AD Classics: Luce Memorial Chapel / I.M. Pei

©Anonymous Blogger

Named after an American missionary of the late 19th century, the was added to the campus of Tunghai University in , Taiwan. It was designed by Chen Chi-Kwan, an artist and architect, in collaboration with the infamous architect I.M. Pei.

More on the Luce Memorial Chapel by I.M. Pei after the break.

©Anonymous Blogger

Initially beginning in April of 1954, the construction of the Luce Memorial Chapel took place from September 1962 until November 1963. Upon culmination of the construction period, the Chapel ended up costing the university around $125,000 total.

Set on an irregular hexagonal base, the chapel occupies a site of 12,000 square meters of the campus, providing 477 square meters of floor area, including a nave with 500 seats, a chancel and robing rooms. The four manipulated planes that make up the walls of the church stretch 19.2m high, establishing a central focal landmark on the campus.

©Anonymous Blogger

I.M. Pei was careful to design specific to the environmental context of Taiwan, with walls made of reinforced concrete to provide earthquake stability and durability in the humid and typhoon-prone environment. Construction of the intricate and elaborate formwork was done locally by craftsmen. To work with the desired form, ribs reinforced the curvature of the surfaces and thicken as they descend, in order to prevent buckling of the materials.

©Flickr: username- JerryJuliaEric

The exterior of the chapel is covered in glazed diamond-shaped tiles that stand out against the sky and green backdrop of the university. The interior reflects similar diamond shapes, as the concrete coffers become thicker and the shapes gradually diminish in size as they near the bottom of the structure, since stresses are concentrated near the ground.

The upward extending swoop of the walls culminates in a steel cross, which marks the chapel as a sanctuary for students and professors of the university. The walls seem to stand independently of each other, but are actually connected by glazed slots and by small structural bow ties that are cast into the high ridge beams at the top near the ceiling.

©Anonymous Blogger

Architect: I.M. Pei
Location: Taichung, Taiwan
Project Year: Planned in 1954, constructed from 1962-63
Photography: Anonymous Blogger, Pei Cobb Freed
References: Michael Cannell, Louise Slavicek

Cite: Sveiven, Megan. "AD Classics: Luce Memorial Chapel / I.M. Pei" 14 Dec 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed 22 May 2015. <>
  • Trevdor

    This is the first ADclassic I wasn’t already generally familiar with, so thanks!

  • Andrew

    This is rather refreshing and elegant for I.M. Pei. Given that is was constructed in the 60′s it’s a wonder why it was never studied in school. Nice find!

  • Archer

    …in collaboration with the “infamous” architect I.M. Pei.
    Is it typo?

    • TheMason

      Seeing as his wing of the National Gallery had to go an $85 million renovation to the facade alone because of the flawed and poorly designed structural system, and his Third Church of Christ Scientist in D.C. was recently demolished to the applause of the congregation, I would say “infamous” is a pertinent word.

  • Richie

    I’d never come across this before either. Really interesting and elegant structure.

  • up_today_arch

    Nice form… reminds that architecture is romantic…

  • Holcim Awards

    Wow, that is a fantastic and elegant design. I also, have never seen it before. I love the materiality.

    Great work!