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2016 MCHAP

Joa Chapel

Bernardes Arquitectora / Thiago Bernardes

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

April 2014


Thiago Bernardes / Bernardes Arquitetura


Camila Tariki / Bernardes Arquitetura (Partner) Francisco Abreu / Bernardes Arquitetura (Coordinator) Ilana Daylac / Bernardes Arquitetura (Architect) Daniel Vannucchi / Bernardes Arquitetura (Architect) Thiago Moretti / Bernardes Arquitetura (Architect) Antonia Bernardes / Bernardes Arquitetura (Designer) Fernanda Lopes / Bernardes Arquitetura (Architect) Maria Vittoria Oliveira / Bernardes Arquitetura (Architect) Ana Paula Endo (Architect) Renata Evaristo / Bernardes Arquitetura (Architect) Caroline Premoli (Architect)



Tuca Reinés


A search for simplicity was the drive behind the design, born of the desire to allow a visitor to access a formerly unreachable point in space. At tree canopy level, the feeling of proximity to Nature is enhanced. The building is framed by a sequence of timber structural elements that sit on a narrowing triangular platform projecting towards the sea. The wooden floor is supported by a single column opposite to the entrance, rising from the ground deep below and transforming itself, at eye level, into a cross. From the inside, one can also look sideways and contemplate the surrounding vegetation showing between the vertically arranged wooden beams. The exterior glass panes shelter the interior from sunlight, wind, and rain and gently mirror the tree tops from the outside. Rational building solutions allowed quick assembly and minimal site impact. The Joá Chapel is a building designed with technical pragmatism to create a spiritually charged place. By reducing the architectural components to the bare essential, its structural elements acquire symbolic and aesthetic functions.


A client commissioned our office to design a small chapel for small family ceremonies within his residential gardens. The deeply sloped site is located in Rio de Janeiro's neighbourhood of Joá and is surrounded by dense rain forest. The building was chosen to stand in a secluded place where tropical vegetation, sky and ocean views provided a beautiful backdrop to the sacred space. As requested, construction was concluded within three months after the initial draft. No trees were felled and the earth was left practically untouched.


The Joá Chapel was carefully placed so as not to alter the natural conditions of the site. The undisturbed dense vegetation collaborates with the building, providing protection against wind, rain and excessive sunlight. Materials were chosen so as to blend with the surrounding elements and to age adequately without weakening the building's solidity and aesthetic qualities. It is currently used, as initially intended, as a space for prayer and intimate ceremonies by members of the client's family.

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