Falkland Islands Memorial Chapel

Royal Fine Art Commission Competition – 2nd place

“You would have won if you had designed a boat-shaped building” whispered Lord St John Fawsley immediately after announcing the winner and stepping off the podium.

The chapel was designed over three levels with an organ gallery and a memorial crypt. It was designed very much with the youngsters of Pangbourne College in mind, as well as those who lost loved ones in the Falkland Islands conflict. We felt it was important for the day-to-day use of the chapel by the school that the building embraced nature in an uplifting, resurgent way, creating special and memorable occasions, changing with the seasons, such as when the spring morning sun reflects across the shimmering pool, or the mist rises off the water; the coolness and fresh smell of the pool when the glazed screen opens up on a summer evening, or golden leaves float in the autumn; as they fall opening up long views, low sunlight streaking through the deciduous woodland; rain pattering on a winter’s day.

The balanced asymmetry of the design was a deliberate avoidance of the dead hand of rigid formalism. The main chapel at ground level is accessed by a wide path that extends into the garden finishing with a slender column growing out of the boundary wall. Only when looking up to the sky is it apparent that this is in fact a religious cross, deliberately discreet in respect to the personal beliefs of the individual youngster, to encourage free thought and contemplation.

Alongside the bell-tower a gentle ramp falls towards the crypt under the chapel. Here in a linear space through a long clerestory window, watery, moving daylight passes through the pool and illuminates the names of those who are remembered. After spending a little time in the crypt, visitors may climb steps alongside the pool and follow a woodland path while they compose themselves and transition back to their own lives.

The built scheme earned its architect the Sir Hugh Casson Award in the year 2000.