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