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SHELLS SOARI IN FORMOSA

Two pairs of swooping concrete shells, separated by narrow bands of glass, enclose the new Luce Memorial Chapel at Formosa's Tunghai University. Architect I. M. Pei's irregular hexagonal plan and curved walls make the 450seat interior a soaring, yet intimate, space photo below). Adding to the drama inside are the raw concrete walls, whose diamond-shaped cross ribs grow in thickness from top to bottom-reflecting the complex pattern of stresses which increase toward the base of each conoidal shell.
The shells covering the altar end are 75 feet high and span 100 feet at the widest point. Golden-yellow glazed tiles with decorative studs protect the concrete exterior from weather while lending it texture and scale.
Because of its pyramidal profile, the chapel is resistant to both wind and earthquakes. The funnel-shaped interior provides natural circulation of air, which is admitted through louvers in the glass walls at the front and rear and exhausted through skylight vents.
The original design (FORUM, March 1957) called for wood construction, but poured-in-place reinforced concrete was finally chosen for its resistance to termites and humidity.
Associated with Pei were Chi-Kwan Chen, resident architect; and Heou-San Fong and Roberts & Schaefer Co., engineers.

Architectural Forum, August-September 1964, p. 137



 

LUCE MEMORIAL CHAPEL

The LUCE MEMORIAL CHAPEL was completed in 1963, built with a donation from the Luce family from the US. It is a Christian chapel on the campus of Tunghai University, Taichung, Taiwan. It was designed by the architect I. M. Pei together with assistant architects Chi-kuan Chen and Chao-kang Chang. It is a significant 20th Century Modern Architecture.
The architects Chi-kuan Chen (1963) stated the vision of LUCE MEMORIAL CHAPEL aiming to pursue, "...an effort was made to design it not only to be a building to serve as a center for worship, to reflect the spirit of sacrifice and love, to enhance the true spirit of Chinese tradition in architecture, but also to suggest the contemporary philosophy and capability in building design."
The Luce Memorial Chapel was featured in the March 1957 issue of "Architecture Forum" together with the first prized work of Sydney Opera House competition. In 2014, both works were chosen as two of the first 10 recipients of architectural conservation grants from the Getty Foundation's "Keeping it Modern" initiative. The Chapel was signified as national heritage by the Government in 2019.