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Religious buildings: 5 modern sacred temples

February 23, 2016
religious buildings

When architecture turns towards divinity, there’s always a looming question: how can religious buildings encompass the magnanimity of a deity?

There are different answers to the question. In some quarters of the world, religious buildings took the form of lavish structures demanding believers to bow in admiration. Other sacred temples though have shed any exaggeration for humble purity, becoming places of introspection. There seems to be no definite model for creating sacred buildings.

However, modern religious buildings leave behind the old fashion domes or pointed roofs with a steeple. They can become an elegant spiral settled in oriental fields, or they can have simple horizontal lines that denote peacefulness. Hence, in today’s installment of this series we focus on modern religious buildings around the world, and perhaps try to find an answer to the looming question.

Chapel for the Deaconesses of St. Loup, Switzerland

religious buildings

The zigzagging contour of the chapel is astonishingly simple- via archdaily.com

When the deaconesses of St. Loop organised a competition to restructure the existing chapel, it was only reasonable that a temporary temple of worship for the intervening period should be build.

Local architect Danilo Mondada, presented in the summer of 2007 this amazing temporary chapel.  The contour was formed by folded laminated wood sheets, which combined in a single layer the spatial enclosure, the support walls and the interior details.

With traditional chapels architecture in mind, the winding walls where slightly curved, narrowing the space as it reaches the altar while increasing the height. The folded walls followed an asymmetrical pattern, creating various sizes in the wall segments, invigorating the facade and interior. The zigzagging walls set the St. Loop chapel among the most unique religious buildings in the world. The unconventional structure also enhance the acoustics, while the interplay of light and the folded walls creates mesmerizing light effects.

Apostle Peter and St. Helen the Martyr Chapel, Cyprus

religious buildings

A modern throwback to traditional orthodox architecture – via Charis Solomou

The beautiful chapel in Cyprus is a contemporary take of traditional orthodox ecclesiastical architecture. Hence, the little chapel has a protruding front that follows a longitudinal axis, giving it a very friendly and simplistic form. The structure is composed by a metal frame that is reinforced by concrete walls. The two elements are mended together with a unyielding shell that is totally 100 mm thin. In fact, the shell had been constructed using of cement mixture which was popular 1960s, called Ferrocement.

As for the type of the chapel, it too takes inspiration from orthodox religious buildings. It includes a Narthex, a Nave, a side Aisle, a Sanctuary and a Prosthesis. What makes this little chapel to stand out is its legible integration of tradition and modernity.

Ribbon Chapel

religious buildings

The spiral staircases are entangled in a spiritual dance- via inhabitat.com

The Ribbon Chapel in Japan has been designed to exude the pathway of experience. Two spiral staircases revolve around the temple, connecting in some points and finally meeting together at the top. This was meant to embody the life of a married couple, born in two separate paths, finding each other along the road and becoming one at the summon. Hiroshi Nakamura, the architect of the temple, has even wed his wife there.

The Ribbon Chapel is one of the first religious buildings that has used staircases as the base of a free standing structure. Perhaps, it’s even the first of its kind in any architectural form. While the twisting design is quite spectacular, the chapel offers more surprises. When the sun sits on its throne the light pours into the chapel, which turns into the color of orange.

Kärsämäki Church, Finland

religious buildings

The single clad cloak of the church gives it a simplistic sophistication- via archdaily.com

The original church in the parish of Kärsämäki, in Finland, was built in 1765. However, after its demolition in 1841, no surviving documents were left that showed how the church actually looked. Hence, when it was decided to reconstruct the church, the people behind the project build a modern temple of God using traditional 18th century techniques.

The design of the church comprises two basic segments; the core part build from logs, which is dressed by a black, tarred shingle-clad cloak. Religious buildings often shine in modesty and the Kärsämäki Church reverts in archaic simplicity to create a temple for quite introspection. A lantern skylight in the main part of the church pours in natural light, while during the night the space is lit by candle glass lanterns. The simple church has no permanent seats, while the altar is portable.

Padre Rubinos, La Coruna

religious buildings

Simplicity in all its might- via archdaily.com

In La Coruna, about a century ago, the Padre Rubinos was born to provide a shelter and asylum for those in need. Nowadays, the building has expanded to include nursery schools and house elderly. Among its many functions and sites, a small church settles within.

The simple church acquires the rigid nature of horizontal lines, as they accentuate in width to convey a restful peace. In fact, given to their association with the horizon, they represent earth bound ideas and elements. Thus, the church emerges as a serene environment, unpretentious and robust.

As it seems, sacred temples need not be jaw-dropping to emanate their embodied spirituality. Whether they are a small homage of traditional churches, or unconventionally asymmetrical, the insoluble faith can still find its peace. Religious buildings can be, after all, a place of reconciliation with oneself, rather a spectacular gesture of beliefs.

If you like our religious buildings then check our previous installment of this series with stunning nature inspired architecture.

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