Community, Faith Merged Under One Green Roof

In a seamless blend of respect for nature, community and religion, architects at Japan’s Bakoko firm recently shared their plans for a new faith-based community center in Kyoto, Japan, blending secular and religious institutions into a continuous whole. The designers came up with the plan in a 2012 competition to design both a new chapel and a Center for Christian Culture at Doshisha University .

Using the “figure 8” symbol for infinity as a starting point, the Bakoko architects kept the integrity of both functions of the facility, but decided to merge the meeting place and house of worship under one roof, using curved walkways and green spaces to tie everything  together.

The chapel design appears to rise directly out of the ground. Image via Bakoko.

The green chapel design appears to rise directly out of the ground. Image via Bakoko.

Working in collaboration with engineering firm Structured Environment, Bakoko designed the walkways to cross in the middle of the structure, forming an arch over the central pedestrian avenue that both delineates and joins the two main rooms. Using almost no right angles or sharp edges, the entire building emphasizes continuity and a lack of borders.

“Our intention is not to draw attention to the form of the building, but rather, to merge floor, walls and roof into an immersive experience, prioritizing personal reflection and human interaction within the central sanctums,” said the designers on the Bakoko website.

A wide, looping green roof emphasizes the structure's connection with the natural world. Image via Bakoko.

A wide, looping green roof emphasizes the structure’s connection with the natural world. Image via Bakoko.

Portions of the concreted roof will be covered by a grid-pattern of vegetation that gradually gets thicker and thinner at various points around the figure-8 walkway that will be accessible to the public. This green roof will reduce stormwater runoff, provide extra insulation and help to offset the loss of plants and trees which currently inhabit the greenfield site.

The rest of the roof will consist of flexible glazed panels that are supported by cable nets above each oval chamber. Tension in the wires will produce a saddle-like curvature over the main rooms, providing a clear view of the skies above during events and church services. To even the distribution of passive solar heating, the glass will have a frit pattern that will be densest at the center to provide shade and will gradually become clearer at the edges.

Inside one of the loops, people will be able to gather for events under a gently curved glass roof that filters sunlight. Image via Bakoko.

Inside one of the looped chambers, people will be able to gather for events under a gently curved glass roof that filters sunlight. Image via Bakoko.

To emphasize transparency and welcome visitors, the building will be almost entirely wrapped by a floor-to-ceiling glass facade that exposes the curved concrete forms of the sanctuaries, while the roof cantilevers outward over the support and circulation spaces arrayed around the facilities’ perimeter.

Once completed, the Center for Christian Culture is expected to host weddings in the chapel and receptions in the adjacent cultural center. The wedding procession, Bakoko suggests, can symbolically walk from the chapel to the reception space on the grassy, undulating roofscape. When not being used for events, the gently sloping roof will be a publicly accessible gathering and relaxation space for Doshisha University students.

Randy Woods is a Seattle-based writer and editor with 20+ years of experience in the business publishing world. A former managing editor of Seattle Business, iSixSigma, Claims and Waste Age magazines, he has covered topics that include newspaper publishing, entrepreneurism, green businesses, insurance, environmental protection and garbage hauling (yes, really). He also contributes to the Career Center Blog for The Seattle Times and edits a photography magazine called PhotoMedia. When not working, he likes to hide out in Seattle movie theaters and attend film festivals—even on sunny days.