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Chapel Rwanda

Konkurrenceforslag udført sammen med Åste Kristine Holtan




Open competetion about a Chapel in the hills of rural Rwanda as a centre for the local community and it's cloister neighbour as well as a destination for the pilgrimmige.


Chapel Rwanda is a modest monument, nestled by the edge of the forest. A walk from the cloister across the plain, the chapel rests in a composition of four: the pavillion, the communal surface, the bell-tower and the chapel. In relation with both the dense forest and the open plain, the chapel encloses nature’s threshold, and as a visitor you embark upon a physical as well as spiritual journey. As you move from the open plain, through the pavilion, across the communal surface and into the chapel, the surrounding vegetation changes. As the surroundings change, so does your experience of space, distance and of nature. The journey changes your point of view, observing from the “inside and out”  to “the outside and in”.

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The view of the forest line: An inner reflection of space, distance and emptiness.

As you walk past the cloister and through the site, the pavillion is the transitioning gate to the physical and spiritual journey of the architectural composition. It is the start of the end to a pilgrimage journey.

The pavilion is through its placement a landmark and a reference point from where you can observe the nature. The circular space which is defined around the pavillion, creates a feeling of openness and clarity, and let you observe from the “outside and in”. The pavilion is a reminder of the past, and a space for self-reflection. 


As you walk through the pavilion your eyes are guided towards a specific and framed view. The following walk towards the chapel is a homage to nature, as you experience whatever weather, light, temperature or situation.

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Situation plan:

Topological study of the site:

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The space for gatherings in the comfort of nature: An experience of interactions, relations, safety and joy.

 From the forest line, you find yourself in a position to observe the emptiness and openness of the plain in relation with the density and diversity of the forest. The space brings out a different feeling and you find yourself in a position to now observe from the “inside and out”.

The communal surface is situated as a element of the larger composition of the bell-tower and the chapel, and make up the celebratory space in connection with the trees. This is the meeting space for the community.  As the leaves fall or the rain splashes, this surface will in itself be a mirror of its surroundings. 

From the celebratory space outside you can look up on the facade where there is an inverted balcony with a cross column. This balcony is for smaller gatherings, reading and sunset prayers.

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Long section:

Upper level:

Ground level:

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Cross section:

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panels creating a new space:

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The space for rituals and conversations: An inner transformation in the presence of nature.

The chapel is the most important element of the composition, representing the end of the journey and the revelation of the divine.

The eucalyptus panels on the walls can be raised or lowered manually. When the panels are up, it creates a cooling atmosphere in protection from the rain or hot sun.

As the panels are lowered, they invite the sunshine, the wind, the smell and sounds of nature inside. The panels create a changing pattern.

As they are lowered entirely they rest upon each other, creating an inner roof and a smaller defined space underneath. This creates a more intimate atmosphere for the religious life, rituals and conversations.

The 14 pews represents the 14 stations of the cross, and the 15th pew placed closest to the altar represents the 15th station; the resurrection of Jesus. As there is extra space in the back and front of the church, and the main part of the chapel’s furniture is free-standing items, the chapel can seat a larger audience. 

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