Elevating the Discourse: Chapels pt. 2

In Part 2 of our Elevating the Discourse: Chapel series, we’ve got a few more wooden buildings that we feel are rather excellent. The forms are more refined, the detailing more rigorous – and there is a tenacity to these projects which makes them stand out above the rest. If we missed any, let us know, and if you’ve visited any of these, we’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on these gems.  

Chapelle de St-Loup 


foto: Milo Keller

foto: Milo Keller

foto: Milo Keller

architect: localarchitecture w/ Danilo Mondado                 

location: Hôpital de St-Loup (CH)                  

completed: 2008                 

With the realization that a renovation would close a convent for 18 months, the architects were tasked with creating a temporary structure for worship. The architects worked with Hani Buri and Yves Weinland of the Laboratory for Timber Construction (IBOIS) at the EPFL in Lausanne. The chapel is made from 4 cm (vertical elements) and 6 cm (horizontal elements) cross laminated timber, held together by folded metal plates and screws. Interior faces are left untreated. The ends utilize polycarbonate glazing that supplies ample illumination. The plan plays off a traditional basilica with a rounded nave. The folded plate makes for a rather interest effect, combining both structure and form rather successfully. Archdaily had a writeup in November of 2008 with additional photos and plans.                

Caplutta Sogn Benedetg


foto: dod

foto: Adrian Michael

foto: Ralph Feiner foto: Brigida Gonzalez

architect: Peter Zumthor         

location: Sumvitg (CH)                 

completed: 1989                

Sumvitg is a small village in the eastern region of Graubünden, an area that has some of the most incredible landscapes we’ve ever come across. It’s hard to believe this project is over 20 years old, even though the shingles definitely show significant weathering. After an avalanche wiped out the existing medieval church in 1984, Zumthor’s gem was rebuilt in its place. The wood structure and facade break with local building tradition, but the materials tie the chapel with the rest of the village. The plan is half of a lemniscate, a figure-8 shape such as the symbol for infinity (∞), oriented with the point towards the mountain. The solid walls gives way to a full clerestory that wraps around the chapel. Fins modulate the light in a stunning manner. Shingles, furniture and structural members all appear to be larch. The walls, bell tower, handrail supports and even the stoup possess a subtle flare as they approach the earth. If you are ever in Graubünden, this is definitely a project that should be on your map (along w/ several other Zumthor , Gigon|Guyer and Valerio Olgiati projects).              

Flurkapelle in Bödigheim

foto: Brigida Gonzalez

foto: Brigida Gonzalez

foto: Brigida Gonzalez

architect: Ecker Architekten w/IIT‘s design|build studio                 

location: Bödigheim (DE)                 

completed: 2009               

Having participated in a design|build studio, we were really impressed with this non-denominational chapel, sited in a field in northern Baden Württemberg. Ecker Architekten were the local point of contact and architect of record.  Archdaily has an extensive write-up and additional photos, definitely worth checking out. Also worth a look is the chapel website, which has a number of process and construction photos.               

Bergkappele Andelsbuch


foto: Hanspeter Schiess

foto: Hanspeter Schiess

foto: Hanspeter Schiess

architect: cukrowicz.nachbaur                

location: Andelsbuch (AT)               

completed: 2008            

This stunningly simple chapel sits on a stone plinth overlooking the hills of Vorarlberg. The chapel is situated between the cultivated landscape and Alpen wilderness. The basic construction unit is a single timber board, planed on 3 sides with the exterior side left rough to weather. This unit forms the walls, roof and floor. Glass elements replace a handful of timber boards at the altar, creating a soft light at the end of the chapel. The form is a play on local housing typologies. Wood and stone are locally sourced and the chapel was built by family friends – a kind of sustainability we could definitely get behind. Unbelievably, even this amazing project was the result of a small competition, first prize being the family’s handmade cheese – and an incredible commission.             

Further Readings:
  • Transcription of Andrea Cukrowicz lecture given in Scotland.
  • Paper by Buri and Weinland on folded plate structures (PDF)
  • Paper on the design, engineering and construction of the St. Loup Chapel (PDF, German)
  • Further areas of study at the EPFL’s IBOIS (PDF)



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