Forest-like wooden structure stands tall inside Imaculada Chapel in Braga
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Forest-like wooden structure stands tall inside Imaculada Chapel in Braga

Cerejeira Fontes Architects constructed Cheia de Graça Chapel - a tree inspired structure - within an old, existing chapel, in the Braga district of Portugal.

by Jincy Iype Jul 31, 2019

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.

Cheia de Graça Chapel, within the Imaculada Chapel| Chapel Cheia De Graça| Cerejeira Fontes Architects| STIR
Cheia de Graça Chapel, within the Imaculada Chapel Image Credit: Nelson Garrido

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.

  • A secluded wooden sanctuary, Cheia de Graça Chapel| Chapel Cheia De Graça| Cerejeira Fontes Architects| STIR
    A secluded wooden sanctuary, Cheia de Graça Chapel Image Credit: Nelson Garrido
  • Cheia de Graça Chapel provides seminarians a private space | Chapel Cheia De Graça| Cerejeira Fontes Architects| STIR
    Cheia de Graça Chapel provides seminarians a private space Image Credit: Nelson Garrido

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.

Staircase leading to the exclusive canopy | Chapel Cheia De Graça| Cerejeira Fontes Architects| STIR
Staircase leading to the exclusive canopy Image Credit: Nelson Garrido
A marble slit at Cheia de Graça Chapel’s background | Chapel Cheia De Graça| Cerejeira Fontes Architects| STIR
A marble slit at Cheia de Graça Chapel’s background Image Credit: Nelson Garrido

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.

  • Location map - Immaculate Chapel, Braga| Chapel Cheia De Graça| Cerejeira Fontes Architects| STIR
    Location map - Immaculate Chapel, Braga Image Credit: Courtesy of Cerejeira Fontes Architects
  • Ground Floor Plan - Immaculate Chapel, Braga | Chapel Cheia De Graça| Cerejeira Fontes Architects| STIR
    Ground Floor Plan - Immaculate Chapel, Braga Image Credit: Courtesy of Cerejeira Fontes Architects
  • First Floor Plan - Immaculate Chapel, Braga| Chapel Cheia De Graça| Cerejeira Fontes Architects| STIR
    First Floor Plan - Immaculate Chapel, Braga Image Credit: Courtesy of Cerejeira Fontes Architects
  • Longitudinal Section - Immaculate Chapel, Braga| Chapel Cheia De Graça| Cerejeira Fontes Architects| STIR
    Longitudinal Section - Immaculate Chapel, Braga Image Credit: Courtesy of Cerejeira Fontes Architects
  • Cross Section - Immaculate Chapel, Braga| Chapel Cheia De Graça| Cerejeira Fontes Architects| STIR
    Cross Section - Immaculate Chapel, Braga Image Credit: Courtesy of Cerejeira Fontes Architects
  • Cheia de Graça Chapel, axonometrics| Chapel Cheia De Graça| Cerejeira Fontes Architects| STIR
    Cheia de Graça Chapel, axonometrics Image Credit: Courtesy of Cerejeira Fontes Architects

Project Details

Name of the project: Imaculada Chapel and Cheia de Graça Chapel
Location: Braga, Portugal
Area:
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

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About Author

Jincy Iype

Jincy Iype

Iype is a trained architect, who often indulges in writing and amateur photography. She was a cinephile and a melophile even before she knew what those words meant. She is inclined towards architecture journalism, and can usually be found curled up reading a book, or cooking for therapeutic relief.

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