Dysis Chapel of Poly Shallow Sea is a collision of nature and sacred geometry

Shanghai United Design Group intentionally kept the Dysis Chapel of Poly Shallow Sea in Hainan, China, non-religious in nature, highlighting instead, enduring spirituality and romance.

by Jincy IypePublished on : Dec 02, 2021

A bold synthesis of capturing and celebrating nature and enduring spirituality, the Dysis Chapel of Poly Shallow Sea, Sanya by Shanghai United Design Group Co. Ltd re-interprets classical architectural ethos in its introspective, powerful form. Located on the south edge of mainland China, the church faces the vast South China Sea and embraces the magic of sunsets with its built skin. The architects sew into the form the sparking sea that lies less than 200 m away, the endless sky, and romantic, pink tinged sunsets, marrying the two sacred shapes of geometry – a powerful, heaven reaching triangle and the circle, symbol of eternal life and God. Erected between the boundless waters and skies, the building volume "reveals poetic expressions of time, eternity and sanctity, warmth and romance, grimness and sublimity, and creates a sense of infinity," shares Shanghai United Design Group.

Dysis Chapel of Poly Shallow Sea sews into its architecture the sky, the sea and magical sunsets | Dysis Chapel of Poly Shallow Sea by Shanghai United Design Group | STIRworld
Dysis Chapel of Poly Shallow Sea sews into its architecture the sky, the sea and magical sunsets Image: Shen Zhonghai

The studio headquartered in Shanghai employs an unadorned yet compelling triangular figure as the main body, piercing the sky as a sign of strong spirituality, as “an eternal monument between the sea and sky”. The religious architecture harnesses the sunset in its form, penetrating through a choreographed gap, as a beacon of hope, light and life. Minimised classical elements of triumphal arches form the building’s preamble, while a rotating device connected to the structure orients itself towards the position of the sun’s setting to channel it all year round, vividly implying that "the moment is eternity. It is in this way the building perfectly fulfils its functions – a chapel of love-themed cultural town to host weddings, and a popular destination for lovers," shares the design team.

The chapel seen at various times of the day | Dysis Chapel of Poly Shallow Sea by Shanghai United Design Group | STIRworld
The chapel seen at various times of the day Image: Shen Zhonghai

"The adopted architectural approaches express and strengthen the seafront site’s natural advantages, and to make the marvellous sunset view an iconic symbol of Yazhou Bay,” they continue. The contemporary architecture revels in minimalism, as a powerful catalyst bringing together romanticism and spirituality.  

Aerial view of the chapel | Dysis Chapel of Poly Shallow Sea by Shanghai United Design Group | STIRworld
Aerial view of the chapel Image: Shen Zhonghai

The chapel architecture displays a classical, symmetrical layout to emphasise human ingenuity interlaced with ritual senses. A vaulted bell tower stands at the entrance axis as preamble to the church, as a ceremonial node to the space. This along with the mysterious triangular chapel generate a mix of emotions, both solemn and wonderful, classical and modern.

The circular base references ancient architectural masterplans and city piazzas, offering visitors uninhibited vistas from the second floor of the building to the vast sea that stretches nearby, creating a clear spatial relationship to its immediate surrounding.

A vaulted bell tower stands at the entrance | Dysis Chapel of Poly Shallow Sea by Shanghai United Design Group | STIRworld
A vaulted bell tower stands at the entrance Image: Shen Zhonghai

The triangular peak is reminiscent of palaces and cathedrals as the centre of power and civilisation, a symbol of becoming closer to one’s God. “The sharp form of the triangle breaks the completeness and softness of the circle. It is like the spire of an ancient oriental tower or a gothic church, indicating people's yearning for establishing a relationship with God (sky) and thus building a connection with everything in the world,” the Chinese architects explain. A straight line deviating from the centre splits the circle into two shimmering pools of varying heights, with a curtain of water flanking the middle.

The church is articulated as a triangular body with a circular base | Dysis Chapel of Poly Shallow Sea by Shanghai United Design Group | STIRworld
The church is articulated as a triangular body with a circular base Image: Shen Zhonghai

The courtyard space with its two lofty walls and ramps generate twin paths for walking within the complex. These high walls cast looming silhouettes on these pathways, creating intangible visual accents and injecting a calming, mysterious interplay of light and shadows to further the solemn monument-like atmosphere to the space.

