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RIBA Awards 2013: Religious

In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash as the title of Jean Shepherd’s anthology goes

Although religious architecture isn’t booming, there has been modest activity in these uncertain times and the RIBA Awards judges have recognised quality in three projects, so we’ve created a new category for the building type with the most distinguished lineage of all. The Bishop Edward King Chapel shows Niall McLaughlin Architects’ aptitude for eliciting buildings with unique tectonic quality from any brief and is striking for its textured external masonry, clerestory lighting and wooded glade-like arboreal network of internal engineered timbers, juxtaposed with the concept of a gentle hollow in the ground. If you like this, you will warm to Simpson and Brown’s freestyle Chapel of St Albert the Great in Edinburgh, with its undulating ribbed oak vault gently resting on Corten fingers.

Bishop Edward King Chapel, Cuddesdon, Oxfordshire, Niall McLaughlin Architects

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Built to serve a theological college and a small religious order of nuns, the chapel defies its diminutive scale providing an uplifting spiritual space. The oval stone-clad building changes as it rises from a base of ashlar to a dog-tooth bond, and finally to a capping ring of tall windows that cast an ethereal light on the interior. This daylight has been harnessed to articulate the chapel structure and interior ever-changing with the time of day and the season - a fitting backdrop to the rhythms of prayer and service.

The Chapel of St Albert, the Great, Edinburgh, Simpson and Brown Architects

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Situated in the garden of one of the University of Edinburgh’s Georgian townhouses, the new chapel is conceived as a space for tranquillity, reflection and worship. The building form and materials contribute to a calm, peaceful space and connect the building to its garden setting. Deep, angled window reveals allow natural light to gently enter the space, which is characterised by the warmth of the timber pews and the beautifully crafted timber ceiling, which also extends outdoors, beyond the west window. A sedum roof further melds the building to the garden.

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