As construction work went underway on New York City’s most famous new public open space – the elevated High Line conversion on Manhattan’s West Side – something a bit more exclusive was going up at the same time, quite literally straddling the new park.

Trinity School Johnson Chapel- New York, N.Y.

Following its renovation, the Johnson Chapel has become the spiritual heart of New York City’s Trinity School, providing a space for meditation, reflection and worship for all students and faculty.

Architects Butler Rogers Baskett studied various elements in the space and explored ways to synthesize building systems such that design elements could serve multiple uses.

“One of the biggest challenges was to create a space that was very different from the rest of the school,” said Project Designer Mark Maljanian. “We wanted students to walk in and say, ‘this isn’t just another part of my day.’”

In addition to plaster and maple, the spare material palette includes a walnut plank floor, white river rock and several blackened steel elements created by local artisan, Kristina Kozak, who was brought onto the project after the school’s chaplain asked if there was a way to include the community. She collaborated with BRB to create five hand-worked candelabras, a custom door pull, and a hand-hammered crucifix that is easily removable.

To keep the chapel’s HVAC system as quiet as possible, air is introduced into the space at very low velocity through a bed of river rock along the north edge. A stone water feature also serves to further deaden the sound. Skylights located against the rear of the chapel and directly over the altar table, give the visual connection to ever changing outdoor environment, while at the same time eliminating the need for artificial light during the day.

Construction on the 1,000-sq-ft chapel took place during an aggressive three month summer schedule in which the design and construction team had to work closely to anticipate field conditions and issues, pre-order materials and begin any work that would not impact the busy end of year school activities in May and June. Advanced planning and extra attention was also required to ensure that the school’s K-12 students and faculty were never in harm’s way during construction.

Construction on this $890,000 project began in June 2008 and was completed in December 2008.

“The project was particularly rewarding because our client was so clear in their articulation of their goals, and was immensely supportive of our design efforts toward realizing them,” added Maljanian. “A great deal of effort was expended by the client, the design team, and the contractor to get every detail right, yet our collaboration was so effective and enjoyable, that the extra dedication never seemed burdensome.”

Key Players

Architect: Butlers Rogers Baskett, New York, NY
MEP Consultant: Werner Tietjen, P.E., Rye, NY
Structural Consultant: Hage Engineering, New York, NY
Contractor: Alexander Wolf & Son, New York, NY
Lighting Designer: HDLC Lighting, New York, NY
Metalwork: MINE Metal/Art, Brooklyn, NY