Multi-Faith Spiritual Center, Northeastern University

Office dA, 1998

Harleston Parker Medal, 2002

This was one of the first built works by this influential firm; their inflections of tectonic building systems to respond to program and context have won a variety of prestigious awards. Partners Monica Ponce de Leon and Nader Tehrani have since gone their own ways, both balancing practice with academic commitments.

The surprise is that this work is an interior piece, fitted into an existing building on campus, without clues on the exterior of the building as to where to find it. Layers of backlit glass rise upward between light wood framing members that define the four walls of the long thin space. Three suspended canopies float within them, built out of spinning vortexes of overlapping metal plates with a light at each of their centers. The subtle downward arc of the canopies and the ethereal quality of the walls dissolve the sense of containment while providing a sense of community and feeling of intimacy.

Small spaces at either end allow for preparation for worship as appropriate for different religions, including some without other recognized centers on campus. For the Harleston Parker Medal jury deliberating in the months following the 9/11 attacks, this project represented a hopeful embodiment of the potentially transformative role of architecture in society.

Source: HPM Jury reportImages: Office dA