We spend most of our lives in buildings, going through the day in various spaces from our homes to offices, and yet how often do we go to a building, to simply just sit there. A place that is open all hours of the day and night to reflect, pray, and just be present.
The Prayer Chapel of Light in Phoenix, Arizona designed by DeBartolo Architects is one of those buildings. It’s open to the public and sits on the most beautiful mountain landscape.
Upon arriving I met an older woman who told me she visits every day on her way home from work. I felt a sense of sadness from her and I was touched by how a prayer building, a beautifully designed space, can provide her comfort.
Experiencing the pavilion and photographing it was indeed a spiritual moment. Photographing architecture is already a meditative practice for me. I am very present, my thoughts are limited and all my attention is on the changing light. My senses come alive as I observe a building near the end of the day. I see more vividly the light and shadows, I can hear more clearly the sounds of the trees moving with the wind, the birds and the cars off to the distance, I’m truly in the moment. I don’t need music, or social media to scroll, I am content. Especially, when I am in the comfort of the Arizona winter climate!
I like being alone. I am an extraverted introvert, so I can turn it on when I need to, but I gain my energy from solitude. I am content reflecting, sitting for long periods, and slowing down life. The prayer chapel, with its minimalistic cubic design even further fosters this practice. In between captures, I would take it all in. Following my last frame, I had a moment inside the pavilion to reflect on what I had just experienced.
I typically relate to a higher power in nature, not through buildings. But, this building felt like it was part of the landscape. It has an indoor / outdoor design to it, even though the sliding glass walls were closed during my visit, it still felt open to the outdoors.
As the sun came down, the artificial LED lighting came up and the box began to glow with the city lights in the distance. The architects refer to it as the “lantern on the hill,” and that it surely is. It’s quite the experience as the sun falls and the lights come on.
While this is a religious structure, it was not adorned with any religious symbols or ornaments other than the tall cross outside. It’s a minimal glass cube sitting on the edge of the desert and open to all.
Experiencing the Prayer Chapel will go down as a highlight of my trip to Phoenix and a place I will return every time I am back in the Valley of the Sun.
According to DeBartolo, the firm is driven by creating long lasting architecture and I imagine the chapel will provide a place for worship for many years to come. I certainly look forward to returning.