Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
LA ESTANCIA CHAPEL in Cuernavaca, Mexico by Bunker Arquitectura
July 6th, 2013 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: Bunker Arquitectura
La Estancia Wedding Gardens were conceived in a traditional Mexican baroque colonial style. When one of Bunker’s associates decided to marry here it was made known to us that the owners had been toying for some time with the idea of building a chapel in the same style as their gardens, since all previous weddings took place under a light canvas canopy roof. They found very romantic the idea of an architect designing the chapel he would marry in so the commission was granted to us.
The client brief was pretty simple: a colonial-style closed-wall masonry chapel that blended with the surrounding architecture. This deeply troubled us… First of all we did not believe in styles and second, it would be a shame to close the chapel to the surrounding beautiful garden. So we decided to do the complete opposite: an open glass chapel that contrasted with its surroundings. When we finally won the clients over to our design we realized we had a big problem: the wedding was in four months!
The site for the chapel was carefully chosen within an enormous area of abundant vegetation. We selected a location that would not require the removal of any of the existing plants or trees, under large jacarandas which form a natural arch over the chapel and provide it with ample shade. We strived to bring about the least possible impact on the site.
We believe Tadao Ando’s Chapel of Light is a cornerstone in the conception of modern chapels. Around the time of the commission, Steven Holl’s Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art had been recently inaugurated and we were deeply impressed by it. We wanted a Tadao Ando meets Steven Holl chapel.
A glass chapel in a warm tropical climate seems like a contradiction in terms. How could we avoid it from becoming a GREENHOUSE? (We disapproved of the use of air conditioning given the size of the project and the environmental issues it engenders)
The chapel was conceived as a box and compressed to form a peaked roof. Different shapes were traced on its lateral facades to form a prism which was then subtracted from the main volume. We then wrapped the four façades with U-profiled glass. In the altar façade, a cross was subtracted from the glass veil creating a window that looks out onto the surrounding garden. When the chapel was ready to start construction it was three months to the wedding. Time was pressing on…
The morning of the wedding day the bride felt the chapel was “too empty” so she called in last-minute florists to fill the “empty space” with flowers. Our pure, abstract and minimalist space finally had its “baroque touch”.
Lesson learned: In the end women always get what they want.
Bunker Arquitectura is a Mexico City-based architecture, urbanism and research office founded by Esteban Suarez in 2005 and partnered by his brother Sebastian Suarez. In their short career they have been able to experience and experiment architecture in the broadest scale possible: from small iconic chapels for private clients to a master plan for an entire city. Bunker has continuously attracted attention for its unconventional approach to architecture with projects such as a three-kilometer habitable bridge that unites the bay of Acapulco and an inverted skyscraper 300 meters deep in the main square of the historic center of Mexico City.
Every new project starts with a profound research of the social, political, economical, cultural and environmental factors that surround each particular site. The analysis and understanding of all this information, crossbred with Bunker´s indefatigable pursuit of innovation, yields architecture that is specific to its conditions. In this sense, no two projects ever look or feel alike. What ties them together is an evident need to constantly push the boundaries of architecture.
Besides developing projects for private clients, the government or competitions, Bunker is continuously involved in self-financed research projects that nurture the theoretical side of their practice. In this manner, the built and unbuilt projects bear the same weight in their balance. Theory and practice coexist in perfect symbiosis.
“STOP: KEEP MOVING: an oxymoronic approach to architecture” is Bunker´s first monograph. Their belief that a contradictory view of life, the human condition and architecture is central to finding architectural meaning has led them to rely on the oxymoron, opposite words or ideas that when put together reveal a new meaning, to disclose their creative processes and ingenious solutions to eccentric demands.
In an attempt to salvage the broken link between architecture and the public, this book portrays their projects through the stories of how their built works, competition proposals and projects come to life and develop, not as the usual picture-perfect coffee-table book but as a collection of failures, successes, anecdotes, and experiments. In their tireless search for questions they have come to realize that antagonistic manifestos complement each other and can coherently coexist in a congruent and inclusive statement: an architecture that stops and keeps moving at the same time.
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