Interactive floor plan: Capilla del Retiro, Chile
Chile’s reputation as a crucible for rigorously crisp yet evocative contemporary architecture continues to swell with this new chapel in Santuario Santa Teresa de Los Andes in Auco.
Set in the heart of the Valley of the Andes, the Capilla del Retiro is set alongside Auco’s Carmelite Monastery, a red-roofed, white-walled complex that nestles on the valley floor.
The new chapel, designed by Cristian Undurraga of Undurraga Deves Arquitectos, is a modest square concrete structure, an arrangement of four intersecting concrete walls, raised up on blocks and signposted by a modest cross on a pole.
There is more than initially meets the eye. Beneath the structural grid created by the four hefty concrete walls there is a sizeable hole, roughly excavated and faced with rustic stone to create an artificial geographical feature.
The chapel itself is a wooden box, built from recycled railway sleepers and suspended from the concrete structure above it. This in turn is set within glass walls, creating the illusion of a room suspended in a void, an inversion of the traditional top-lit ecclesiastical space.
The worship space is accessed by a snaking ramp that descends from the north, taking visitors underground before they emerge in the closeted warmth of the chapel.
The absence of distant views focuses the mind, while natural light is filtered by the warmth of the surrounding stone to create a calm, life-affirming retreat in the rugged landscape.