Martin House Chapel

Boston Spa, West Yorkshire

This small chapel uses strong sculptural forms and enduring materials to provide a much used place of calm and tranquility amid the bustle of a children’s hospice. The building is part of a family of buildings we have created at Martin House in Boston Spa, West Yorkshire.

Martin House children’s hospice, designed by Wildblood Macdonald, opened in 1987 to provide care and support for children with life-limiting illnesses and their families. We are proud of our continued role in the development of the hospice since its opening, including the design of a separate unit for teenagers and young people, Whitby Lodge, which was completed in 2002. The creation of the Lodge entailed the loss of the hospice’s chapel. It seemed to all concerned that a noisy location at the heart of a home for teenagers was not ideal for a place for meditation and prayer. This led the trustees of Martin House to ask Wildblood Macdonald to design a replacement, somewhere in the garden.

The agreed setting and the fact that the garden lay within the Green Belt led us to conclude that the building should not be conventional, but rather should blend into the landscape with any walls appearing as garden walls.

This led us on to think that we should make a positive use of the 'boundary wall' idea. We concluded that those visiting the chapel should walk through the wall to something delightful beyond. For some this would represent a step from the bustling activity of the hospice to a quiet garden setting, but for others it could symbolise the passing from life, through death to a life full of delight beyond.

A quiet area of the garden was identified, furthest from the main buildings and surrounded by mature trees and planting. The ‘boundary wall’ idea was developed, with only a glass door within a curving dry-stone wall being visible from the noisy play areas and main buildings. Beyond the wall, the main chapel space is enclosed by glass and timber, deliberately contrasting materials to the limestone walling. The chapel looks out onto a very peaceful wild garden, backed by mature trees, with no hint of the bustling activity of the hospice on the other side of the wall.

The specialist construction skills used in the dry-stone walling and the copper roofing add to the delight of this little building.