Elevating the Discourse: Chapels pt. 3

The third edition of our Elevating the Discourse: Chapel series focuses on several concrete (beton) and rammed earth (lehmbau) chapels we’ve flagged and return to again and again. Most of these have seen steady publication/recognition in the last few years – hopefully there will be one or two projects that are unfamiliar but just as phenomenal.

Kapelle St. Benedikt

foto: kunze seeholzer

foto: Jann Averwerser

architect: kunze seeholzer

location: Kolbermoor (DE)

completed: 2007

We ran across this incredible project on the beton.org website a few years ago (yes, we’re big dorks and routinely end up browsing their incredible database). Entering through a portal (complete with bell), the focus of the space is a cross,  illuminated by zenithal light. The roof is held off the concrete walls creating a secondary, softer light within the chapel. Detailing is crisp, with concrete corners and wood furniture looking sharp. This is another project that was covered by archdaily.

Capilla Valleaceron

foto: Hisao Suzuki

foto: Hisao Suzuki

architect: sancho madridejos architecture office

location: Almaden (ES)

completed: 2001

Almaden, located in the arid España Seca (dry Spain), is known for having one of the largest mercury reserves in the world. Derived from a series of reductions of a rectangular box, the resulting form is fairly complex, using the folds to hide space. Naturally lit and absent of heating or cooling elements, this is a purity we really appreciate. The complexity is very intriguing, and can only imagine the number of contractors that looked at this and laughed. Simply a stunning project.

Capela Fazenda Veneza

foto: Cristiano Mascaro

foto: Cristiano Mascaro

architect: arquiteto Decio Tozzi

location: Valinhos (BR)

completed: 2003

Serving a larger community need and affiliated with a local farm designed by the architect in 1970, we weren’t really jazzed when we first saw this chapel. However, the more we came back to it, the more it grew on us. The floor follows the slope toward the water, opening up towards the altar. Taking Mies’ beinahe nichts (almost nothing) concept to an extreme – climate, landscape and nature are integral to this chapel. This project also resonates with the work of Oscar Niemeyer and Heinz Isler, who we’re big fans of. The only thing we’d change is the color of the cross. It must be amazing to stop here during a downpour.

Oberrealta Kapelle

architect: Christian Kerez w/ Rudolf Fontana

location: Oberrealta (CH)

completed: 1993

Located a stone’s throw from Olgiati’s school in Paspels, this chapel plays off the traditional huts that dot the Graubünden landscape. A simple concrete box with doorless opening and slit of cast glass illuminate the monolithic interior. Kerez is a master of concrete (Kunstmuseum Vaduz, amongst other incredible projects), and we dig this hyper-minimal project.

Bruder Klaus Feldkapelle

foto: I See a Darkness

foto: I See a Darkness

architect: Peter Zumthor

location: Wachendorf (DE)

completed: 2007

Not quite concrete, not quite rammed earth, the construction of this chapel by farmers must have been an ordeal. 112 Tree trunks were set as a free-form tepee, and over a 24 week period, 50 cm ‘lifts’ of concrete were rammed into place. The trunks were then lit and smoldered for 3 weeks until they fell away, resulting in a beautifully charred interior. An oculus allows light and rain to wash the hand-poured lead floor. Additional pinpoints of light filter through the ‘rammed concrete’ form-tie holes, filled with blown glass. Apparently Zumthor took on this commission for free, as Bruder Klaus was a favorite saint of his mother. Shortly after this chapel was completed, he was collecting the Pritzker Prize.

Totenkapelle Batschuns

foto: Alexander Kuehne

architect: marte.marte

location: Batschuns (AT)

completed: 2001

In an effort to keep costs down, this compact mortuary chapel was constructed mostly by the local community. 450mm (21 inch) thick walls and 120mm (5.5 inch) thick floor are made of rammed earth. A skylight at the end of the chapel highlights a vertical board of oak, inset into the rammed earth wall, symbolizing a cross. One wall is held off the floor to give the massive walls a feeling of lightness. Like the cross (or half of it), the exterior pivot doors are also made of oak. Though this project is small, there is much symbolism – and for a chapel, the use of rammed earth seems very fitting. This is one of our favorite small projects, and definitely a reason to head to Vorarlberg in the near future. The consultant for the rammed earth, Martin Rauch of lehmtonerde, will be a topic of an upcoming post.

Kapelle der Versöhnung

foto: rolando g

foto: matthew_reames

foto: Alex Korting

architect: Reitermann + Sassenroth

location: Berlin (DE)

completed: 2000

When the construction of the Berlin Wall isolated the Church of Reconciliation in the Todesstreifen (Death Zone) – annoyances with the symbolism of the church and blocked views from watch towers led the GDR to eventually destroy it. After reunification, the site was handed back to the congregation. This incredible chapel was the result of a competition, though the congregation was looking for a modern steel and concrete construction. Reitermann + Sassenroth apparently had a difficult time, but eventually convinced the church that rammed earth and wood made for more fitting materials, and we completely agree. Bricks from the original church were crushed and incorporated into the rammed earth mix. A continuous rammed earth oval defines the chapel and the floor is rammed earth with a waxed finish. A peripheral walkway with a facade of douglas fir louvers shelters the chapel from the outside realm and provides additional space for the congregation. A skylight bathes the interior in daylight, highlighting the lifts of clay. Like the chapel in Batschuns, Martin Rauch of lehmtonerde was the rammed earth consultant.

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