In China, persons practicing Christianity are in the minority. Although the European missionaries who came to the country in the nineteenth century were persecuted, a small group of protestant has continued to adhere to this religion to the present day. Pastors form the backbone of the Nanjing Union ­Theological Seminary, the most important institution of its kind in China. The chapel presented here – where the seminarians pray, but also the site of weddings and baptisms – was commissioned by the seminary.

The design of the small structure, which has a floor area of just 200 m2, takes cues from the historical churches of Europe: their axiality and lofty spaces were also of significance for this design, though in a strongly modified form. The floor plan of the sanctuary is based on what is initially a non-directional octagon. The roof’s V-shaped cross-section produces the highest spaces at the entrance and at the altar, and also gives the chapel its directionality, which is underscored by the long glazed slit. It cuts across the entire church space and inscribes pronounced patterns of light on the walls and floor.

Broad passageways made of wood surround the central space. A latticework constructed of delicate wood studs sheathes the entire building and serves as a visual and spatial filter; the members of the congregation pass through it before entering the church space.