Hidden away in the lower level of the newest building on Biola’s campus, Talbot East, is a room you have to know you are looking for.
But once you find the somewhat hidden door off the Haqq Plaza and find your way into the Fred and Ruth Waugh Prayer Chapel, you’re transported to a beautiful, quiet space that feels far removed from the world outside.
The chapel has quickly become the epitome of “sacred space” on campus and has also received widespread praise in the worlds of architecture and interior design.
In December 2012, the chapel was honored by Interior Design magazine in its “best of the year” issue, which honored architects and designers in 45 project categories and 52 product categories. The chapel was one of four spaces honored in the “Institutional: Religious” category.
In May 2013, the chapel also won a Calibre Award in the “Public Facilities & Education” category from the Southern California chapter of the International Interior Design Association (IIDA). Biola’s chapel beat out other impressive nominees in its category, including John Wayne Airport, the Saddleback College Library and the student recreation center at California State University, Northridge.
Featuring a wavy ceiling made of reclaimed cedar and olive wood (from Biola’s own olive trees), unique carpeting reminiscent of a Bedouin tent and colored art “stained glass” squares, the chapel evokes the context of ancient Israel and carries the motif of prayers spoken from the depths, such as those of Jonah inside the belly of a great fish. Psalm 130:1 (“Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord”) is painted on the wall in Hebrew and English at the entrance alcove to the chapel.
In addition to its awards, the chapel was also recently featured on Dezeen magazine’s website and on Behance, a popular design website that offered this description: “A sole source of light from above splits an undulated wood ceiling illuminating the windowless space. Cornerless, tooled walls complete a sense of cloistered focus. Every surface, floor, wall and ceiling is composed of natural materials, worked by hand, emphasizing craft, setting apart the space from the prefabricated assemblies of the host classroom building. The result is a remarkable example of craftsmanship and collaboration between artisan and architect.”
Designed by architectural firm Gensler, the chapel was a passion project for the late Ken Bascom, Biola’s former senior director of facilities planning and construction, who hoped it would be “a set-apart space that would feel very removed from the modern world, and very timeless in its themes and materials.” Bascom, who died less than nine months after the chapel’s October 2011 dedication, handpicked the three Bible verses that adorn the entrance alcove: (the aforementioned) Psalm 130:1, Psalm 100:4–6 (“Enter his gates with thanksgiving …”) and over the door of the exit, Jude 1:24–25 (“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling …”).
The chapel is open 24 hours a day to the Biola community.