Advanced Design Studio: Eisenman

Project Description

This project constructs an antinomic and iconic sacred space by using a scheme of enclosure, drawn from the church cloister typology. By juxtaposing two normative typologies, the cloister against New Haven’s urban fabric of object buildings, our scheme achieves a typological resonance of difference.

Through the investigation of context, typology and iconicity, the project questions the typology of religious spaces in contemporary setting in the city of New Haven.


Currently, existing railway tracks form a depression on the ground, physically disconnecting two adjacent urban fabric- the New Haven nine squares and Wooster Square grid. Using the church cloister typology, the scheme bridges this gap by enclosing the site’s immediate urban block, restructuring the otherwise isolated State Street train station into an urban connector for the two neighbourhoods.


While enclosure typologies typically disconnect external forces to create a stable interior, the bridging courtyard frames and forces the aggressive movement of the trains travelling through New Haven to become part of the event of the cloister. This dramatic gesture results in a cloister without a ground and amplifies an external force internally. The result challenges the autonomy of the church cloister by creating a dynamic interior where the religious spaces are sandwiched between two datums of the profane - between the streets and the train station platforms - such that both their paths weave yet never physically accessible to the other.


In a city dominated by object-buildings, the cloister typology appears out of context - its visual and spatial displacement allows the church to gain iconicity through typological resonance of difference. As a result of the cloister eroding the existing fabric, a small, private chapel sits independently in the cloister, at the point of conflict between the paths of the religious and the profane. This is the only place in the scheme where both groups interact, and is the only figural object in the courtyard. Its height gives it an eminent presence from all parts of the cloister interior as well as from the exterior along Chapel St.