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AJ exclusive: Niall McLaughlin wins college chapel contest


Niall McLaughlin Architects has won the RIBA competition to design a new college chapel in Oxfordshire, seeing off an impressive shortlist including Massimiliano Fuksas and Ushida Findlay Architects

The practice also beat fellow finalists Terry Pawson Architects and Sarah Hare Architects to land the project for the ‘training’ chapel – part of a larger expansion programme at the Ripon College campus, Cuddesdon (all the finalist schemes are pictured above).

David Morley, the RIBA architectural adviser to the judging panel, described the winning proposals as both ‘poetic and technically sophisticated’..

He said: ‘The elliptical shape, with its two focal points on the altar and lectern, is a brilliantly simple, innovative response to the traditional “college” configuration for a chapel.

‘This simple idea is just part of an approach that is both poetic - the first architectural image was of a buoyant, tethered boat - and technically sophisticated proposing materials such as wicker rainscreen; CNC cutting and Phase Change Material.’

He added: ‘The competition inspired wide interest from the UK and internationally and the Ripon College community were bold in their openness to consider un-traditional designs.’

The new chapel will serve two interconnected communities: the residential and non-residential college community; and the Sisters of a small religious community, resident on campus.

Other proposed developments on the site include New Teaching and Residential Facilities for Students and the Begbroke Community of Nuns - all being designed by Newcastle-based Hopper Howe Sadler.

Watch the construction of the new chapel on the live webcam.


Readers' comments (8)

  • Brilliant! Excellent design well done.

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  • JustFacades.com

    Love it, hope the acoustics work OK with the high void

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  • terry pawson needs to get out more.....

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  • HANG ON!

    This is just Peter Zumthor St. Benedicts Chapel, Sumvitg!

    The whole building as a vessel. The timber drum. The bell tower is even the same. The windows under the roof plane are the same.

    Like the AJ highlighted Austin Smith:Lord’s Merrylee Primary School almost uncanny similarity to Gordon Murray + Alan Dunlop Architects’ Hazelwood school, Glasgow can we not see the same rule applied here!


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  • Whilst I appreciate the similarities drawn by Anonymous between the Zumthor chapel and McLaughlin's scheme, I think that it's a rather superficial analysis of a very well thought out space.

    Quite aside from the scale, the internal design has taken cue's from many of Oxford's more traditional buildings and Collegiate chapels. (Opposing lectern and Altar, inward facing seating.) The elliptical shape is a great way of encouraging the type of worship a training college such as this should be striving for. Inclusive and discussive.

    Whilst it's terribly easy to see the tower and primary shape and draw the parallels, I believe this to be an unfair appraisal of an intelligent and responsive scheme. Quite what some of the other candidates were thinking escapes me, but this proposal makes complete sense to this mind.

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  • predictable and dull winner, mind you they all look like chapels should......

    looks like a corb kit of parts meets a basket..!

    the forms suggest concrete but lo and behold its made of wood and straw??

    the internal perspective is completely incorrect as the space is about a third as long as is shown...!

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  • Dear Anonymous | 29-Sep-2009 2:10 pm,

    Why not just own up as the spokesperson from Niall McLaughlin Architects that you are. I'm sorry but the similarities are far too close for my liking. This almost a like for like copy of Zumthor's chapel in Sumvitg, only with a different roof trusses and seating arrangement.

    Too close and too uncomfortable i'm afriad.

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  • The decision to select such a derivative proposal as the winner calls into question the RIBA representative' s knowledge of 20th C Religious Architecture. The winning scheme draws from Zumthors St Benedict, as well as Schwarz's St Michael, albeit with a collegiate plan as prescribed by the client. The Sisters of Begbroke's legacy will be a clever assimilation of others ideas, and not an original work of Art and place of worship.

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