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Inter-American University Chapel

Courtesy of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners
Courtesy of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners

This unexecuted chapel for the Inter-American University in San Germán, Puerto Rico was designed to take full advantage of its hilltop site. More of a pleated hood than a sealed enclosure, the scheme is open on all sides for natural ventilation and framed views of the Caribbean Sea while yet offering protection against strong tropical sun and rain. A narrow light slot above admits a slice of sky and filtered daylight.

Unlike most of Pei’s architectural concrete buildings, this scheme recalls the more sculptural expression of Luce Chapel. But instead of that building’s warped concrete shells, the structure here consists of folded planes, like origami, to provide maximum strength with minimal materials. Pei’s office briefly experimented with muscular concrete in the early 1960s but did not realize any of the schemes.

The sculptural carillon anticipates the freestanding and greatly simplified Joy of Angels Bell Tower that Pei would design 25 years later for Shinji Shumeikai in Japan.

I.M. Pei, Design Partner
I. M. Pei & Associates