Architects: e|348 Arquitectura
Location: Santa Maria da Feira, Portugal
Project year: 2009
In July 2009 a sacred architectural modernity opened its doors in Sousanil, Portugal - Canedo, Santa Maria da Feira; Capela de Santa Ana or St. Anna’s Chapel which was designed by e|348 Arquitectura. Indisputably, this bold, organic, L-shaped structure prevails in the intersection of five streets / crossroads as everything else around it devoutly respects this sacred place of ‘architectural’ worship. In January 2009, e|348 Arquitectura was commissioned the project of the chapel honoring Santa Ana, in a diminutive, triangular piece of land in Sousanil, Portugal. As the architects visited the site, they observed that the given location of the Chapel was in the intersection of five streets/crossroads, and at the bottom corner of an ascending topography. With the existing topographic conditions this was the perfect “stage” for celebrating Santa Ana’s festivities, occurring in July 26th, as locals annually celebrate.
The amphitheatrical topography of the site, allows for exterior mass celebration were everyone has optimal visibility conditions, encouraging their participation in the ceremonies. This condition was the main solution for the entire project; along with e|348 Arquitectura's goal to develop a building capable of increasing human habitat’s qualification, with efficiency and innovation. The building to be developed would materialize the edification of the bottom edge of this spontaneous sanctuary, improving the conditions for celebration along with the creation of a singular building capable of housing Santa Ana’s devotion.
Having in mind two major built references e|348 Arquitectura dynamically kicked-off in their creative design journey. The two references were the São Pedro das Águias Church is a small singular Romanic building of the XII Century, built next to the Távora River, in a granitic slope, and the Notre Damme du Haut, Le Corbusier’s building at Ronchamp. By studying closely the two examples and by enchanting the strongest characteristic from each example – i.e. in the case of São Pedro das Águias Church the dimension and the close relation to topography and its surroundings, which instructs us that spatial qualities do not depend on size, as an alternative they rely on integration ability, reacting to surroundings to generate unique and singular spaces. In the case of Notre Damme du Haut, it is the reference in twentieth-century religious architecture; we interpret it as an iconic building that spots the landscape, making use of sculptural forms, and rough materials and finishes, with well measured limitation to light entrance. Furthermore, the architects find the relationship with the exterior landscape very inspiring; mass celebrations took place outside the building, which is in fact, the main reason for the organic shape of its walls – acoustics, and sound propagation.
Given the above parameters, the triangular plot of land suggested the creation of an all white organic L-shaped building, with fenestrations and an engraved cross fenestration. The L-shaped structure which allows for the proper organization of the exterior space, and also properly arranges the interior program. Developed in one level, this varies only in height towards the altar and the head of the chapel, thus creating a ‘scenario’ to the outdoor mass celebration. This element scores the landscape, assuming it as an appropriate place of worship, creating a strong visual reference towards its surroundings. The organic L-shaped architecture is an attitude which promotes harmony between human habitation and the natural world through design approaches so sympathetic and well integrated with its site that building, furnishings, and surroundings become part of this unified, interrelated composition.
Having the main entrance oriented towards the West, upon entrance the main icon of Santa Ana is conveniently placed, creating a space for worship and devotion right upon entrance. Following is the nave, with a capacity of about 30 people, with the altar in the background. To amplify the spiritual experience, the architects have focused greatly on the play of light; like São Pedro das Águias, the space is all closed, massive ascending walls punctuated with thin fenestrations. The play of light and its intensity does not only make reference to São Pedro das Águias, but also to Notre Dame du Haut, where the distribution of the fenestration creates the correct setting, mood and ambience to elevate the follower to a state of meditation and contemplation.
The interior is designed by e|348 Arquitectura, the harmonious design with oak wooden flooring, and oak wood details, the white washed walls and reinforced concrete additions creates a contemporary feeling yet, it does not sacrifice the spiritual aspect. All the building interiors and furniture where designed by e|348 Arquitectura. Santa Ana’s chapel is the result of some people’s strong will to build a place for devotion that is able to gather together people around a place, connecting history and present, serving its religious purpose, and, most of all, serving urban enhancement and social cohesion. The architecture is undoubtedly inspired by nature and is sustainable, healthy, conserving, and diverse. It satisfies social, physical, and spiritual needs as it ‘grows out of the site’ to celebrates the spirit of youth, play and surprise.