The abbey of St. Maurice was built almost 1500 years ago and is situated against a cliff on the road between Geneva and the Simplon Pass. Likely, the cliffside location was chosen because it could be defended easily against invaders. In theory, this was a good plan, but the fortification strategy was hardly a benefit for the abbey in the long run. The cliff often tumbles rocks off its precipice destroying parts of the abbey and marring the site. In 1611, a huge rock fall caused a convulsion of the abbey and then in 1942 a rock destroyed the cross-spire and portal-nave of the building.
As a way to preserve the abbey and the important archaeologic site below, Savioz Fabrizzi Architectes was tasked with creating a protective covering to hover above the space, but one that would not change the atmosphere. The cantilevered roof is suspended over the space at the height of the abbey’s clay tile roof and just around the bell tower. Anchored into the face of the cliff with three king posts, the roof is able to support 170 tons of rock. The form is composed of a metal form with translucent corrugated paneling and a metal mesh screen on which the rock sits. Sunlight filters down through the rocks and panels creating a dappled effect below. This ambient natural daylighting creates a contemplative space and a comfortable environment in which to work safe from harm.
Images ©Thomas Jantscher