  • The chapel has a solemn, monument-like atmosphere | Dysis Chapel of Poly Shallow Sea by Shanghai United Design Group | STIRworld
    The chapel has a solemn, monument-like atmosphere Image: Shen Zhonghai
  • The chapel’s exterior | Dysis Chapel of Poly Shallow Sea by Shanghai United Design Group | STIRworld
    The chapel’s exterior Image: Shen Zhonghai

Ascending along the curved ramps on both sides, guests get a glimpse of the sky and the sea through the gaps of the water courtyard walls. “The scene of a water courtyard filled with light and shadows unfolds slowly on both sides, and the water curtain represents the boundary between the secular and the spiritual, light and darkness, and the known and the unknown. The gurgle of water symbolises the dialogue among time, space, and people,” says Shanghai United Design Group.

  • Water filled courtyard | Dysis Chapel of Poly Shallow Sea by Shanghai United Design Group | STIRworld
    Water filled courtyard Image: Shen Zhonghai
  • The gurgle of water symbolises the dialogue among time, space, and people | Dysis Chapel of Poly Shallow Sea by Shanghai United Design Group | STIRworld
    The gurgle of water symbolises the dialogue among time, space, and people Image: Shen Zhonghai

The interplay is utilised succinctly to endow the Dysis Chapel of Poly Shallow Sea with a distinct character, emphasising the ephemeral and continuous nature of light and shadow, and their natural interdependence. “The corridor space concealed in shadows and the symmetrical layout imbue the building with a sense of monumentality unique to classical architecture,” the Chinese designers reiterate. “Shadows become a vital element to interpret light and sacredness. Through the narrow gaps, a vast yet mysterious world of tides, sea breezes, sun, moon and stars is revealed,” they add.

The entire chapel complex essays a minimal, stripped aesthetic | Dysis Chapel of Poly Shallow Sea by Shanghai United Design Group | STIRworld
The entire chapel complex essays a minimal, stripped aesthetic Image: Shen Zhonghai
Powerful geometry is explored in the religious architecture | Dysis Chapel of Poly Shallow Sea by Shanghai United Design Group | STIRworld
Powerful geometry is explored in the religious architecture Image: Shen Zhonghai

The church's window frame mimics the T-shaped gateway at the entry, and so do the curved wall and the protruding second floors. The symbolic imagery of the cross, replicated in most church plans is intentionally avoided, to avoid association with Christianity. “Instead, we integrated references to sacredness from various cultures into the design, expecting people to resonate with the venue subconsciously,” relays the design team.

Dysis Chapel of Poly Shallow Sea illuminated at night | Dysis Chapel of Poly Shallow Sea by Shanghai United Design Group | STIRworld
Dysis Chapel of Poly Shallow Sea illuminated at night Image: Shen Zhonghai

The playful, rotating stage attached to the base enables the chapel to follow the routes of our distant star. This bridge edging away from the platform to the chapel is designed to be telescopic and movable. During a wedding ceremony, the bridge extends gradually, laying the road of happiness from the sacred chapel.

The rotating stage attached to the base follows the trajectory of the sun | Dysis Chapel of Poly Shallow Sea by Shanghai United Design Group | STIRworld
The rotating stage attached to the base follows the trajectory of the sun Image: Shen Zhonghai

Engaging the sense and healing the soul, the sacred architecture indicates pure appreciation for geometry, abstraction, romance, minimalism and above all, a relationship with nature. The built is also able to respond to one’s spiritual and philosophical pursuit for contentment via the attentively arranged symmetrical layout, the narrow passage leading up the steps, the gurgling water curtain, the tranquil pools, the lofty bell tower, the mysterious ambience, the dazzling light, set with a perpetual play of hide and seek with the vast sea and the humid sea breeze lofting by, illuminated by splendid sunsets.

  • Conceptual sketch | Dysis Chapel of Poly Shallow Sea by Shanghai United Design Group | STIRworld
    Conceptual sketch Image: © UDG
  • Exploded diagram (L); Floor plans (R) | Dysis Chapel of Poly Shallow Sea by Shanghai United Design Group | STIRworld
    Exploded diagram (L); Floor plans (R) Image: © UDG

Project Details

Name: Dysis Chapel of Poly Shallow Sea, Sanya
Location: Yazhou Bay, Yacheng District, Sanya, Hainan, China
Year of completion: 2020
Client: Poly (Hainan) Tourism Development Co., Ltd
Architecture and Design firm: Shanghai United Design Group Co. Ltd
Landscape design: GVL International Group
Interior design: ENJOY DESIGN
Curtain wall design: Guangdong Jinsheng Decoration Engineering Co., Ltd.
Lighting design: GALAXY LIGHT
Construction drawings: Guangdong Architectural & Research Institute

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