Perched on a hilltop in a bucolic rural landscape in Uruguay, the Sacromonte Chapel is a minimalist, prefabricated structure designed to coexist with nature in harmony. Designed by Uruguay-and Brazil-based architecture firm MAPA, this sculptural place of worship is set on one of the highest peaks in the traditional Andalusian neighborhood Sacromonte and overlooks unobstructed, panoramic views of its surroundings. The building was mainly constructed from cross-laminated timber panels and steel and was assembled onsite in just one day.
Crafted as a “landscape amplifier,” the Sacromonte Chapel takes cues from its surroundings — a rolling landscape of vineyards, lagoons, hills and shelters — and features a relatively simple shape that complements the environment. The chapel comprises two cross-laminated timber panels — measuring nearly 20 by 30 feet in size — angled toward one another, like a pair of hands in prayer, without actually touching. The semi-enclosed structure simultaneously creates a defined interior while remaining open to the environment.
“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,” MAPA said in a project statement. “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.”
The Sacromonte Chapel was prefabricated in a factory in Portugal and then transported to the site for assembly. The architects strived to use as few resources as possible to make a simple and austere design statement. A black metal box faced with a sheet of translucent onyx punctuates one of the timber planes and houses a statue of the Virgin of “La Carrodilla.” A slender timber cross was installed in front of the chapel.
Images by Tali Kimelman