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St. Pius Chapel wins a 2019 National Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects

The project by Eskew+Dumez+Ripple is an addition to Lake Vista’s existing church

Photos by Will Crocker, courtesy of Eskew+Dumez+Ripple

A rendering of the space shows its innovative use of natural light.

With its sweeping copper roof and octagonal floor plan, St. Pius X Church (6666 Spanish Fort Boulevard) is both the centerpiece of its Lake Vista neighborhood and an architectural landmark. When the Archdiocese of New Orleans opted to add a contemplation chapel to the circa-1963 building, they provided a set of mandates. The new, freestanding chapel should provide a quiet space for congregants to pray, and it should complement the existing church’s geometry.

Architecture firm Eskew+Dumez+Ripple (EDR) designed a 571-square-foot chapel, which was funded and approved by parishioners. The structure is simple, sculptural, and intimate.

Its cement plaster exterior is slotted with tall, narrow windows, which illuminate the space with natural light while “minimizing thermal gains,” as EDR stated in a press release. (In other words, the energy-efficient building enjoys sunlight without becoming a greenhouse.) Porcelain tile floors, walnut millwork, and painted gypsum board complete the interior.

The prayer garden was also designed with sensitivity to the environment in mind. Concrete pavers top a layer of crushed stone and planting beds, which serve as a repository for the church’s rain runoff. The garden can accommodate up to 2.5 inches of rainfall.

The St. Pius Adoration Chapel and Garden received one of architecture’s highest awards: a 2019 National AIA Honor Award for Interior Architecture. Perhaps most importantly, it serves its community beautifully.

“St Pius’s adoration chapel ... serves as my haven from the chaos of contemporary life,” stated parishioner Susie Veters in a press release. “Both the quiet and the peaceful atmosphere allow me the opportunity to focus on God’s hand in my life. ... In many ways, the chapel feels like home.”

Natural light bounces off the walls and softly illuminates the space.
A low-slung window provides views of the garden’s plants.
The paver-topped prayer garden doubles as a rain repository.