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Chapel of St. Joseph

The project entails the conversion of a 1937 gymnasium into the new pilgrimage Chapel of St. Joseph at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe (SOLG) in Des Plaines, IL. The site is located on the approximately 122-acre shared campus of Maryville Academy and the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, owned by the Archdiocese of Chicago.

In Hispanic Catholic culture there is a practice in which a person prays or asks for something from Our Lady of Guadalupe. If that prayer is fulfilled, you’re obligated to fulfill a “manda”— a pilgrimage to the Basilica of the Virgin Mary in Mexico City. This tradition has carried over to the US, however, for those who cannot make the long trip, or are undocumented immigrants, an official sister site was informally established in the late 80’s, and decreed a Shrine by Archbishop of Mexico City in 2013. Since then the congregation has grown immensely, averaging 6,000 visitors on warm weather weekends, and over 400,000 worshipers on the eve and feast day celebration on December 12th.

In response to the ever-growing number of visitors each year, and recognizing that the Shrine did not have an enclosed worship space or chapel for nearly 6,000 worshipers who attend services each weekend, the team began plans to repurpose the north gym and convert it to a chapel—a first step towards the development of, one day, building a new Basilica.

The project aims to keep the exterior congruous with the design aesthetic of the existing campus while borrowing design elements from traditional church plan and section design for the interior. All the chapel renovations are focused on creating a sequence of concentric thresholds of increasing sacred space. With its new metal and glass additions, light from the interior, as well as exterior lit banners, invite visitors towards the new chapel, into the vestibule and nave, ultimately arriving at the sanctuary, the focus of the celebration.

Renovations to the existing gym include a new north entry addition, oriented toward the Shrine for processions and visitors. Upon entering one is greeted by a sky light above leading into the vestibule with an adjacent four confessional booths available to penitents with two stalls for priests. The priest’s sacristy beyond the confessionals will allow him to prepare before mass and walk right into the vestibule to the head of the procession before each service.

The nave is organized like a classic pilgrimage church with twelve miniature side chapels, replacing glass block gym windows, that will appeal to the wide range of visitors coming to the site. Each devotional will include a representation of a holy figure along with kneelers within the devotional to allow one to pray without affecting the circulation of the rest of the nave. A vertical and horizontal cross laminate timber panel serve as the wall and roof structure as well as the finish surface for these new additions. The horizontal panel extends into the aisles and from it hang coiled drapery that will, with the aid of linear lighting and change in ceiling height, create a symmetrical ethereal rhythm with a clear focus on the sanctuary beyond.

The sanctuary is on center with the main entrance and is divided into two levels. The two platforms are completely accessible via a switchback ramp tucked behind the sanctuary wall. The lower platform includes the ambo, raised pulpit, and baptismal font. The upper platform is focused around the altar with the tabernacle directly behind with a shimmering mosaic serving as a backdrop for the choir. The variation and reflectivity of the surface draws one’s eye towards the front particularly as you first walk into the space.