The defining essence of the Chigasaki-Zion Church comes from a desire to blur the traditional distinction between a church and its community.
In its unaffected yet profound shape and its attention to phenomenological detail the church is an architectural device that allows its parishioners to seamlessly cross between the profane and the transcendent.
On approaching the Chigasaki-Zion Church one must first confront its clear, elliptical form, with a stark absence of angles and an enveloping presence. Though the form may, at first, seem to be an odd choice for a church, the simple, geometric parti is intended to create a deep connection with the sacred. Unlike the unilateral and hierarchical arrangement inherent to the Catholic basilica type, the communal, atmosphere of the Chigasaki-Zion Church is a space where hierarchies of power between God, the pastor, and the congregation begin to dissolve. This, of course, is part and parcel with the core values of protestantism; the ellipse is a shape that lends itself toward a more democratic spatial orientation, closing the gap between the pastor and the congregation and ensuring that no one parishioner is more important than the next.
However, one cannot even enter the chapel without first passing through the kindergarten which surrounds it. Having grown concurrently with the Chigasaki-Zion Church, the Mihato kindergarten is as essential in defining the broader parish as the church itself, an elliptical ring that pushes the boundaries of the church outward toward the community. However, unlike the church, which is defined by a reverent verticality, the low ceilings of the kindergarten are intimate and reassuring. Furthermore, the elliptical form of the building ensures that each room in the kindergarten is subtlety different, and the open floor plan encourages an ethos of exploration, a sentiment that even extends to the roof of the building. This detail, the roof as a space of play, is a motif often found in the work of the Tezukas, an architectural adaptation that subverts the typical understanding of what defines the limits of a buildings habitation. The kindergarten is, therefore, an entirely permeable structure; rather than binding or imprisoning the church, the Mihato kindergarten is a catalyst for the church’s broader mission, and it is, in fact, this unique combination of programs that gives the Chigasaki-Zion Church its profound power. The kindergarten acts as the go-between for the church and the town, a liminal halo where the purity of childhood innocence and the echo of children’s voices engenders an atmosphere of the transcendent, a fluid space where church, school, and town all freely intermingle.
All of this, the sense that a church need not stand proudly above its parish, is enhanced by the close attention to architectural atmospheric detail. In its materiality the church benefits from the natural beauty, economy, and availability of Japanese cedar, or sugi. In the interior of the church, the wood is cut into long, thin strips, creating a haptic patterning with a number of inherent advantages. First, the strips provide an aesthetic accent reinforcing the verticality of the inner church. Second, any imperfections that might be more difficult to disguise in a larger piece of the wood can be more easily hidden in the field of smaller strips. Finally, by spacing the strips a few millimeters apart and by placing them at varying distances from the wall, the architects have been able to create the ideal acoustic conditions for the church. Furthermore, to bolster these atmospheric conditions the textured cedar strips were coupled with dampening devices placed along the lowermost 1.2 meters of the interior of the church, ensuring that any sustain or reverb comes from a more ethereal, heavenly direction. This attention to the quality of sound was incredibly important for both the architect and the client; from the preaching of sermons, to the singing of hymns, to the laughter of children that filters into the interior of the church, the acoustical ambience of the building reinforces the sense of crossing over to the transcendent.
Lighting also plays an important part in blurring this atmospheric duality between the sacred and the profane. During the day natural light streams in from an acute arc located above the altar, highlighting the church’s innermost point and creating sublime backlighting for the pastor during sermons. In the evening point lights are suspended from the ceiling, providing direct, intimate illumination for the congregation, while leaving the ceiling obscured in a mysterious, sacred darkness. Here, once again, we are brought back to the ever blurring line between the earthly and the transcendent.
This inseparable duality is, in the end, the most pure distillation of the Chigasaki-Zion Church’s essence. From its simple to geometry to its deep atmospheric qualities, the church is a tranquil space of prayer where the overflowing vitality of children’s voices echo and where the profane can truly meet the sacred.
Client / Developer
Religious corporation Zion Christ Church
Mr Masahide Kakudate
Masahide Kakudate Lighting Architect & Associates,Inc.
Ms Kodue Hibino
Mr hiroshi ohno