The Luce Memorial Chapel is among the masterpieces of Chinese-American architect I. M. Pei (貝聿銘) and Taiwanese architect Chen Chi-kuan (陳其寬). Standing nearly 20 meters tall and 30 meters wide, its two curved outer walls are just 20 centimeters thick at their thinnest point, while the interior is marked by a distinctive construction method that completely eschews traditional beams and columns.
In 1949, Mr. Henry R. Luce, who gained fame as founder of "Time" magazine and for being at the head of the relaunched "Life" magazine, donated the funds for a chapel in his honor of his father, missionary Mr. Henry W. Luce.
Out of consideration of a variety of factors, including structure, stability, usability, and external appearance, the chapel was designed with a four-piece conoid hyperboloid exterior, supported by a diamond-shaped coffer beam system. It is a model design for modern reinforced concrete structures and a trailblazer in modern Taiwanese architecture.
The initial proposal would have seen the chapel built with brick walls; this was later changed to wood, and then finally to shapeable reinforced concrete. Lining the exterior are tiles in an orange-yellow hue often found in Taiwanese religious architecture. These tiles are also diamond-shaped, echoing the coffer beams on the inside, creating a sense of visual symmetry.
Since its construction, the Luce Memorial Chapel has undergone several rounds of repair, but throughout, it has maintained its original appearance. As the heart of the Tunghai University campus, both as a spiritual symbol and as a gathering place, it breaks through the traditional authoritarian imagery found in both academic and memorial architecture. It has had a massive impact on both the practice of architecture and the conception of educational spaces in Taiwan.
The Luce Memorial Chapel was featured in the March 1957 issue of "Architecture Forum" and the August 1957 issue of "Architectural Record," an uncommonly high level of exposure for Taiwanese architecture. In March 1974, the Directorate General of Posts of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, which was later restructured into Chunghwa Post, also issued stamps featuring the chapel as one of Taiwan's scenic locations.
In 2014, the chapel was chosen as one of the first 10 recipients of architectural conservation grants from the Getty Foundation's "Keeping it Modern" initiative. The distinctive values of the Luce Memorial Chapel and how they have been incorporated into its design have made it an exemplary and valuable piece of modern architecture.
In September 2017, the Cultural Heritage Department of Taichung City named the university's chapel and Priest Bell Tower together as a city-level historic site. And in April of 2019, the Ministry of Culture announced that the Luce Memorial Chapel would be upgraded to a national historic site alongside the Taichung Prefectural Hall.