Skewed concrete chapel balances over mountainside
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Skewed concrete chapel by EMC Arquitectura balances over a mountainside in El Salvador

This asymmetric concrete chapel by EMC Arquitectura teeters on the edge of a mountain in El Salvador (+ slideshow).

Cardedeu by EMC Arquitectura

Local studio EMC Arquitectura designed Cardedeu for a grassy plot on a mountain that runs down to the shores of the Coatepeque lake – a volcanic basin in western El Salvador.

Cardedeu by EMC Arquitectura

The chapel has two open sides, designed to take advantage of being "in such a privileged place with spectacular views".

These openings also allow constant cross-ventilation through the interior, helping visitors to cope with the tropical climate.

Cardedeu by EMC Arquitectura

Concrete frames raise the structure off the ground and support one pointed corner that hangs over the edge of the hillside. The boxy volume tapers towards the back, creating a smaller opening that serves as an entrance.

Cardedeu by EMC Arquitectura

"The chapel is intended as a landscape scene and is handled like an austere space with a single material, to highlight the lake and mountains," said the architects.

"It is like a box of extruded concrete where two covers are removed."

Cardedeu by EMC Arquitectura

One of two intersecting I-beams, which support the structure internally, is cut short to form a cross shape that sits off-centre at the front of the chapel. Rows of wooden pews face the cross, and beyond it towards a panoramic view of the landscape.

Cardedeu by EMC Arquitectura

The surface of the concrete is left exposed and is striped by the wooden timbers used as formwork.

The space within is simply furnished with rows of wooden pews, an altar and a concrete lectern.

Cardedeu by EMC Arquitectura

A cluster of stone and metal-framed buildings sit to one side of the chapel, forming an events space, a restaurant and hotel.

Timber screens and pivoting metal panels partially enclose the structures to give fragmented views of the surrounding landscape, while other sides are left entirely open to the elements.

Cardedeu by EMC Arquitectura

"The use of local materials – wood from a nearby farm and stones from the local quarry – tied the project to the materiality of the area," said the studio.

Cardedeu by EMC Arquitectura

"At the same time, the introduction of foreign materials such as concrete and steel allowed us to create structures that project over the ground and generate sensations of floating between trees or even flying over the lake."

Cardedeu by EMC Arquitectura

Snippets of scenery can be glimpsed between the walls on the journey between the blocks, but the full lake view is only revealed completely from within the chapel.

Cardedeu by EMC Arquitectura

"Circulation between the volumes composing the project is specifically fragmented with the purpose of limiting or enhancing user views along the route," said the team.

"We generated a series of different relationships between the built and the natural, dissolving in some cases the limit of the interior and exterior."

Cardedeu by EMC Arquitectura

Photography is by Tom Arban.


Project credits:

Design: Eva Hinds, with Javier Rosa
Project director: Javier Rosa
Design team: Walberto Lara, Georgina Alfaro
Visualisation: Boris García
Structural design: Vladimir Escobar
Lighting: Luis Lozoya
Landscape: Arborea – Bárbara López

Cardedeu by EMC Arquitectura
Location plan – click for larger image
Cardedeu by EMC Arquitectura
Site plan – click for larger image
Cardedeu by EMC Arquitectura
Floor plan – click for larger image
Cardedeu by EMC Arquitectura
Cross section – click for larger image
Cardedeu by EMC Arquitectura
Long section – click for larger image