St. Teresa’s Academy’s chapel as if it were an intricately woven mantilla of lace. It’s delicate but sturdy and striking.
When the all-girls Catholic school in the heart of Brookside decided to build a new chapel and academic space on the main campus quadrangle in 2011, they knew it needed to be well thought out. The space was in a prominent location, and it would serve as the spiritual heart of the school and gateway to campus.
The school hired the firm Gould Evans Architecture, who went about surveying the students and faculty to learn what type of structure they envisioned.
A “vision for the chapel emerged as a soft, feminine, contemplative space flooded with light and connected to nature,” state the architects. There was also a strong desire to connect the chapel to the narrative of St. Teresa, the patron saint of lacemakers.
“Achieving harmony between sacred and secular is the very essence of the school’s mission,” according to the architects.
The result was a ten thousand-square-foot building housing a hundred-and-fifty-seat chapel and several classrooms that can also convert to banquet facilities. The building’s interiors are clean and modern yet contemplative and peaceful. The chapel has an almost ethereal feel, with tall narrow windows that flank the wall curving around the altar. They show glimpses of the white aluminum façade on the outside and let in dappled light—a modern-day alternative to stained glass.
Gould Evans brought in Zahner, a metal engineering and design company headquartered in Kansas City, to help build and design the unique metal screen that envelops the chapel. Because of the substantial thickness and curvatures, several iterations of manufacturing design research went into making the lace skin work, Zahner says. “The design team conducted material experimentation and digital fabrication explorations to translate the concept of creating a lace scrim into built form.”
It was also important that the new chapel be able to stand out yet also blend in with the other brick buildings of varying age that dot the campus at the school, which was founded in 1866, making it the oldest school in the city.