‘Authentically simple environments are inevitably the outcome of complex architectural processes.’ In 2001 debartolo architects was commissioned by the Brophy Jesuit Community to design a new home for ten Jesuit Priests. The scheme draws its key inspiration from the two existing white-flowering oleander hedges along the east and west margins of the site. These massive ‘shade corridors’ serve as the primary movement axis in the north-south direction. The program for the residence called for a public zone of the house including the kitchen, living room, study, library, chapel; and a private zone, including the ten individual dwellings. The volumes of the house are accordingly arranged – using spare desert courtyards as the separators between the programmatic functions. Based on simple principles of light, shade, orientation, scale and proportion – the house is shaped and sculpted by climate and function – where many of the spaces have a singular relationship to light.
Remaining true to the spirit of St. Ignatius’ priority for ‘utter simplicity’, the elements of the house encourage the community to live up to the calling of their vows. The simple, pared down and reductive detailing coupled with the honest and restrained use of materials, fosters a peaceful environment where the priests can reflect, relax and find solitude. This reduction of visual distraction permits one to focus on his calling.
One unique element of the design is the meditation chapel wrapped in channel glass – a cube of space filled with light yet privatized by the translucent nature of the glass. Working closely with the debartolo architects, custom art pieces designed by Mayme Kratz accommodate the sacraments and the holy water – transforming light and matter into function. With great effort to minimize detail, the house takes on a quiet presence where the focus becomes the light, space, and environment more that the container.
The finished house gained great precision through the determined and dogmatic attention to detail expressed by the contractor. The architects worked closely with the contractor to improve and reduce details, throughout construction, always purging for essence and simplicity over addition and layering.
As a practice rooted in faith and attempting to achieve a moving sense of simplicity, debartolo architects will continue to strive to create sacred spaces. The mariposa residence continues this search, attempting to ascend beyond the nature of ‘house’ by creating a simple container for serenity, rooted in the desert for this unique group of men who have dedicated their lives to God.