The Chapel of Second Chances is an open-air structure intended for second-wedding ceremonies and the renewal of vows. Designed and built by my architecture students at the University of Oregon in Eugene, it illustrates the design potential of reused materials. Besides recycled romance, it will shelter workshops and other educational events.
The idea for the chapel came from the local BRING Recycling Center, which challenged the students to rely on reused materials, make the structure somewhat portable, and complete the task within a ten-week term. The chapel needed to cover 30 to 40 people and, at my request, its primary structure had to be of 2x4s and 2x6s, a material in plentiful supply here.
Working by consensus decision making, the group generated a design that splays in both plan and section, inflecting the structure outward while focusing inward to the place of ceremony. The theme is two halves coming together, from the slice of transparency through the ridge skylight to the doubling of the rafters and columns.
The chapel is simply offal. The students scoured BRING's yard for useful debris and came up with a simple vocabulary of materials. Electrical conduit of galvanized steel was adapted in various ways: as webbing for the handmade trusses, X-bracing for lateral stiffening, spacers between doubled members, and struts to support the roof panels. So many uses were found for the pipe that the mantra for the course became "just condu-it."
The "coup de trash" was the discovery of a pile of fiberglass panels once used for an acoustic shell for the Eugene Symphony in the Hult Center for the Performing Arts by Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer. The panels were reinforced with aluminum tubing and came in an assortment of lengths, making them a fairly light and manageable. By fastening one side to the rafters with door hinges and the other lifted with struts, the panels became a dynamic, stepping roof system.
The need for portability was met by bolting the frame together and keeping the components small enough to be lifted by a few people without mechanical assistance. The roof frame breaks down into four pieces, the skylight is in four overlapping hinged panels, and the frame bolts together with threaded rods.
The chapel will find a semipermanent home in a demonstration garden when BRING's new Planet Improvement Center is completed in 2005.