2022

MCHAP

Chapel in Sacromonte

MAPA Architects

Maldonado, Uruguay

February 2018

PRIMARY AUTHOR

Luciano Andrades, Matías Carballal, Andrés Gobba, Mauricio López, Silvio Machado

CONTRIBUTING AUTHOR

Pablo Courreges, Diego Morera, Emiliano Lago, Fabián Sarubbi, Sandra Rodríguez, Rafael Solano, Agustín Dieste, Alba Álvarez, Miquel Castellà, Marcos Gómara, Victoria Reibakas, Sebastián Lambert, Lucy Braunstein, Marie-Lise Hofstetter, Claire Gardan, Helena Utzig, Joao Bernardi.

CLIENT

Sacromonte

PHOTOGRAPHER

Leonardo Finotti

OBJECTIVE

How should the sacred spaces of the 21st century be? The chapel ponders possible interpretations of this and other questions through its ambiguous relationship with matter, space and time. A peaceful tension reigns when in contact with it. A tension between weight and lightness, presence and disappearance, technology and nature. Enigmatic and mystifying, it leaves its visitors with more questions than answers.
Two 9x6 meter wooden planes rest subtly on one another but without touching. From this simple and unique gesture, a new enclosure is born. Neither closed nor completely open, it is a space in itself but it is part of its environment at the same time. Inside, the planes try to protect and sanctify a small portion of the landscape but respectfully deny its confinement. Thus, the concepts of interior and exterior are diluted in a diffuse and ambiguous spatial experience.
Almost magically, a floating black metallic box breaks the symmetry in a transcendental act. Light enters through its outer face, a sheet of translucent onyx. Inside it, the Virgin of “La Carrodilla” finds shelter and protection.

CONTEXT

Sacromonte is a landscape hotel. It is a field of relational forces, of ancient intensity and new impulses that jointly create a new, unprecedented entity. Thus, nature, production, infrastructure and the palpable energy of the site configure a field of stimuli to be discovered; a field of experiences. Located in the deep countryside of southern Uruguay, the 250 acres of the Sacromonte wine estates were consciously intervened with a range of low-impact architectures that include four 60-square-meter shelters, a small reception, a 12-meter-long outdoor table, three human-scale kaleidoscopes and a wooden chapel that gives shelter to the Virgin of “La Carrodilla”, patron saint of the vineyards.
The Sacromonte chapel finds its place among vineyards, lagoons, hills and shelters. Conceived as a landscape amplifier, it blends with its surroundings taking the sensorial experience of nature to a whole new level. The chapel lands on one of the highest points in Sacromonte, on a rocky surface without productive capacities that is surrounded by vineyards. With this strategic location, the chapel offers beautiful views of the vast landscape and at the same time can be seen from afar.

PERFORMANCE

In order to have as little impact on the environment as possible, the chapel parts were prefabricated in cross-laminated timber and steel in a factory in Portugal, then transported directly to the landscape of Sacromonte to be assembled in one day. To reduce waste, the dimensions of the wooden pieces come from an optimization of the standard CLT panels and the shipping container size. Simple and austere, its design assumes the challenge of conveying a powerful message using the lowest amount of resources possible.
A set of thought-provoking contradictions and ambiguities give sense to the whole design, such as the feeling of being outside and inside at the same time. Or the juxtaposition of technology and nature in a close and synergic relationship. Or the opposite visual perceptions of the object depending on the viewing angle: flat and bold when looked at the sides, light and fragile when looked at the front. Inside, overhead light bathes the wooden planes dramatically. The framing of the landscape highlights its beauty in a gorgeous way.
Today, the chapel acts as a symbolic and iconic spot in the Sacromonte landscape, a place for gatherings, harvest ceremonies, marriage proposals, and sunrise meditations. What makes it unique is the way it coexists harmoniously with nature, letting in winds and storms. In some way, there is a reminiscence of the most primitive of architectures. One that reunites humans, landscape and matter with the eternal.