Little Chapel On The Prairie

Congratulations to A+R Venice local John Umbanhowar, his firm partner Scott Hughes and their team at Hughesumbanhowar Architects for a recent triple threat of awards for the reimagined Prairie Chapel in Dennison, MN, the completed this autumn.

From the prestigious American Institute of Architects, there was a Design Honor Award from the Florida chapter (where Scott is based) and a NEXTLA Design Merit from L.A.’s chapter Award. The Prairie Chapel was also feted with a Progressive/Architecture Award by Architect Magazine.

We only wish there was such a sublime sanctuary on picturesque land close to home.

The property owners are restoring 40 acres of former grazing land into a lush native prairie. On it, they wanted an intimate, non-denominational chapel open not only to their family but to public visitors to use for private contemplation or community gatherings such as memorials, ceremonies and celebrations.

In the spirit of reuse and heritage, John and Scott used the corrugated metal panels and wood structural elements from a quonset that stood on the farm for six decades. The 580-square-foot chapel comprises of one building is inside another, enabling visitors to take a journey inside. The quonset’s basic arched form served as the template for the chapel, with the original arched trusses recut and assembled into new curved frames. A continuous, two-foot-wide gap splits the ceiling, exposing the interior partially to the elements, come blue sky or white snow.

Benches provide a front row to watch the sky above or the prairies outside the steel-framed window. A solar panel near the chapel provides enough power for LED strips lining the base of the walls, producing a glow after dusk.

Bravo John and Co.!

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Rose Apodaca