Interactive floor plan: Capilla del Retiro, Chile

Large stone walls in mountains
The new chapel in Santuario Santa Teresa de Los Andes, Auco, Chile
(Image credit: TBC)

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.

Large grey stone walls

The chapel is a modest square concrete structure...

(Image credit: TBC)

Wide view of the walls in front of mountains

...an arrangement of four intersecting concrete walls, raised up on blocks...

(Image credit: TBC)

Path to a tunnel under the building

...signposted by a modest cross on a pole

(Image credit: TBC)

Staircase leading underground

The worship space is accessed by ramps that take visitors underground before they emerge in the closeted warmth of the chapel

(Image credit: TBC)

High view of structure showing surrounding mountains

The chapel is set alongside Auco's Carmelite Monastery...

(Image credit: TBC)

High long shot of stone walls

...in the heart of the Valley of the Andes

(Image credit: TBC)

Glass wall next to stone walkway

The worship space is set within glass walls

(Image credit: TBC)

Seating area through glass walled corridor

The glass walls create the illusion of a room suspended in a void

(Image credit: TBC)

Wooden benches inside chapel

The building itself is a wooden box, built from recycled railway sleepers and suspended from the concrete structure above it

(Image credit: TBC)

Front view of chapel

The worship space

(Image credit: TBC)

Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture Editor at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018) and Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020).