Designed by architect Paul Rudolph as a progressive mental health center and opened in 1971, the chapel in the Erich Lindemann Mental Health Center was added late in the planning process.
The chapel space, which includes a balcony and seating area that are not internally connected, is sculpted from curved wall surfaces made of Rudolph's signature cast concrete, yet there is a veil-like delicacy to the wall surface that makes it unlike the rest of the building. The chapel was intended as a private, meditative space in the center of a monumental modern building, set on a busy public square in a rapidly growing city.
Located next to what were originally inpatient areas, the chapel used to be open as a quiet respite for patients, staff and visitors. Services took place regularly. A cross still hangs over the altar and an area where a priest or service leader can change clothes is off to the side. Kneelers throughout suggest Christian assumptions in the design, and a small alcove in the rear of the space might have been designed or used for confessions. Natural light filters through the skylight over the altar, while indirect artificial lighting behind the altar contributes to the spiritual atmosphere.
In 2009 patients who had been cared for at the Lindemann building and used the chapel moved to the Solomon Carter Fuller Mental Health Center. Today the chapel is locked, accessible only during occasional services led by a volunteer staff member in the building. A sign near the elevator reads, “Worship Services, Every Saturday and Sunday. Time 3:30-4:30pm. Location 4th Floor. Job 3:16 ‘For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten son that whoever believes in Him should now perish but have everlasting life.’ TELL A FRIEND TO TELL A FRIEND. COME AND BE BLESSED.” Memorial services also take place occasionally in the space.
“This is a lovely peaceful space,” said Michele Anzaldi, the site director, when we visited. “I wish we could use it more. Perhaps once funds are available to fix the water leakage this will be possible.”