Capilla del Retiro
Auco, Los Andes, Chile
Gatica Jiménez Ingenieros y Cía. Ltda. (Structural Engineers) Constructora Terrano (Main Contractor) José Vicente Gajardo (Sculptor)
Fundación Teresa de Los Andes
Cristobal Palma Sergio Pirrone
Concrete is the main material of the building’s structure. Its volume, strictly economical, rises up from a crosspiece of 4 beams that are supported with the least possible structural elements so that the relationship with the ground is slight but sufficient. Shape and structure here are indissoluble. Under the strict geometry of the concrete walls, a patio was excavated, its rustic stone walls rise up and around the chapel, compressing and expanding the space of light. As a counterpoint to the magnitude of the geographic surroundings, the interior was designed in the shape of a wooden box recycled from old railway lines. This box hangs from the concrete structure and lies 2 meters under the beams that support it, limiting the view of the outside. The entire piece, which appears to levitate over the ground, refers us to the spiritual dimension inside. This space is illuminated from the lower part, leaving a space to view a weightless body in the interior that hides the rationality of its supports, while the exterior affords us a view of the stone wall that surrounds the patio. Here, the duality of the rational exterior / metaphysical interior, typical of Gothic architecture, assumes a new expression of a commitment to modernity.
Seventy kilometers to the north of Santiago lies the Valley of Los Andes, one of the most beautiful and fertile areas in the Center of Chile. There, the Sanctuary of Teresa de los Andes is located, sprawled next to the Carmelite Monastery of Auco. It is here, at the foot of Mount Carmelo that the Capilla del Retiro was built, next to the guest house where pilgrims can stay. The chapel rises as a confirmation of the geography that surrounds it, while respecting the axis established by the existing buildings.
The chapel is visited by pilgrims in search for silence and recollection. Its connection to the extraordinary surrounding geography creates a unique place for meditation.