Trahan Architects broke ground on the new Chapel of St. Ignatius and Gayle and Tom Benson Jesuit Center at the Loyola University in New Orleans. The new spiritual site and the community gathering space draw on elements of the Jesuit tradition, central to the University's heritage. Through the circular design, the light-filled interior space and the predominance of natural materials, Trahan Architects creates a space of universal spirituality at the heart of the campus.
Located in a century-old campus, the project inserts a contemporary structure within historic brick-clad Gothic buildings; therefore, the design aims to express a certain monumentality. The main building material, concrete, is left apparent and will be cast in place using formwork made of different essence of wood, creating a vibrant texture. The design team experimented with different casting solutions to obtain a varied concrete surface.
The light-grey textured surface transitions into a softer natural clay plaster at the interior. Within the chapel, reinforcing the connection with the campus, is a glass opening framing the view towards an oak tree. The interior is organized as a series of interconnected circles circumscribed by a larger cylinder. While the chapel will be a Catholic liturgical venue, the Benson Jesuit Center is set to be a community space for people of all faiths.
The chapel is Trahan Architects' second notable religious building, after the 2004 design of the Holy Rosary Complex, a parish in South Louisiana, which features similar inquiries into cast-in-place concrete and the use of natural light.