The Zorg Compas Chapel, Rotterdam

In February 2009, the new building was completed for the Delfshaven Nursing Home, located in a multicultural community in the city of Rotterdam.  The ground floor houses several facilities that are open not only to clients of the nursing home but also to visitors and neighborhood residents.  One of these facilities is a non-denominational chapel and meditative space designed by artist Ingeborg Meulendijks.

The Dutch Art and Public Space Foundation (SKOR) proposed Meulendijks be the designer for the project on the strength of her earlier work.

" The goal of this chapel project is to provide a visually subdued and serene space where everyone can feel at ease. The emphasis is on what makes people the same inside rather than on their religious differences.  Instead of using a myriad of different symbols connected with specific religions and cultures, I chose to employ universal symbols found in religious architecture. The ceiling and floor design is inspired by the saying, 'On earth as it is in heaven.'  This particular place in Delfshaven is a sacred place.  After all, residents can no longer travel elsewhere. They find themselves here, between heaven (ceiling) and earth (floor), standing, sitting in wheelchairs, or lying in hospital beds.  I replaced the standard ceiling with a wooden relief ceiling, so that the visitors in beds also have a nice view. In both the ceiling and floor, the circle was chosen as the primary motif, alluding to the dome, the mandala, celestial bodies, and the compass rose. Recessed light fixtures in the ceiling together form a constellation. The wooden floor is inlaid with a compass rose which indicates magnetic North and the position of Mecca. The latter, called 'qibla', lets Muslims know which direction they should face while praying. The liturgical center of the space is where the largest recess in the ceiling (heaven) is reflected by the compass rose in the floor (earth) "

Liturgical objects

The liturgical objects were designed as part of the total creative process and adhere to the same design principles as the rest of the chapel.  Austerity, the natural beauty of the materials used, and the internal structure are all visible in the objects.  The functions of the objects and their use in specific religious rituals were integrated into the design.  Due to their universal forms, most of the objects can be used in a variety of ceremonies by different religious groups.  The circle and dome motifs were chosen to represent the spirit, just as in the larger meditative space.  The design of the chapel is so reflected, in miniature, in the objects.  It is playing with scale.  As Blaise Pascal said, 'Do little things as if they were great...; do great things as if they were little.'

Many people were involved in the realization of this project.  Hand craftsmanship was employed wherever possible, to retain the subtle traces of the human touch.  Designer and silversmith Pascal de Caluwe was involved in the design and production of the liturgical objects, their cases, and the chapel's furniture.  He understands the art of combining traditional methods, personal know-how, and improvisation.  It is this intensive interplay of steering and letting go that has made the objects what they are.  A special thank you is extended to Sister Hiltruda Steemann SSpS, who with quiet dedication fashioned the white linen altar cloth at the Wahlwiller Cloister in the Netherlands.

Meditative space in Nursing Home Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Year of completion : 2009
Building Area: 60 sq mtr
Type : non-denominational chapel
Design Assignment : interior, furniture, liturgical objects

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