• star of the sea baptismal rock
    • star of the sea exterior
    • star of the sea altar
    • star of the sea entry
    • star of the sea section
    • star of the sea interior
    • star of the sea bench

Mary, Star of the Sea Catholic Church

Gualala, CA

This church serves the small but growing needs of the Gualala/Sea Ranch community—Catholic and other religions—seating 175 people. Set on the windswept crest of a wooded terrace above the Pacific Ocean and Highway One, the design appreciates the sanctity of the natural beauty of the site, rather than compete with it: fine windows trace the trees beyond; the rear walls of the church open completely via bi fold doors for overflow into the outdoors. The church is appended by a cloister formed by a roofed bench and an “out-building” and forms a pleasant, usable outdoor space protected from the near constant ocean winds.

The beach and rocks of Gualala Point Regional Park to the south provide the backdrop for the altar. This axis continues back through the lobby to an entry porch featuring a large symbolic baptismal rock (catching rainwater collected on the copper roof). Like local wind-swept hedgerows in form, the roof over the diagonal aisle is lifted toward the east to allow morning sunlight through clerestory windows. This step in the roof also creates low-pressure which helps ventilate the chapel.

Materials are simple and durable, and reflect their true nature. In an area with a long history of logging, particular attention was paid to the use of wood. The roof rises from the entry to beyond the Altar on two large trusses along the diagonal of the 40' square plan. Wall framing is left exposed, giving articulation and warmth to the chapel.

Building type
Awards and Publications

Wines, James, Green Architecture, Taschen, 2000
AIACC Craftsmanship Award, 1998
East Bay AIA Honor Award, 1998
AIA SF "Best of the Bay and Beyond", 1997

Design Team

David Arkin in collaboration with: James Burlage, FAIA, RIBA
Contractor: Will Wade / Stickman Construction