Design decisions: Design as a matter of faith

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Design decisions: Design as a matter of faith
Design decisions: Design as a matter of faith
When the team from Buena Vida Estates started planning a chapel for their facility, they knew two things for sure: The space had to be cheerful and calming and it needed to be a place where residents of any faith background could be comfortable.

The continuing care retirement facility had been using an on-site auditorium/multipurpose room just off the dining room for vespers and other religious services, but the management team wanted a more intimate setting.

“When we started thinking about the addition of the chapel, we thought about successful aging and how the spiritual side affects the individual. Adding the spiritual side is a huge plus for us,” said Bruce Rosenblatt, Buena Vida's vice president of sales.

The West Melbourne, FL, community includes assisted living, memory care and independent living residents.
During the resident feedback process, architect Raymond Hervieux, the son of a resident, submitted a design of his own for the chapel.

Hervieux, who lives in Massachusetts, was happy to have his mother — who is now deceased — “oversee” construction of the chapel for him.

In terms of the design, Hervieux faced a few challenges. One was designing a worship area that was accessible for residents using wheelchairs, scooters and walkers without crowding the aisles.

He dealt with this by building an area where residents could store their walkers and wheelchairs during services.
In addition to being a traditional architect, Hervieux also went to design school and has a lot of sculpture, art and design experience.

Hervieux used LED lighting in certain areas near the ceiling and behind the altar that can change colors to create the sense that the ceiling is hovering. He also added a set of lights leading down the chapel's center aisle to symbolize “the path to enlightenment.”

“The really big issue was not to suggest that as you get older and approach death, it should be a gloomy experience like a lot of churches would have you believe,” Hervieux explained. “So I stayed away from confrontational colors and used pastels, suggestive of the balmy Florida environment.”

The matter of the chapel's acoustics was very important to Hervieux and the Buena Vida team.

“Acoustics is a huge issue and we had to be careful. Reverberation alone is a terrible phenomenon if you have a hearing aid. I like to use acoustically absorbing materials,” Hervieux explained.

To make the chapel adaptable, the tabernacle behind the altar has a sliding panel that allows for a crucifix to be covered in the event that a Jewish ceremony directly follows a Christian service.

Blaine Barton, vice president of ITG Management, Buena Vida's management company, is thrilled with the resulting structure.

“The whole thing architecturally is phenomenal,” he said. “The design, the coves, the stained glass layout is breathtaking. You'll be hard-pressed to find a more beautiful chapel in a CCRC.”


1. Select building materials that absorb sound well to eliminate clutter for elderly ears

2. Solicit input from residents of all faiths — even those who are not religious

3. Avoid a drab, generic color scheme and choose one with comforting hues