In compiling the brief for Bishop Edward King Chapel, Ripon College wanted a building that could serve two communities: staff and students, as well as the nuns of a small religious order, the sisters of Begbroke. The chapel needed to accommodate the worshipping preferences of both groups, and provide a separate prayer space and accommodation for the sisters.
Taking their inspiration from the religious term ‘nave’, deriving from the Latin for ship, Niall McLaughlin Architects has created an elliptical building using a combination of natural materials to appease both parties, with stone dominating the exterior and timber inside.
The self-supporting roof and internal frame act independently from the external walls. Supporting the roof is an impressive criss-crossed timber structure, constructed of 60mm thick prefabricated glue-laminated sections that are treated with a two-part stain, and giving a light whitewashed appearance. A specially designed steel connection was used at the crossing points of the vault to conceal the connection within the slender members.
In a deliberate contrast to the prominent interior timber framework, loose furniture in the chapel space, such as the altar, is made of European oak, standing out from the other wooden elements and drawing attention to its religious significance.
Solid and beautifully finished, the exterior hints at something special inside, but as one enters through the external oak doors, the result is a surprise and a delight, with the inviting timber framework being so far removed from the hard outer shell. The chapel’s soaring and elegant structure saw it award the Gold Award in the Wood Awards 2013.