Arlington Architecture Firm Receives Two Awards

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O’Brien & Keane Architecture, based in Arlington, Virginia, has received two design awards for one of its key projects, Mary’s Chapel. The 2017 Palladio Award (Traditional Building Magazine, New Design and Construction, Less than 30,000 Square Feet) and the 2017 John Russell Pope Award (Institute of Classical Architecture, Ecclesiastical Design category) were bestowed on the firm, and the project was also featured as the cover story of the Fall 2017 edition of "Building Stone Magazine."

Mary’s Chapel, a small family chapel in a private location on a rural site in the mid-Atlantic region, was inspired by the Porziuncola of St. Francis near Assisi, Italy, whose volume and proportions served as a point of departure for this project. Further refinements, rooted in classical architecture and traditional design expression, serve to convey the dignity and sanctity envisioned by the clients.

The floor plan is arranged in a traditional basilica layout, marked by a narrow nave with a raised sanctuary at the apsidal end. The net area of the chapel is only 702 square feet, with a seating capacity of about fifteen.

The clients value the virtues of endurance, durability and authenticity, and the architect responded accordingly. “A church should convey a sense of permanence. The ‘forever’ of our faith, our spirit, and our Creator should be reflected in the building. So we turn to Creation itself to find the best means of expression,” said James Henry O’Brien, firm principal.

The walls are faced on the exterior with fieldstone native to the region, resting on a base of honed green Vermont granite, and the windows, door, and eaves are trimmed with Indiana Limestone. The coarse texture of the fieldstone is intended to relate to the rustic surroundings and the regional building language. The roof is composed of red clay tiles and standing seam lead-coated copper roofing. The custom bell, window frames and entrance door are fabricated in bronze. The interior wall surfaces are traditional plaster, left unpainted, while limestone was chosen for the interior pilasters, bases, and matching entablature in order to create one unified architectural expression between interior and exterior.

The interior flooring throughout is two-centimeter thick marble, set on a deep mortar bed and polished in place. Colorful marble was chosen as a counterpoint to the neutral tones of the limestone and plaster. In the nave, four large slabs of Azul Macauba are arranged in a diamond book match pattern. Marble liturgical furnishings, central to the Roman Catholic religious rites, were also designed by the architect.

The General Contractor for the project was Winchester Construction (Millersville, MD); the structural engineer was Meyer Consulting Engineers (Rockville, MD); Marble flooring and furnishings were fabricated by Roberto Pagliari SC, SAS (Sarzana, Italy) and installed by Booms Stone Company (Redford, MI); Custom lighting fixtures, sculptures and mosaics fabricated by the Rambusch Decorating Company (Hoboken, NJ).

About O’Brien & Keane Architecture
O’Brien & Keane is a full-service architecture firm located Arlington, Virginia, offering more than 20 years of experience in building design, interior design, and land planning services to a broad spectrum of clients. The firm specializes in school and traditional Catholic church architecture, and provides full architectural and engineering services for major new facilities as well as renovations, building additions, and adaptive reuse projects. The firm also offers specialty design services, including the design and procurement of custom marble liturgical furnishings.

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James O'Brien
O'Brien & Keane
+1 (703) 522-8803
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