Chapel of Light/ Vanderbijpark




Project Description

The brief called for the design of a limited budget, multi-denominational chapel, to accommodate one hundred people. In addition, a historically disadvantaged contractor had to be appointed to complete the building’s construction.  The focus of the design was to allow the building create its own context, by defining external spaces by means of freestanding walls.

Universal physical qualities in religious buildings around the world were sought and were applied architecturally in order to express religious qualities such as spirituality, eternity and serenity.

The tower pulls visitors to the entrance, while the curved wall of the ablution block, which is deliberately treated with a different material, acts as a guide into the building. The transition from public space to a more private interior space is emphasized by the dramatic change in the colour palette: from the redbrick on the outer walls to a bright, illuminated white on the inside. The white celebrates the sacred interior of the chapel.

Natural light washes into the building through narrow openings in the ceiling and walls as well as through a clerestory window between the roof planes. The combination of the architectural elements employed, proclaims in most modest terms, the excitement of discovery and the solace of worship.

This building was a collaboration between Chris Wilkinson, in his capacity as director of Comrie + Wilkinson Architects and Urban Designers, in association with Morne Pienaar.

Project details

Date of completion: 2003


National South African Institute of Architects Award of Merit for the chapel of light, Vaal University of Technology (with Morne Pienaar).


Gauteng Institute for Architecture Award of Merit for the chapel of light, Vaal University of Technology (with Morne Pienaar).

2009 – Mail & Guardian, 23 dec, in an article by Hugh Fraser on South African architectural expression.

2002 – World Architecture 176 , UME19 & Contemporary Architecture in a Landscape of Transition.