the chapel’s octagonal form has its roots in the early Roman Catholic Church, while
the fieldstone and redwood are warm, contemporary materials. The giant wind turbine to
the right of the church echoes the ecclesiastical spire; together, they are symbols of
spirituality and the school’s stewardship of Mother Earth.
he practiced prior to his appointment at MIT. Characterized
by respect for local materials and quiet Zenlike sensibility, it’s
this style that shapes the Portsmouth chapel.
Belluschi did not replicate the medieval cruciform plan
the Benedictine architectural tradition. Instead, he returned
to an earlier source, the polygonal churches of the Byzantine
and early Christian eras, such as the sixth-century San Vitale
Basilica in Ravenna, Italy.
An eight-sided form can be liturgically awkward, but
lluschi had experimented with nontraditional plans in dozens of churches he designed in Oregon, and one suspects that
he used an octagon at Portsmouth because it allowed more
surfaces for the stained glass that forms the upper half of the
church’s walls. The unconventional English-made glass provides a shimmering palette of bright colors that changes with
the light and as one moves through the space. The chapel’s
fieldstone walls (quarried on the property), combined with
laminated beams, teak, cedar, and redwood, create a welcoming interior and an overall sensibility that is both thoroughly
contemporary and reassuringly traditional.
But after almost half a century, the chapel was struc-rally compromised. The windows were leaking and bay
winds were racking the building. The monks hired Newport
Collaborative Architects to lead a $4 million yearlong renovation. Under the guidance of project architect Michael
boston • cape cod • nantucket • martha’s vineyard • newport • palm beach