St. Pius Adoration Chapel and Prayer Garden
Envisioned as a quiet sanctuary for individual prayer, this new addition to the St. Pius campus in New Orleans is a subtle sculptural element that complements and contrasts with the adjacent 1960s church. The project was realized through a true community effort led by parishioners, who conceived of the idea and funded it with a robust capital campaign.
In early meetings, the congregants indicated that the new chapel and surrounding garden should reflect the formal character of the existing church and its striking copper roof. Similar in form and material, the chapel is a quiet counterpoint to the church’s monumentality. Its angled shape echoes the form of the larger building, and inside worshipers are greeted with a soaring but scaled space that creates the feeling of an entire cathedral for just one person.
The chapel’s floor plan shepherds the worshiper through a small vestibule that is separated from the main sanctuary by a slatted wood screen. Three different linear windows allow natural light into the space, activating its white planes throughout the day. The space draws power from its simplicity and subtle manipulation of light, such as a daylit expression of the Christian cross made possible by strategic tweaks to the wall. A custom wood tabernacle contains the Holy Eucharist, providing a focal point for the object of adoration in a space filled with divine light.
An initial concept developed by the parish sought to enhance the connection between the new chapel and the rectory so that both structures could make use of an existing brick patio. The team, working with the pastor, shifted the concept to reorient the chapel and create a new prayer garden to allow reflection in an exterior setting. Though very different than their original intentions, the change was well-received by parishioners. In addition, the garden serves as a retention basin for stormwater. All water collected by the rectory and its lawn travels through various gutters into a layer of crushed stone beneath the garden. The site can handle a 2.5-inch rain event, easing the pressure on the city’s overworked drainage system.