Origami Chapel // St Loup // Switzerland // Local Architecture
An origami chapel for Catholic nuns has been built in the small village of St Loup in the south of Switzerland. The temporary building, by Lausanne-based Local Architecture, uses structural principles inspired by folded paper. Local won a competition to restore the nuns’ ageing 200-year old chapel in 2007, and needed to find the nuns somewhere to worship for the 18 months of building work. The architect suggested that a new intermediary structure could be more cost-effective, weather-friendly and appropriate than a marquee.
The architect approached engineers from ETH university in Zurich for help building a cheap timber structure. In a stroke of luck, the studio was put in touch with professor Yves Weinhard and Dr Hani Buri, who were researching ways to use folding to create strength and rigidity in small structures.
‘We didn’t realise what they were working on, but we saw that it was an amazing opportunity to do something totally new,’ says Local Architecture principle Antoine Robert-Grandpierre. ‘We wanted to create something religious, to produce the feeling that you have in only a chapel. This was a good opportunity.’
The wooden chapel is small, delicate and beautiful. Its 7m high timber walls fold to support the roof as it rises up to 12m over the nave. At the west end is a wall of copper-coated glass. The complex shape of the wooden panels was produced by digital laser-cutting but it was constructed by local carpenters. The chapel has been designed to be dismantled and rebuilt elsewhere at the end of its term.
The Deaconesses needed a temporary structure for their community’s religious activities during an extensive renovation of their motherhouse, and a novel method recently developed in IBois for generating architectural forms based on origami provided an ideal solution. The chapel was built in less than two months, and the entire project took less than 6 months from start to finish. The structure is both economical and ecological, because it was built using timber panels and without the need for a pre-exisiting linear framework.
The architects wanted the chapel to capture the form of a basilica with one rounded nave. In the chapel, two symmetrical, slightly bent zigzag lines define a corrugated form in plan, rising to a tip that brings to mind a small belfry. The chapel’s huge wooden panels, joined by folded metal plates, enable the structure to stay upright without a traditional linear framework. And transparent plastic panels in the gable side facades, covered with fabric, allow natural light to enter the chapel. “Working from the traditional interior of protestant churches — the variations in width and height of the nave — this project proposes a space whose horizontal and vertical dimensions vary via a series of folds that give rhythm to the interior volume,” the architects explain.
The wooden chapel is the first full-scale structure that incorporates design and structural analysis based on Weinand and Buri’s method of generating novel geometrical forms. They have created SHEL, a start-up company to further develop this unique combination of architecture and engineering.
For more pictures visit: www.localarchitecture.ch