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Rising Above Details

LOCATION: Stillwater, Oklahoma


CATEGORY: Chapel, Competition

BOOK: Design Studio Two

Michael Korda, an English writer, once said, "To succeed, it is necessary to accept the world as it is and rise above it." To become a better person, one must recognize the reality of suffering, and actively choose to do good, rising above the world and its evils and injustices. But becoming a better person requires actively seeking good, thinking about your actions, and reflecting on your decisions. This comes through quiet meditation, prayer, and self-reflection, and aiming at the highest possible good that exists. Throughout history, places of worship have helped make people more aware of themselves, their actions, and the reality of the world. They created a better world by first helping others rise above their problems.

This chapel, elevated from the natural terrain, rises above the brush, lifting you and separating you from the unclean ground. The entire chapel is arranged in a central order around the interior courtyard, which has large openings to emphasize inward focus. The courtyard, which leads to the entrance, is surrounded on all sides by large rectilinear forms of concrete and brick, securing it and embracing it at the same time. These forms, along with the large amount of vegetation in the courtyard, blur the barrier between outside and inside, pure and unclean. While the courtyard is still open to the air, the forms which enclose it create another barrier between the open expanse of the site and the compressed interior.

Walking past the courtyard and into the entry door leads one into a two story tall lobby with a staircase, which leads up to the second floor gathering area. This transition forces one to move upward and rise above the ground to access the sanctuary. Walking from the gathering area to the sanctuary creates a sense of transition--from compression to expansion as one walks into the sanctuary itself. The sanctuary is serene, quiet, and dimly lit. The only natural light in the space comes from an indirect skylight, flooding the back wall with light and highlighting the center altar. Combined with its simple form, raw materials, and use of light, the sanctuary is a space to focus inward on yourself, rather than on the world around you. Here, lifted above the ground and on a higher pedestal, one can peacefully reflect on themselves, their actions, and their relationship to a higher purpose.

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    ARCH 2116 - Chapel in the Gardens, Rising Above, 2017

Project PDF's:

Rising Above-Project Board (PDF, Large File 30.7 MB)


  • Entry space [350 s.f.]
  • An exterior space directly integrated with the facility
  • Worship space with movable seating to accommodate 100 individuals [1700 s.f.]
  • Three [3] small interior chapels for reflection [60 s.f. each]
  • Two [2] small places for individual solitude [40 s.f.]
  • One large multi-purpose room for gatherings and meetings [750 s.f.]
  • Restrooms [as needed]
  • Babies changing room [as needed]
  • One bride's space [120 s.f]
  • One Grome's space [120 s.f.]
  • A small library with seating for seven persons [150 s.f.]
  • Chaplain's office [100 s.f.]
  • General work office for two persons [150 s.f.]
  • Interfaith council office with a democratic table seating ten individuals [200 s.f.]
  • Storage space for movable chairs [100 s.f.]
  • General storage [100 s.f.]
  • Janitor closet with an industrial mopping sink [50 s.f.]
  • Mechanical space - 10-15% of the net square footage.

In addition to the required space, all spaces must be ADA accessible. All groups must be able to have privacy during meetings or worship.

As many religions and faiths involve some kind of literal or metaphorical cleansing ritual upon entry, please provide an ablution fountain prior to the entry.The building must remain undenominational and free of any religious symbolism.Groups may bring and store religious objects for use during worship, but they must be removed after the ceremony.

Only religious groups approved by OSU may use the chapel for religious purposes.Sororities and fraternities may use it for initiation ceremonies.Private parties may reserve it for events such as weddings, baptisms, bar/bat mitzvahs, memorial services, and musical concerts.The chapel would be open 7am-11pm every day. Provide space for an upright piano, a/v equipment in both the worship and multi-purpose spaces, and a movable altar.General parking will be provided by the OSU Botanic Gardens. Provide provide a drop-off area and a "designed" vehicular link to the existing parking, south of proposed site.The entire structure shall exhibit a strong sense of materiality, proportion, and tectonics. Efficiency and sustainability is a must.

The use of Brick was a Requirement and apart of the Acme Brick competition which encouraged the creative use of brick. The site had a long procession and around 70 decibels of highway noise that needed to be dealt with.