The client brief sought a new chapel for Ripon Theological College, to serve the two interconnected groups resident on the campus in Oxfordshire, the college community and the nuns of a small religious order, the Sisters of Begbroke. The chapel replaces the existing one, designed by George Edmund Street in the late nineteenth century, which had since proved to be too small for the current needs of the college. The brief asked for a chapel that would accommodate the range of worshipping needs of the two communities in a collegiate seating arrangement, and would be suitable for both communal gatherings and personal prayer. In addition the brief envisioned a separate space for the Sisters to recite their offices, a spacious sacristy, and the necessary ancillary accommodation. Over and above these outline requirements, the brief set out the clients’ aspirations for the chapel, foremost as ‘a place of personal encounter with the numinous’ that would enable the occupants to think creatively about the relationship between space and liturgy. The client summarised their aspirations for the project with Philip Larkin’s words from his poem Church Going, ‘ A serious house on serious earth it is...which, he once heard, was proper to grow wise in...’.
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