Saint Bartholomew’s Chapel by Kevin deFreitas Architects

July 3, 2010

Kevin deFreitas Architects have completed a new chapel, built on the Rincon Indian reservation in San Diego County in California.


Saint Bartholomew’s Chapel by Kevin deFreitas Architects

Context + History:
Located in the picturesque back country of San Diego Co. the very small historic St. Bartholomew’s Chapel was destroyed by a wildfire that ravaged the Rincon Indian reservation in late 2007.  Only the original adobe bell tower and original Mission bell survived, which would become the anchor element in the redesign planning. The needs of the current community changed significantly over the past 100 years.  The fire presented a “blank slate” opportunity to expand and update the facility primarily by doubling the seating capacity and adding a standalone multipurpose social hall which created and framed a third space; an outdoor prayer garden. While respecting traditional customs, emulating or recreating the past literally was not a project goal.   Design elements in plan, section, and elevation were conceived to reference and infuse meaning into the chapel.  Rammed earth walls, radial plan elements, butterfly roof, and extensive use of locally sourced materials all draw from a limitless well of Native American and Catholic symbols and metaphors.  A thin film Solar PV system, high thermal mass construction, thoughtfully placed glazing, deep overhangs and ultra low water consuming plant palette all acknowledge the Native way of living lighter on the land.

Design Objectives:
The new design was conceived to reverently knit together “past” and comfortable traditions, while acknowledging and offering something relevant to current and future generations. Thus, emulating or recreating the past literally was not a project goal.  Native American as well as Catholic/Christian symbols and metaphors were referenced in every design element; plan, section, and elevation as a way to infuse meaning into the chapel on several layers.

Sustainability + LEED:
In an effort to reconnect with traditional Indian culture of living “lighter” on the land, the client specifically requested that the project thoughtfully incorporate a full complement of green materials, efficient technologies, and sustainable strategies into the redesign.  The building consumes approximately 26% less power, and 35% less water than comparable structure.  This was achieved using a combination of low and high tech solutions.  Low tech passive features employed include; oversized roof overhangs, protected glazing, few west facing openings, clerestory windows and skylights for natural daylighting, and strategically placed operable windows to encourage cross ventilation.  Some of the high tech products include; a flush mounted thin film PV systems invisibly incorporated into the metal standing seam roof, high efficiency mechanical units, a computerized lighting control panel, high performance solar E glazing, and Icynene self expanding foam insulation dramatically improved the thermal comfort and energy efficiency of the project. The entire landscape incorporates highly drought tolerant species that complement the overall building theme.  The chapel is currently pursuing LEED certification at the Gold level.

Natural Materials:
The Chapel utilizes a significant amount of site harvested building materials; the signature element being the massive rammed earth walls that flank the sanctuary, each nearly 60 feet long, 18 feet tall, and 2 feet thick.  Symbolically important, these beautifully textured and organic walls are literally molded from 120 tons of sacred reservation soil. Other earthy materials such as the 3 ton boulder that was crafted into the baptismal font and the 5” thick slabs of wood hewn from a Coastal Live Oak physically connect this congregation to the beauty of their natural surroundings, the significance of their ancestral home, and most importantly to the Spirit of their God in a very tangible and palpable way.

Project Data:
Owner: Rincon Band of Luiseno Mission Indians
Address: 2 Mazzetti Lane, Valley Center, California

Chapel: 3,560 square feet
Social Hall: 2,385 square feet
Courtyard: 1,820 square feet

Design Team:
Church Committee: George Arviso, Juan Reed, Patty Duro, Rose Duro, Georgiana Viveros
Architect: Kevin deFreitas Architects, AIA
Project Team: Kevin deFreitas & Manish Desai
Structural Engineer: Envision Engineering
Landscape Architect: LandLAB Inc.
Mechanical Engineer: Stueven Engineering
Plumbing & Electrical Engineer: BTA Engineers

Contractor: Lusardi Construction Company

Photography: Harrison Photographic