1916 Centenary and Cemetery Multi-denominational Chapel Competition, Dublin, Ireland, 2013
in collaboration with ANIMA
Janus, the mythical Roman god of beginnings and transitions, of journeys, endings and time, is depicted as having two faces, to the future and to the past. The brief has two aims: to provide a space for the contemplation of the transition from life to death, and to acknowledge the memorial of the 1916 Easter Rising. Janus Chapel satisfies this double brief by its double orientation, one face to the memorial, and another towards the midday sun.
In order for the monument to remain center-stage, a horse-shoe shaped piazza is created around its axis. Two water-lined piazzas step up on either side to form a continuous bench along the periphery. The church volume is then both an object in itself and an edge which reinforces one corner of this horse-shoe, as the small side-chapel protrudes and opens up to the monument. Having framed the space, the chapel deals with its second task: to represent the death and afterlife to those attending service. The church bends at once southwards and upwards towards the midday sun, which will glow with light, and, during April 22-26th, the period of the Rising, will directly fill the oculus.
The non-linearity of the church is unusual but serves the function of contemplation of the nonlinearity of life, and the uplifting of the spirit during the ceremony of the funeral rite. In addition it marks the special significance of the annual period of the Rising.
While elements of the design recall familiar church references: the oculus or dome rising above the altar, representing heavens, and the side chapel for example, these motifs have been transformed and abstracted to allow this space to be truly multidenominational, using light and materials in place of specific icons or graphics. In this way, the visitor is aware of the chapel in this particular place, in its encounter with death, and the event memorialized by the adjacent monument. For example, the continuity of the floor with the oculus and the bend of the plan, which stretches both towards the light and towards the gravity of the monument, represents life’s inevitable transition into another (spirit) state.