Nature and Architecture Unite to Celebrate the Presence of God
Chapel Architect Lloyd Wright, son of the pioneering American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, conceived the design of Wayfarers Chapel as a “tree chapel”, a natural sanctuary set in the midst of a forest.
“I wanted particularly to allow those trees and those trunks to be seen and the space beyond and into infinity to be observed, so those who sat in the sanctuary would perceive the grandeur of space out beyond and around them.”
Lloyd Wright’s design is one of the foremost examples of Organic Architecture. One of its underlying principles of organic architecture is that the trees are the forms and the space within the forms is sacred space.
“When the trees that surround the Chapel grow up, they will become the framework, become a part of the tree forms and branches that inevitably arise from the growing trees adjacent to it. I used the glass so that the natural growth, the sky, and sea beyond became the definition of their environment. This is done to give the congregation protection in services and at the same time to create the sense of outer as well as inner space.”
Lloyd Wright’s inspiration came on a trip through the redwood forests of northern California shortly following the end of World War II. He stopped at a little restaurant surrounded by trees. During lunch he looked up through a skylight and saw the magnificent redwoods rising up on the sides and branches arching overhead like a great natural cathedral. So impressed with the sight he vowed that if he ever received a commission for a church this would be his inspiration.
“The great cathedrals of redwood inspired me to use the redwoods here. In earlier days all over the face of the earth there were chapels in glades and the woods which were meeting places for the priests and the people. The Chapel was to be a place for people to meet, and think, and contemplate the forces of nature and God Almighty. The setting of this Chapel is to receive people, the wayfarers.”
The setting, the ocean beyond, the trees, the glass, provides a sacred setting where nature and architecture unite to celebrate the presence of God.
Excerpts from A Visit with the Architect 1974
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Wayfarers Chapel is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.