Chapel in the Pines: The story behind the church’s growth (and an opportunity for contractors)

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chapel in the pines

Chapel Hill-based architectural firm Shaw Design Associates is now preparing schematics for Phase Two of the building project at Chapel in the Pines Presbyterian Church, which will add a new 3191-sq. ft. Fellowship Hall and set the stage for a new entry courtyard to the church campus on Great Ridge Pkwy. just south of Chapel Hill.

“I’m very pleased that the building committee is proceeding with Phase Two so the initial design concept can be fulfilled,” said architect Keith Shaw “It has always been the intention for the buildings on this campus to be a sermon on their own by providing an inviting, embracing, and reverent place to worship and fellowship,” he said in a news release.

Keith Shaw
Keith Shaw

No one has been selected for the project,” Shaw said.  “We were only hired to do some schematics for fundraising purposes.” However, a spokesperson for Shaw added: “But Phase One went through with no hitch and we’re certain this phase will, too. Contractors, etc, would be smart to get on Keith and co.’s radar now — don’t you think?”

When Shaw began working with the building committee in 2010, the group established a philosophical statement that provided the framework for his design decisions: “Chapel in the Pines reflects God’s majesty by being in harmony with its surroundings, welcoming to its community, and aesthetically original.”

To incorporate that statement into the architecture for the 5201 sq. ft.  sanctuary and 3191-sq. ft. Education Wing to its right that he completed in 2011, Shaw specified pine timber framing — cut from trees that are grown in managed timber land in North Carolina and prepared in Virginia – in deference to the pine forest surrounding the chapel. He also plans to use pine timber for the Fellowship Hall.

“The simple forms and textures of the pine timbers reflect the natural surroundings and create a warm and inviting place to worship,” he said.

As with the first two structures, views to the forest are a key element of the design. Tall windows will allow natural light to fill the interior, reducing the use of electric light. As it is in the sanctuary, indirect lighting will be used to reduce glare and illuminate natural timber beams above.

To make the church as welcoming to its community as the committee’s statement suggests, Shaw designed each structure to human scale, rather than the grand, formal scale of many liturgical structures. However, the open timber roof construction accentuates the vertical lines characteristic of houses of worship, helping to lead the eye and spirit upward. The wood trusses, along with window detailing, recall the outstretched tree branches of the surrounding forest. The tall pine posts and beams supporting the gabled roof at the entrance portico suggest tree limbs reaching towards the sky.

When the courtyard is completed, its low stonewall will “reach out and embrace visitors and symbolize both the affection and protection awaiting them inside the Chapel in the Pines.” Shaw said. “It will also provide an exterior ‘room’ to prepare for worship.”

Shaw expects Phase Two to begin construction in the summer of 2016.

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