Chapel Designs Around the World to Inspire
Whether you're a romantic at heart or simply love admiring incredible architecture, these five chapel designs are sure to cause butterflies.
From Antoni Gaudí's La Sagrada Família in Barcelona to Saint Basil's in Moscow, there's no denying that cathedrals are marvellous to behold. They're grand, decorative and a little intimidating to say the least. But what about the smaller places of worship whose architecture is just as majestic? With their compact surface areas, white exteriors, mixed materials and otherworldy aesthetics, these five chapel designs around the world prove that you don't need a lot of space to make a big statement.
1. Apostle Peter and St Helen the Martyr Chapel
Traditional and modern construction techniques combine in the Apostle Peter and St Helen the Martyr Chapel in Cyprus, Greece. Designed by Greek architect Michail Georgiou as an alternative to the large, often overwhelming places of worship already present in the area, this tiny chapel offers a more intimate place to connect. Its curvaceous structure is achingly contemporary, yet is also reminiscent of the rounded forms seen in local orthodox ecclesiastical architecture.
In order to achieve such a shape, Georgiou used Ferrocement – a concrete based thin-wall composite that was popular in the '60s – to construct a lightweight shell, which gives the chapel its alluring appearance. A steel frame and reinforced concrete walls support the overall architecture, while warm wooden slats soften the exterior and allow for natural light to filter through the entrance.
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2. Notre Dame du Haut
Influential French-Swiss architect Le Corbusier of Brutalist architecture fame was the mastermind behind this Roman Catholic chapel in Ronchamp, France, which dates back to 1955. Although Notre Dame du Haut was created to replace the churches that had been destroyed during World War II, it was essential for the reformists who commissioned it that its appearance was nothing like the decadent and ornamental structures of the past. As such, Le Corbusier focused on conceptualising a minimalist space with an emphasis on spacial purity, and the result is a stark white building that embraces modern design.
Thick concrete walls give the chapel its sculptural character, and the inclusion of sporadically placed windows amplify the light inside, introducing an ethereal quality that enhances the spirtual experience of those within it. While the chapel's curvaceous aesthetic is uncharacteristic of Le Corbusier's usual boxy, structured approach, its modern design makes it one of the most notable examples of his work.
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3. Bosjes Chapel
Situated in the Breede Valley in the Cape Winelands, Bosjes estate's eponymous chapel by Coetzee Steyn of Steyn Studio has recieved praise both locally and worldwide since it opened in 2017. The structure's most remarkable feature is undoubtedly its thin-cast concrete roof, whose undulating form appears to exist completely unsupported thanks to the presence of glass walls that offer unrivalled views of the landscape. In fact, the entire chapel looks as though it is floating on the water, emphasising the weightlessness of the structure.
The absence of a traditional church spire was a conscious decision by Steyn, who wanted the architecture to blend into the environment and allow visitors to marvel unhindered at its spectacular setting. Bosjes chapel's striking silhouette both reflects that of the Slanghoek and Waaihoek mountain ranges that surround it and speaks of the Cape Dutch gables found on historic buildings across the Western Cape.
4. Seashore Chapel
With its rough sun-bleached finish and secluded location on a beach in Beidaihe, China, it comes as no surprise that the inspiration behind this chapel was an abandoned, shipwrecked vessel. 'We imagine the Seashore Chapel as an old boat drifting on the ocean a long time ago,' say its creators from Beijing-based studio Vector Architects. 'The ocean receded through time and left an empty structure behind, which is still lying on the beach.' To accentuate this imagery, the staircase of the chapel is submerged in water when the tide rises, and a large sea-facing window further connects the building to the ocean beyond.
Because there is limited glass in its façade, the interior of the chapel is cool and calm, and its textured stucco walls give the impression that the building has been on the shore for many years.
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5. Imaginary Chapel
Religious divisions do not exist in this conceptual chapel by Michael Jantzen, whose award-winning work merges art, architecture, technology, innovation and sustainable design in an effort to re-invent our built environment as we know it. The proposed location for his Imaginary Chapel is New Mexico near the US capital of Sante Fe, a place that is known for its array of spiritual beliefs and practices.
Jantzen envisions a structure consisting of white-painted steel and concrete frames filled with glass, which will be repeated seven times on each side of the chapel to form geometric walls that reach for the sky. This configuration is said to symbolise openness and inclusion, reiterating the designer's desire to provide a sanctuary for all people that will promote multiculturalism and tolerance.