Narrative Thesis

The main driver behind my design has been thinking about the relationship between God, Nature, and Man as it relates to architecture. This site would be home to three Abrahamic religions and I have designed it to be flexible in its use and foster a sense of community between these three faiths.

People perceive God in architecture in many different ways, however, I think the use of scale, light, and personal reflection can bring a sense of spirituality to a space. Scenic views, water, and vegetation are used throughout the site to connect students with nature. The man made part of the site,the buildings and gathering spaces, I see as an important balance to the God and Nature aspects of this site.

Site Plan

There are two entrances along Poplar on either side of the Maverick Miller house. On the western side of the campus are the faith school offices, library, and auditorium. On the eastern side are the residences. The classrooms run along the center of campus and the Northernmost point is where the sacred space is.

Site Section

One of the biggest opportunities with this site is the chance to use the dramatic slope to the site’s advantage. This section shows how I have divided the campus into two zones. The upper campus is relatively flat and is where the residences, refectory, library, and offices are, and the lower campus is where the auditorium, sacred space, and classrooms are, which is shown in section here.

There are two ways to move between the upper and lower part of the campus. The first is a staircase next to the library and auditorium, and the second is a ramp and staircase located next to the sacred space.

CNC machined Matterhorn topography using Fusion 360 - Jonathan Malott

Drone’s Eye View

Here is a birds eye view of the site to help give the plan a little more context. The top of the screen is North, and you can see a little bit better how the campus is divided into an upper and lower section. I have oriented the buildings on the site to take advantage of the views to the north and to block as much of the less desirable view south to the back sides of two large apartment buildings that are just out of view in the bottom of the frame. Now I will take everyone on a tour of the site starting from Poplar street.

Street view from Poplar st.

The main approach to this site is Poplar street. Although it currently has a bit of a back-alley feeling, I wanted to pay special attention to this approach as it is how most people will first experience the site.

It was important that the historic Maverick miller house was not overshadowed by large buildings at the perimeter of the site, so I pushed the residences back off of the street and added a concrete wall to help draw attention towards the house, which is also where the main entrance is located.

Residences floor plan

The program calls for the site to have residences for clergy, teachers, and guests. I chose to have 6 two-bedroom units located in a single building on the more quiet side of the campus.

I used this configuration because I wanted to not take up too much of the site’s ground space, so going up two stories made a lot of sense. This also allows the top floors to have a spectacular view North, and the whole building helps obscure the backs of the apartment buildings on the other side of Poplar Street. I wanted to keep the “social” rooms of the house on the ground floor to foster a greater sense of community between the residences and encourage social gatherings. The residences are about 900 square feet each.

Main Campus Axis

The campus is oriented along a central axis that connects the eastern side of the campus where the entrance to the residences and sacred space are to the west side of campus, where we just were.

There is a narrow channel of water that runs the length of the axis, which, besides marking the main path, also acts as a light reflector that will bounce some sunlight onto the underside of the classroom’s roofs.  Since many religions have a strong association between light and God, I thought this would be a nice effect for those in the classrooms, however subtle it may be.

Main Entrance

The main entrance brings people right into the heart of the campus, just a few steps away from all of the buildings that students will regularly use. The refectory is located inside of the Maverick Miller house to the right and the faith school offices are in the building to the left.

Residences gathering space and pergola

Speaking of social gathering, there is a lovely space between the residences and the wall that runs along Poplar street where I placed this pergola. I think it would be a good space to have a barbecue with the residences and it acts as a backyard for them since it is away from where the students will be walking by. 

There is also a gate at the far side of this space which is a secondary entrance for residences who wish to enter from Poplar street.

Residences water collection

The main entrance to the residences is located at the far east side of the side, which is next to another gate that allows access to the campus from Shoal Cliff court. I also took the opportunity from the large flat roof of the residences to add rainwater collection, and the orientation of this roof makes it a good spot for a solar array

Residences alcove

In addition to the main path, which you can see in the background past the row of trees, there is another path closer to the residences, which are just out of frame to the right. I designed it this way to provide a little bit of a buffer between the living rooms and kitchens of the residences and the students walking outside. Plus, this is a nice place to put seating that lets students sit and read or study off of the main path.

Faith school offices floor plan

On the west side of the site next to the entrance are the faith school offices. Each of the three faith schools has a section of this building consisting of a reception room and two offices. There are also two conference rooms that are shared between the schools.

Maverick Miller House

At the center of the campus is the existing historic Maverick-Miller house, which I have decided to turn into the refectory and restrooms.I have added on a steel pergola to create a place for people to gather outside of the building.

Lower terrace

Now let’s move to the lower terrace, where the rest of the school’s program is.  This is the main path that connects the sacred space in the distance to the classrooms and auditorium. It marks the northern edge of the campus and I envisioned letting the natural underbrush of the forest grow up to the side of the path, blurring the line between where nature ends and the campus begins.


I am particularly happy with my solution for the four classroom spaces. I wanted the classes to be highly visible and allow for flexibility in teaching and learning styles. I want a Christian student attending a class on theodicy or apologetics to be able to look to his or her right or left and see their fellow Muslim or Jewish colleagues in a class as well. The classrooms have operable walls and shaded terraces between them, which means that the classrooms can be used in many different configurations

This is an example of two classrooms opened up to create a space for smaller events or mixers or fundraising events. I can also see chairs being set up between classrooms to create a double-sized classroom for larger events, or maybe having all of the classrooms open up for an open-house day or during days with nice weather.

Auditorium and Library

This is the auditorium and library building. The library is accessed from the upper level and the auditorium from the lower. I put both of these functions in the same building for a similar reason as to why I made the residences two-story, which is to minimize the amount of walkable space they take up and to maximize the views of each of them.

Auditorium Interior

The auditorium seats face away from the windows at the front to prevent people from being distracted by the wonderful view of the forest and to allow the soft northern exposure to help light the room. This space would be where larger lectures and classes could take place

Sacred Space

This is the sacred space, which I consider the jewel of the site. I wanted the space to be architecturally distinct from any other building on site, as well as not honoring any faith’s traditions of what a sacred space should look like above another. Because of this, I decided to go with a reinforced concrete shell raised up on four steel columns to form a pavilion. For the same reason I decided to make the space circular in plan, since direction is an important part of all three religions, but Islam especially. I didn’t want to make a building that prefers to be used in any one way. It also has this lovely little stained glass oculus that lets light into the space.

Stair Ramp

Finally, there is what I am calling the camp stair. I designed this space to serve two functions. First, it acts as both a ramp and staircase to connect the upper and lower campuses. Since the sacred space is behind us, it would likely be the main way people took to get there for services.  Second, this space would be a great place for gatherings, since there is space at the bottom for a speaker or musician and plenty of seating on the stairs. I think of it as an extension of the sacred space.