The proposed place of prayer is like a side chapel of a church, synagogue, or mosque. The chapel is a place for reflection in solitude or to gather in hope, grief or joy. The art and architecture are integrated to foster spiritual thought.
The exterior of the chapel will be painted white with marble dust as part of the paint matrix, so it will glow. Small windows integrated into the artwork inside will give a glance into the chapel space. The entry is signified by a wood portal with doors that align with the window beyond. The doors are designed with a passage door and a cremone bolted side panel to accommodate bariatric patients in gurneys. In the portal is a storage room concealed by wood doors.
Entering the chapel the visitor will encounter a table with a vessel made by Mr. Akhriev for prayer requests. The table will be silhouetted against fabric panels that attenuate the sound of the chapel. A storage room for worship supplies is located next to the window. A retractable projection screen and projector will display images oriented towards the fabric wall.
The space is an approximate oval. The mosaic art will resemble frescoes and embrace the whole prayer space. The palette is serene. The content is organic and abstract but also suggests ascendance and lightness of being.Because the chapel has two axes with a central focal point it accommodates gathering in a circle, a worship service focused on the principal image of the mosaic, and towards the fabric paneled wall for presentations. The space is truly multivalent, but its primary focus is spirituality and hope.
In designing the wall piece for the Erlanger chapel, my foremost challenge was how to be non-denominational and simultaneously to provide comfort. I searched for a visual principle to welcome across cultures and faiths. For this criteria I came to abstraction which hints at realistic language without specificity. Another of my goals was to calm individuals in crisis. One way to do that is to manipulate color, which needs to be restrained and tranquil, but have power. I wanted to acknowledge the sense of seriousness which by definition exists in a hospital. Instead of just being “upbeat,” my approach was more ‘your situation is serious; we are with you; you will be taken care of.’
These considerations drove me in two basic imagery directions: the idea of a nest and the attentive protection of a mother bird, and that of a structure which is a safe haven. The bird is a protector, a care giver, a symbol of spirit. A mother bird’s wings form a protective structure. The protective wing concept is mirrored in the walls themselves, two fluid and sloping panels embracing the visitor. In the textures and surface treatments of the walls, I chose the media of clay and smalti because every human tradition has historical links to clay and glass. I myself was internally referring to the half-preserved, half-remaining frescos of the chapels of Europe. My goal was to bring these historical tradition media of spiritual sites to a modern place, and I will use artist-made ceramic tile and smalti, Italian glass traditionally used in the creation of mosaics. I chose the primarily blue palette because that color is associated with tranquility, and yet it is intrinsically a powerful color which will be a presence. The palette will have color variation, but in low contrast, again, to be calming.
When someone is distracted by grief, joy or stress, some part of them can still appreciate that their surroundings were created finely, that care was taken. In addition to the conceptual foundation of the chapel project, we felt strongly that the act of creating a mosaic by hand, the act of caring for the walls in a traditional and labor-intensive way, would also be proof to those meditating that they, too, would be taken care of.