Stanislas Chaillou (MArch ’19) receives two honors from Architecture MasterPrize for “Our Lady of the Fields”

Project image from Stanislas Chaillou's

Harvard Graduate School of Design student Stanislas Chaillou (MArch ’19) has been recognized with two honors in the 2017 Architecture MasterPrize awards, formerly the American Architecture Prizes. Chaillou’s winning project, “Our Lady of the Fields,” was honored in two categories within the Architecture MasterPrize Student Winners field: as one of three honorees in the Green Architecture category, and the winner in the Institutional Architecture category. Chaillou developed the project for the Spring 2017 GSD seminar “Making Sacred Space,” led by Christine Smith, the GSD’s Robert C. and Marian K. Weinberg Professor of Architectural History.

According to the Architecture MasterPrize, the organization’s mission is to advance the appreciation of quality architectural design worldwide. The prize is open to submissions on a global level, accepting entries from architects all around the world. The Architecture MasterPrize was assembled by the Farmani Group as the sister initiative of the International Design Awards, established in 2007. The Farmani Group, established in 1985, is also the organizer of the International Photography Awards, Prix de la Photographie in Paris, London International Creative Competition, and the Annual Lucie Awards for Photography, which has emerged as one of the world’s most prestigious photography awards.

Chaillou’s “Our Lady of the Fields” takes a park in Boston’s Dorchester Heights neighborhood as its site, aiming to revitalize the space while “offering a strong center for the Catholic communal life,” writes Chaillou, with three main objectives: to “bring the believers’ community in close proximity with the Nature, by inviting the garden into the church”; to “call the community of believers to a journey by using natural elements as symbols of the Christ’s Passion”; and to “welcome the Other, beyond the community of believers, by using a roof garden.” As Chaillou notes, the project takes inspiration from Pope Francis’s May 2015 publication of the Encyclical entitled “On Care for Our Common Home,” which Chaillou finds to offer a new vision of ecology. “We believe it may be the opportunity to find a new impulse in church design,” he adds.

“Our Lady of the Fields” faces the south, with entrance stair at the north. On the west side, two stairs bring visitors from the street up to the park on the roof, at ground level. This canopy is landscaped with trees and bushes simulating a dense nature and offering the visitors an Eden Garden-like experience. The building, sunk in the ground, is surrounded by a landscaped slope. Taking the entrance stairs, the visitor enters the church and discovers the central perspective of the main altar, framed by 20 concrete piers. The light enters through the spaces left between the concrete piers, offering 16 curated views towards the outside. Each view uses both the landscape in the background and a strong iconography to evoke the Passion of Christ.

The preciosity of the 14 Stations of the Cross, painted by Veronique Charpy, contrasts with the rough minerality of the church, Chaillou states. “Beyond the aesthetic intent, a deeper theological meaning prevails: the presence of the divine (gold) in the mundane (concrete), or the extraordinary present in the ordinary,” he writes. “Throughout the day, the light moves from east to west, successively enlightening the stations of the Passion of Christ. The landscape in the background also adapts accordingly: mineral paving for the first stations, vivid and green nature for last ones. The daily cycle of the sun magnified by the ‘mineral to vegetal’ gradation of the landscape acts as a discreet allegory to the Passion cycle. Overall, our intent through this project is to contribute to the creative momentum for a new Christian building design, that Pope Francis has triggered, away from post-modernist architecture.”

Chaillou designed “Our Lady of the Fields” for Christine Smith’s Spring 2017 seminar “Making Sacred Space.” The seminar approached church design through an in-depth consideration of the ideas, images, concepts, and legislation that inform the creation of sacred space. The ultimate aim of the course was to enable designers to become leaders in the controversy, to propose new solutions, and build better religious buildings.

In addition to his Architecture MasterPrize awards, Chaillou was recently honored with a scholarship from ZGF Architects, which each year awards “one outstanding student beginning their final year in an accredited program” with a $10,000 scholarship. Read ZGF’s interview with Chaillou on the ZGF website.

A Paris native, Stanislas entered the GSD after receiving his graduate degree at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology of Lausanne, after which he was hired as an intern at internationally renowned firms including Gigon Guyer Architekten in Zurich and Shigeru Ban Architects in Tokyo. In addition to his GSD studies, Stanislas serves as an Executive Director of the CitiX Initiative, a non-profit think tank exploring the potential of the urban realm of the future at The Future Society. He is also a Fulbright scholar, an Arthur Sachs Fellow, and a Jean Gaillard Fellow at Harvard University.