The prayer chapel at Point Loma Nazarene University received international recognition for its unique design. Photo courtesy of Carrier Johnson + Culture.

The prayer chapel at Point Loma Nazarene University received international recognition for its unique design. Photo courtesy of Carrier Johnson + Culture.

A prayer chapel at Pont Loma Nazarene University has won an international design award for Carrier Johnson + Culture architects.

The $1.5 million Lyle and Grace Prescott Memorial Prayer Chapel replaced a deteriorating chapel that was trucked to the Point Loma campus and reassembled in 1973, when what had been Pasadena College moved to Point Loma and changed its name.

Carrier Johnson’s design of the new chapel was chosen in The International Architecture Awards by The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design, together with The European Center for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies and Metropolitan Arts Press, Ltd.


Bob Brower President Point Loma Nazarene University


Gordon Carrier Design Principal Carrier Johnson + Culture

“It’s nice for us to have that kind of facility that’s recognized but I’m really pleased that Gordon Carrier and his team are recognized for their work,” said Bob Brower, Point Loma Nazarene University president. “It is magnificent.”

At 550 square feet, Gordon Carrier, design principal at Carrier Johnson + Culture, said that the prayer chapel is “maybe the smallest building I’ve ever worked on and the toughest building I’ve ever designed.”


The number three, symbolic of the Holy Trinity of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is evoked throughout the design of the chapel.

“The whole chapel is built on the Trinity, all of the dimensions are multiples of three,” Carrier said. “The Trinity is the foundation of the campus, so this really is a symbol of the campus to the word.”

The distance from the entrance to the cross at the far end of the nave is 33 feet, and there are three prayer niches inside the chapel.

There also are three exterior prayer niches formed by hedges.

The centerpiece of the chapel is a free standing cross, a departure from many Christian churches where the cross hangs on a wall.

“It was important to me to symbolize the real cross that Christ died on. It was not an object on a wall. It was on a hill,” Carrier said. “That’s actually, in my view, what the cross is about. It’s not something on a wall. It’s a three dimensional object that people who viewed Christ’s death were able to walk around.”

The cross is made of hickory wood framed in stainless steel.

An Intimate Place

In another departure, there are no pews in the chapel, although there are pillows which can be used to sit on the floor.

“We talked to the students and they said they didn’t want any seats,” Carrier said.

Overhead, a canopy of wood and wicker is meant to evoke Christ’s crown of thorns.

The chapel also has small slots in a wall where people can leave prayer requests, a carry-over from the original chapel.

The earth-tone colors of the chapel are meant to connect the building to its environment.

“In my mind, the building is about the earth that God has made form us, it’s a very natural growth of the very terra firma that the building sits on,” Carrier said.

Brower said that the chapel is meant to be “a small, intimate place of prayer and meditation.”

“It’s used by small groups that gather together. We have a number of community people who come to campus, walk the campus, then slip into the prayer chapel,” Brower said. “It’s kind of a place to get away.”

The chapel is named for a husband and wife missionary couple who were alumni of the university.


The original prayer chapel was built in Pasadena with donations collected by students.

“Almost simultaneously to the construction and presentation of the chapel to the college community, that announcement was made that Pasadena College was moving to San Diego,” Brower said. “You could imagine all of the students’ energy and interest and passion around it and we’re leaving.”

Rather than abandon the building, it was disassembled and put back together at the Point Loma campus.

Over the years, the old reassembled chapel had seriously deteriorated from dry rot and termites.

“Coastal salt water is a beast and it kind of tore it up and the termites were essentially holding hands to keep it together,” Carrier said.

The new chapel is at the main entrance to the campus adjacent to a larger building with a 1,800 seat-auditorium that is used for larger religious services and other activities.

Point Loma Nazarene is a Christian liberal arts school and the chapel and the larger building are key parts of university life, Brower said.

The university has a total enrollment of about 4,600 students, with about 2,700 at its main Point Loma campus, Brower said. He said that the school also had a graduate student campus in Mission Valley, a health sciences campus in Kearny Mesa and a graduate student campus in Bakersfield.

Point Loma Nazarene University
Founded: 1902
President: Bob Brower
Headquarters: Point Loma
Business: liberal arts Christian university
Enrollment: 4,600
Contact: 619-849-2200

Carrier Johnson + Culture
Founded: 1977
Design Principal: Gordon Carrier
Headquarters: downtown San Diego
Business: Architectural/design firm
Employees: 63
Notable: Carrier Johnson’ s clients include corporations, such as Sony, Gateway, BF Goodrich, Neutrogena, Ford Aerospace, Motorola, Hilton Hotels, Marriott International, San Diego State University, the state of California and the cities of San Diego and San Jose.
Contact: 619-239-2353

The whole chapel is built on the Trinity, all of the dimensions are multiples of three. Photo courtesy of Carrier Johnson + Culture.