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Incarnation Camp – Chapel

June 28, 2012

Replacing a 600sf structure built 50 years ago, a new outdoor Chapel was built in 2012 to satisfy one essential need: accommodating an entire sleep away camp population, under one roof for services.

Rather than ignore the legacy of the original Chapel, the design incorporates the original sign, cross, and most significantly its exact size and shape as the central crowning “monitor” roof visually held aloft upon the largest prefabricated scissor trusses that could be transported to the site on the highway.
The maxxed out trusses were further extended with field-applied outriggers.

The site is a sensitive lakefront in central Connecticut that required extensive site engineering involving groundwater management, native species site plantings and minimal site disruption.  Paths and the interior “floor” use gravel from an onsite quarry.

The building had a tight budget – $180,000 for 2,300sf of covered space plus 450sf of altar/deck.

The fixed seating is designed more as bleachers than pews, getting maximum capacity in minimum space (320 children or 240 adults), the density of this approach allows for a generous altar/stage space for performances.

The trusses were field-ganged rot-proof stock dimensional lumber yellow pine as are the secondary “bents” which replicate the original Chapel – which were field-assembled and lofted into place by a large “Lull” and strategically bolted to the trusses.

All exposed fasteners are stainless steel.  Solid Douglas Fir T&G 2x6s are backed by ½” CDX plywood to create high-strength roof sheathing that allowed for extensive cantilevered eaves.  The solid pressure-treated pine angled column shrouds protect steel columns from the weather and left to weather and extend to follow the grade.  The deck uses stainless wire cabling and native stone rip-wrapping.

The structural design is rigorous involving large concrete footings and piers that support the steel columns which in turn support the roof assembly. The specifications required zero maintenance (unfinished pressure treated wood surfaces, stainless steel fasteners, Trex seating and decking).

Careful planning allowed for a 3-month construction phase, from groundbreaking to consecration.  Like a barn the new Chapel is comfortable in its own skin, and engineered to weather well.

Beyond the weekly services, the new Chapel is large enough to create a place for everyone at camp and visiting groups to assemble, sing and perform.  All engineering and design services we donated.

Winner of AIACT “Most Peaceful Place” of the People’s Choice Award Program:

Winner of one of Faith & Form’s 2015 Awards in their “International Program for Religious Art & Architecture:


8 Comments leave one →
  1. Audrey Scanlan permalink
    June 28, 2012 1:34 pm

    This is a beautiful and creatively designed structure. Can the benches be moved to allow for variations in seating style (and, hence, some freedom and creativity in designing liturgy)?
    I’ve spent some time at that very spot and had me some nice swims off that dock. Gorgeous setting.

  2. Rick Nelson permalink
    June 28, 2012 1:39 pm

    Well done, sir…

  3. June 28, 2012 2:18 pm

    thanks – seating had to be fixed because of density HOWEVER there is almost 700 square feet of altar/deck and open space in front of the pew/bleechers for a lotta flexibility (seating on deck to central altar, etc…

    • Audrey Scanlan permalink
      June 28, 2012 3:11 pm

      nice. Plenty of room for a rave. (Christian style, of course.)

  4. June 28, 2012 3:18 pm

    despite my presence it seems to be getting raves

  5. July 22, 2014 5:51 pm

    Absolutely beautiful! I love how you referenced the original size, shape and spirit of the original structure!

  6. Nat Eddy permalink
    August 23, 2015 9:40 pm

    The pictures don’t do it justice. The chapel is much lighter and less squat than it appears in these photos. And pictures can’t communicate what it feels like inside — it’s roomy yet surprisingly intimate, and the acoustics are surprisingly good. Despite it’s size, sound reinforcement isn’t necessary, which adds to the feeling of intimacy.
    And there is something satisfyingly contextual in the lack of pretense that comes with bleacher seats and gravel floor — this is a camp chapel, not an architectural statement.
    Well done, Duo!


  1. Pro Bono and Architecture | Saved By Design

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