Within the confines of the old and dilapidated Imaculada Chapel in Braga, Cerejeira Fontes Architects created a small, raised wooden structure, called the Capela Cheia de Graça (Chapel Full of Grace).
The project was part of the restoration of the historic Imaculada Chapel, which was built during the World War II. Instead of renovating the entire structure, the designers inserted a new chapel as a reserved space for the inhabitants of the seminary to practice and meet. This new form marks itself distinct, primarily for its simple and intuitive architecture.
Sculpted in wood, it sits near the altar, or in the designers words, “At the entrance of the sacred space”. Its form, manifested like a forest, is composed of two sections - the trunk and the canopy.
“Its (Cheia de Graça Chapel) canopy creates a space dedicated to the inhabitants of the seminary and its trunks act as a filter between the profane space and the sacred space,” referencing a symbolic and literal cleave between the religious and secular areas that allows the visitors to “surrender to the space, surrender to the dimension of senses,” explained the design team.
The designers took advantage of the ceiling height of the Imaculada Chapel and its stone walls, leaving its existing skin untouched, to offer a sculpturesque appeal.
A concrete vault forms the ceiling of both the chapels, which seemingly appear suspended in space, connoting a defiance to its own materialism. A series of slits in the dome extends across the concrete walls to create moments of openness by filtering the sunlight in. “Because of this vault, Cheia de Graça Chapel assumes a circular form favouring the meeting, privacy and introspection for the inhabitants of the seminary,” said the designers.
The elongated form of the dome and sandwich panels on the roof allows for a superior acoustic performance. “This brings another level of spatial interpretation, allowing space to be manifested by sound, emphasising the dialogue between space and the user,” added the team. At the rear end of the chapel, a vertical marble section offset the stone wall, further connecting the physical to the spiritual.
The project creatively fulfills the needs of the seminary inhabitants by creating a ‘forest-ed’ inner sanctuary to contemplate and reflect, which further adds to the sanctity of the larger chapel.
Project DetailsName of the project: Imaculada Chapel and Cheia de Graça Chapel
Location: Braga, Portugal
Imaculada Chapel: 633,45 sqm
Cheia de Graça Chapel: 6761 sqm
Year of completion: 2017
Architect: Cerejeira Fontes Architects
Design team: António Jorge Fontes, Asbjörn Andresen, André Fontes
Contributors: António Dias, Bruno Marques, Nuno Cruz, Orlando Rodrigues, Duarte Vilaça, Cristóvão Piairo, Sónia Sousa, Mafalda Ribeiro