Oreon E. Scott Chapel

Oreon E. Scott Memorial Chapel was dedicated in 1955 as a place “of worship to preaching, to communion, to meditation, to searching of the soul and renewal of the spirit of those who would be spiritual guides to others.” Originally designed to be the chapel for Drake’s Divinity School, it has served as a place of contemplation for both Christians and non- Christians alike.

The Saarinen firm drew connections among Scott Chapel, Medbury Hall, and Fitch Hall of Pharmacy through their use of materials and siting. This decision linked the Divinity School to the larger university.

The donor for whom the chapel is named, Oreon E. Scott, was one the leading laymen of the Disciples of Christ Church at the time. Scott was on the Board of Trustees at Drake and received an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws from the University in 1933. Scott also created multiple funds for the strength and development of the Divinity program.

Eero Saarinen’s attention both to detail and to the flow of space is very evident in this religious commission. The brick exterior of the chapel is contrasted with the wood-slatted interior. The only brick visible on the inside resides above the door. This gives a reminder of what exists on the outside while the visitor makes an adjustment to the interior. The skylights in both Medbury and Scott Chapel are another means to create a constant interplay between the interiors and exteriors of the buildings.

Spiritual symbols can be found throughout the space of the chapel. For example, the number of high back chairs, twenty, is a reoccurring number in both Christianity and Hinduism. The number three, which traditionally represents ideas like past, present and future, is repeated in a variety of materials. Along with numbers, shapes like triangles and circles create complex meanings as well as physical depth in the chapel. Traditional spiritual symbols contribute to Scott Chapel’s role as a sacred space.

Text: Ashley Machacek, Anthony Roark, Nicole Werner