McKinney York Architects


Smith Family Chapel

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Project Process

Riverbend Church is located on a beautiful 52 acre campus in west Austin, comprised of eight different multi-purpose buildings. McKinney York worked to develop a master plan for the campus in collaboration with Overland Partners, and afterwards to include maintenance facilities, a retreat center, an office complex, a columbarium, additional education facilities, and a retirement community.

While attending the inaugural service of the new 2,500-seat sanctuary at Riverbend Church, a teenage girl turned to her mother and asked, ”But where will I get married?” This question led to the concept for a more intimate chapel suitable for smaller services. The Smith family’s commission of this 300-seat chapel and their involvement in the design led to a traditional form reminiscent of their childhood churches. However, the spare detailing and subtle décor intentionally provides a clean palette for individual events to command their own settings. Along with conventional acoustical strategies, the design incorporates state-of-the-art systems for handling air, A/V needs, and lighting that do not intrude on the intimate setting. Despite its location near busy Loop 360, the chapel retains a feeling of calm, taking advantage of its setting above a ravine and near the hill country columbarium developed in conjunction with the chapel.

Recognition: Outstanding Construction Award, Associated General Contractors of Austin, 2001

Publication: Celebrity Weddings, InStyle, 2003; Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica, MTV, 2003