You don’t usually hear people talking about chapels in terms of their architecture and design and that’s most likely because chapels are usually small structures, sometimes rooms inside institutions such as hospitals or schools. They’re worship spaces for people that are just passing by so it’s very difficult to become attached to such a space in any way. However, there are a few very impressive chapels around the world that you’d be mad not to fall in love with and we say that without making reference to anything other than their architecture.
The Ribbon Chapel in Japan
You may have seen pictures of this amazing structure without even realizing that what you were looking at was actually a chapel. Nobody can blame because, well….look at it! It’s a work of art, an exquisite metaphor materialized into a wonderful building. The Ribbon Chapel was designed by Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP Architects and is located in the garden of a resort hotel from Hiroshima Prefecture, in Japan.
The chapel sits on a hill and is surrounded by trees, offering panoramic views of the Seto Inland Sea and the distant mountains. It was built here in 2013 and covers an area of 80 square meters. Its unique design is the interpretation of marriage metaphor. Two spiral stairways support one another and connect at the top at a height of 15.4 meters, forming a single ribbon that allows the chapel to become a freestanding structure. The entwining ribbons represent the bride and groom and serve as walls and ceilings of the structure. This is probably the most impressive example of chapel architecture taken to the rank of art in a very unexpected and at the same time amazing way.
The Sunset Chapel in Mexico
The name in this case says it all. The Sunset Chapel is a structure designed with a very specific set of rules in mind. First of all, the client requested that the chapel take full advantage of its location and especially the amazing views surrounding it. The second request was that the chapel be positioned in a way that would allow the sun to set exactly behind the altar cross (twice a year). There was also a third request which had to do with the crypts, a section of which had to be placed outside and around the chapel.
The most unusual and striking thing of all, however, is the form of the chapel. The unusual architecture was dictated by the landscape. The team in charge, BNKR Arquitectura, was faced with a big challenge: the site was occupied by lots of vegetation, large trees and, most importantly, a huge and very heavy boulder which was blocking the sunset. Since getting rid of the boulder was not an option, the architects chose instead to raise the chapel level more than 5 meters and to reduce the footprint of the building to almost half the floor area of the upper level. Further more, this allowed the chapel itself to look like a giant boulder.
Sayama Forest Chapel in Japan
The Sayama Forest Chapel from Saitama Prefecture, Japan is one of the most spiritual and most unusual spaces of worship anywhere in the world. It’s not just its architecture that’s amazing, unique and incredible in so many ways but also the idea behind the design and the feeling one gets upon entering the chapel. The structure sits on a small triangular plot in the Sayama Lakeside Cemetery which is open to numerous different religions. The site is very rich in vegetation and has a very strong relationship with nature and the chapel reflects that.
The chapel was designed and built by Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP. Its form is unusual no matter how you look at it. The walls tilt inward to avoid the trees and their branches and this allowed the vegetation to be preserved and celebrated. This unusual architecture also impacts the interior design and the ambiance present inside the chapel. It’s as if the walls tilt inward as to embrace and to console the one inside, creating a very warm and calming atmosphere.
The Bosjes Chapel in South Africa
At times, this chapel looks like a giant but delicate piece of cloth that undulates as the wind blows and floats above the water. It’s a very artistic image which is possible thanks to the unique design that Steyn Studio and TV3 Architects came up with when they collaborated on the Bosjes Chapel project. Located outside Cape Town, in the Witzenberg district of South Africa, this chapel doesn’t have a typical construction with walls and ceilings as we know them. Instead, it features a white canopy which undulates above and around a series of glazed walls, at times dropping so low that it almost touches the water.
The sinuous outline of the chapel allows the cast concrete roof to appear very delicate and lightweight and also gives the structure a dynamic appearance. The reflective pond emphasizes this weightlessness and helps to create a very tranquil ambiance. What’s very interesting about this building is the way in which certain elements have been seamlessly embedded into the design. For example, one of the cross-shaped frames takes the place of the crucifix. Apart from that and the golden pulpit, there’s little else going on inside the chapel, the focus being on the architecture and the extraordinary views.
Chapel in Valleaceron, Spain
This chapel from Real, Spain looks like a folding box, a giant origami-inspired structure. It was designed by architect Sancho Madrilejos in 2001 and it sits at the top of a hill. the chapel has become an important landmark, a reference point in the landscape. As unusual and strange as the design is, there’s something else that makes this chapel quite special: the fact that it uses no artificial lighting. It’s a very simple and bare structure which relies on the special relationship it has with the exterior and the surroundings, allowing natural light to play a role similar to a material (like concrete in this case).