Dedicated in 1953, The Robert Carr Chapel is one of the most recognized and visited buildings on the Texas Christian University campus. The building hosts over four hundred events a year including weddings, worship services, memorials, concerts, and other university functions. With few modifications since its dedication, the wide variety of users resulted in conflicting requirements for the space, which generated the need for major functional improvements.
To improve flexibility and accessibility for the chancel platform, the chancel was expanded forward into the nave, the organ console was raised, the platform furnishings and first two rows of pews were made reconfigurable, and a wheelchair lift was installed. Adding a raised floor and ramps in an adjacent enclosed arcade created an accessible interior route to the chapel from an existing elevator in an adjacent building. A new accessible restroom and vesting room were constructed and an existing restroom in the narthex was enlarged.
New audio / visual technology was integrated inconspicuously, including a concealed balcony-mounted projector and a concealed screen that drops down from a slot in the vaulted ceiling above the chancel. The existing audio system was tuned for improved intelligibility, and more robust audio and video control systems were added. Acoustic dampening concerns were addressed by the addition of concealed curtains that can pull over the balcony windows and by tuning cabinets on the rear wall that can be opened for additional sound absorption.
Updates to the interior finish palette included new wood flooring, a custom-colored aisle carpet which incorporates a hint of color and a subtle nod to TCU’s branding, new velvet cushions at the pews, and a two-tone paint scheme highlighting the original woodwork and moulding details. A custom chancel rail was designed to complement the detailing of the transom window above the entrance to the chapel. New cove lighting highlights the original barrel vault and adjustable spotlights add flexibility at the chancel.
The overall result is a renovation of the chapel which remains respectful of its history on the campus while allowing maximum use of the facility. Recognizing this, the Board of Historic Fort Worth presented a Preservation Project Award to GFF and TCU for this project in the fall of 2018.