Designing an ecological sacred space

  • June 10, 2020
Designing an ecological sacred space

Gillean Denny has led the design of a Living Chapel in Italy, a symbol of hope for the ecological awakening of humanity.

We hope that, in the current global context, the Living Chapel will stand as a symbol of hope for the ecological awakening of humanity.

Gillean Denny

A Gates Cambridge Alumna has led the design of a Living Chapel in Italy, bringing together concepts of Nature, Art, Music and Architecture to inspire people to join together in caring for the world.

The sacred space of serene harmony was inspired by Saint Francis of Assisi, Pope Francis, and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Despite the coronavirus pandemic, it made its official digital debut on 5th June, UN World Environment Day 2020.

Designing and building the Living Chapel was an international, mostly volunteer effort, led by architectural designer and Gates Cambridge Alumna, Dr Gillean Denny.

The Living Chapel aims to encourage worldwide acts of ecological restoration, with an emphasis on tree-planting in support of the UN Trillion Tree Campaign.

Gillean [2008] says: “Through the creation of Laudato Si’ Gardens and Living Sacred Spaces globally, the Living Chapel will encourage collaboration to protect and rehabilitate the natural environment through concrete actions. Having assembled the Chapel during the challenging circumstances of early 2020, we hope that, in the current global context, the Living Chapel will stand as a symbol of hope for the ecological awakening of humanity.”

After its installation in Rome, the chapel will be permanently moved to Assisi.

The idea for the Chapel came from Australian-Canadian music composer Julian Darius Revie. It was largely built by faculty and students from the Department of Architecture within the Stuckeman School at The Pennsylvania State University, led by James Kalsbeek, and the Department of Welding & Metal Fabrication at Pennsylvania College of Technology, led by James Colton II.

Gillean won a Gates Cambridge Scholarship for both her MPhil in 2007 and her PhD after spending five years studying architecture at Penn State University. Her PhD sought to understand the disparity in greenhouse gas emissions associated with traditional produce production, distribution and consumption and that of urban agriculture.

*More information about the Living Chapel project can be found at https://livingchapel.com/ and Gillean has made a video about the project here.

Gillean Denny

Gillean Denny

  • Alumni
  • United States
  • 2007 MPhil Environmental Design in Architecture
    2008 PhD Architecture
  • Jesus College

Continuing from my MPhil research in sustainability and urban planning, my current PhD work seeks to determine the direct impact of Urban Agriculture on an individual’s ecological footprint. In the wider world of art and design, theatre sets, the Jesus May Ball, the culinary arts, and my own sketchbook make my days in Cambridge a true joy.

Latest News

Scholar recognised for research into misinformation

A Gates Cambridge Scholar has been shortlisted for a Women of the Future Award for her research into countering misinformation. Melisa Basol [2018] was shortlisted for the science category of the UK Awards which recognises “truly remarkable female scientists, forging new ground in research and scientific achievement”. There are 11 other categories and three special […]

Scholars join forces on anti-cancer drug

Two Gates Cambridge Scholars have joined forces to work on a drug candidate that has the potential to replace one of the most widely used cancer drugs around the world. Dr Anand Jeyasekharan [2004], who did his PhD in Oncology, and Dr Chandler Robinson [2009] who did an MBA at Cambridge, will collaborate on a […]

Making the experiences of imprisoned women activists visible

Growing up in a small town in Bengal, Jigisha Bhattacharya [2022] developed a particular sensitivity to marginalised groups and conflicts between different communities and identities from an early age.  It is this interest and her experience of political protests at university, combined with a longstanding curiosity about the links between politics and the arts, that […]

The study of images in the computer age

Scholar-Elect Tristan Dot [2022] grew up with an interest in computer science and a passion for art history. As time evolved he began to see the similarities between computer vision and art history and has created his own works of art, using computer-generated images.  He says: “Art history is the study of images and so […]