The Chapel of St. Basil

The Chapel of St. Basil is a chapel on the campus of the University of St. Thomas in Houston, TX, designed by Philip Johnson in 1997. The structure of the Chapel is composed of three basic geometric forms: the cube, the sphere, and the plane. The cube comprise
 the majority of the building, including the main seating area, while the dome (a semi-sphere) rises high above the cube. The granite plane bisects the cube and opens up the chapel to light. The cube and plane interplay with the dome, creating a sense of the dome not being a closing vault on top of the Chapel, but rather an opening to the heavens.

The Chapel itself contrasts with all of the other buildings on campus, as it is composed of white stucco and black granite as opposed to the rose-colored brick that comprises the exterior of the other campus buildings. Through its height, the Chapel dominates the whole campus. The gold dome at the top of the structure proclaims the university’s Christian character, and can be seen from miles away from large buildings throughout downtown, uptown, and the medical center.

A setup of the architecture also shifts the focus of the building. The entry to the outdoor narthex of the Chapel is created with a tent-like flap extending over the entry, creating an enclosed space that is still outdoors. The entrances to the Chapel are faced away from the center of the building and towards the tabernacle as a reminder to all who enter that the central point of the Chapel is not the altar or the crucifix, but rather the location of the Eucharist.


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