Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Oreon E. Scott Meditation Chapel and Medbury Hall

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Institution Name: Drake University
Original/Historic Place Name: Oreon E. Scott Meditation Chapel and Medbury Hall
Location on Campus: north center of campus on 28th St.
Date(s) of Construction:
1953original construction Saarinen, Eero
Designer: Eero Saarinen
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Modern/post-WWII (Glossary)
Significance: architecture
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Foundation: concrete
Walls: brick masonry
Roof: wood with dome skylight; built up roof
1953-present (2006)chapel (religious or meditation chapel)

Designed by the prestigious architect Eero Saarinen in 1953, the Oreon E. Scott Meditation Chapel is an architectural treasure within the Drake University campus. The Chapel, located off of Forest Avenue in the heart of campus, serves as an interruption along the east-west axis stretching from the dormitory complex on the west to the once proposed auditorium on the east.

An isolated circle amongst a sea of rectilinear structures, Saarinen sets the chapel apart from its surrounding context through the use of formal and spatial configurations. The interior of the chapel, inspired by ancient roman structures such as the Pantheon, features a center oculus within the ceiling. The only source of light within the building, the oculus serves to highlight the main feature of the interior: a massive center communion table.

Raised from ground level by three steps, the communion table is circumscribed by twenty chairs and a prayer rail. The isolated, intimate, and solemn interior provides a space for contemplation, reflection, and introspection.


"Saarinen's Master Plan." Iowa Architect Magazine (Spring 1996).


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Last update: November 2006