Brooks + Scarpa design Interfaith Chapel in Florida

© Courtesy of Brooks + Scarpa Architects

The highly acclaimed Los Angeles-based practice Brooks + Scarpa Architects, along with KZF Design, have released plans for a new Interfaith Chapel at the University of North Florida. Drawing inspiration from a free-flowing wedding gown, its informally shaped footprint - reminiscent of an allegorical figure such as Justice, Faith, Hope, Charity, Prudence and Fortitude - flows upward and culminates at the top with a large skylight whose light is diffused by a wooden lattice spire that is derived from the symbol of infinity.

The symbolic, 7000 square-foot structure will provide students with an intimate, spiritual space that may be used daily while also supporting a variety of diverse religious services, such as student ceremonies, weddings, lectures, meditative practices, musical performances and more.

Learn more about Brooks + Scarpa’s wooden chapel after the break.

© Courtesy of Brooks + Scarpa Architects

As described by Brooks + Scarpa, “This combination of flowing natural and cosmic elements results in a unique, formal building while providing a warm interior with soft filtered and reflected light. It inspires an indelible wonder; a dreamlike state of mind that engages the user, heightens their sense of awareness, and brings a deeper understanding to their experience.”

The proposed design strategically places windows and openings around the building to allow for views and visual connections to adjacent lake, nearby woods, and other important natural and cosmic features. Some windows are aligned with the winter and summer solstices to allow for the penetration of unique qualities of natural light that occur only during sunrise and sunset of this special moment. Other openings view the lake, garden and provide a welcoming arrival to the chapel. All of these features allow the opportunity for users to co-mingle with special moments of natural phenomena that connect to and honor the role of faith and spirituality.

Longitudinal Section

One of the most striking orientations come from a window placed highly above the ground, facing directly north at 30 degrees above the horizontal, that provides direct nighttime views of the Polaris - the historically important navigational and otherworldly “North Star”. This direct connection from the sanctuary’s interior to an important cosmic symbol encourages the viewer to reflect and forge a deeper and more meaningful understanding of the fundamental, yet delicate relationships that exist between themselves, our collective cultures, the natural world and its vital resources.

© Courtesy of Brooks + Scarpa Architects


The strategy developed for the structural system emerges from the intent to develop a flowing, flexible interior layout shrouded in a gown-like veil. To achieve this, a wood lamella truss system is utilized to frame the building. Initially developed for warehouses and other industrial uses as a low-tech structure able to achieve very long spans, wood lamella truss systems have been used for nearly 100 years. 

Structural spans and individual wood glue laminated members are connected along a pattern of intersecting diagonal lines to form a framed vaulted roof structure in an egg crate like pattern. This approach to the building structure enables a viable systematic approach to the complex perimeter enclosure.

Floor Plan


The building distinguishes itself from most conventionally developed projects in that it incorporates passive and active energy efficient measures and optimize building performance that ensure reduced energy use during all phases of construction and occupancy. The large roof structure creates an ever-changing continuous loop around the building moving inside and out like a pen that is never lifted from the page, but reinforces the intent to spatially weave together, as a single space, the indoors with the outside space.  In doing so, the roof also provides shade to cool the building, reducing direct solar gain, enhancing privacy, while still allowing for great natural light and ventilation when humidity is at tolerable levels.  

South Elevation

Passive design strategies include: locating and orienting the building to control solar cooling loads; shaping and orienting the building for exposure to prevailing winds; shaping the building to induce buoyancy for natural ventilation; designing windows to maximize day lighting; shading south and west-facing glazing; designing windows to maximize natural ventilation; utilizing low flow fixtures and storm water management; shaping and planning the interior to enhance daylight and natural air flow distribution. 

Sun studies and a preliminary energy analysis informed the location of overhangs and placement of glazing. Specific variations from the regional climatic conditions were studied incorporating the microclimate with regional strategies; proper orientation, natural light, materials and technologies.

East Elevation

Form Generation

Spirituality is the concept of an ultimate immaterial reality: an inner path enabling a person to discover the deepest value and meanings by which people live. The spiritual experience should yield a more comprehensive self: joining with the human community, nature, the cosmos or the divine realm. These symbols are intended to evoke a sense of wonder where the world comes from, why we are here, and to be moved by values such as beauty and creativity to reveal a meaning or power beyond our tangible world.

Architect: Brooks + Scarpa Architects with KZF Design

Location: Jacksonville, Florida

Client: University of North Florida

Area: 7000 sqft

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Cite: Karissa Rosenfield. "Brooks + Scarpa design Interfaith Chapel in Florida" 15 Jan 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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