The St. Katharine Drexel Chapel at Xavier University—named after the school’s founder—breaks away from traditional churches both in style and in lighting approach. The ramped entrance to the Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects–designed building has a narrow skylight that introduces daylight into the interior, and natural light is prevalent in the octagonal sanctuary.

In the main gathering and worship space, Cline Bettridge Bernstein Lighting Design (CBBLD) focused on creating an environment that would shift subtly from daylighting to electric lighting in the early evening hours. The chapel’s double wall (solid on the exterior and punched with a repeating pattern of holes on the interior) is capped with a halo-shaped skylight between the two surfaces, which provides general, filtered illumination through the scrimlike perforated metal screens during the day. CBBLD’s extensive daylight modeling influenced the size and placement of the panel perforations as well as the angle of the screens. At night, 3000K ceramic metal halide PAR30 wallwashers, mounted in the void of the double wall, and recessed CFL fixtures affixed to the skylight replicate the feel of daylighting by backlighting the screens. For a more intimate mood, the wallwashers can be turned off in favor of a ring of T6 accent lights in the ceiling that reflect off the interior surfaces of the screens.

A side chapel for meditation has a skylight, and recessed fixtures re-create this lighting at night. Stained-glass window niches provide additional perimeter lighting in this and the main sanctuary, and triple-headed LED fixtures light these small cutouts at night. In addition to the aesthetic value of having minimal visible luminaires, the chapel benefits from high energy savings and low maintenance needs, making the chapel’s lighting practical and reverential.

Project: St. Katharine Drexel Chapel, Xavier University of Louisiana, New Orleans •  Entrant: Cline Bettridge Bernstein Lighting Design, New York •  Owner/Clients: Xavier University of Louisiana, New Orleans •  Architect: Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, New Haven, Conn. •  Lighting Designer: Cline Bettridge Bernstein Lighting Design, New York  Team Members: Francesca Bettridge, Michael Hennes, Sang Lee, Nehal Youssef, and Jeff Hoenig •  M / E / P Engineer: Altieri Sebor Wieber, Norwalk, Conn. •  Photographer: Jeff Goldberg/Esto •  Project Size: 12,000 square feet •  Project Cost: $10 million •  Lighting Cost: Not provided •  Watts per Square Foot: Complies with ASHRAE 90.1 •  Code Compliance: Complies with local code •  Manufacturers: Acuity Brands Lighting/Mark Lighting; Amerlux; Bega Lighting; Cooper Lighting, Lumiere; Edison Price Lighting; MP Lighting; Philips Color Kinetics Jury Comments: A compelling and sophisticated use of a daylighting strategy to control glare. • A sensitive use of materials, particularly the scrimlike metal screens, to transform the atmosphere within the space from day to night.