Bosjes Chapel
Steyn Studio - South Africa
Drawings, plans, elevations
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Located on a historic Cape Dutch Farm in South Africa, Bosjes Chapel by Steyn Studio is a serene sculptural form that emulates surrounding mountain ranges, and pays tribute to the Cape Dutch gables that dot the rural landscapes of the Western Cape. Part of a larger masterplan to restore and rejuvenate Bosjes Farm, the chapel sits within a new vineyard and landscaped gardens alongside a new restaurant and renovated boutique guesthouse. Drawing poetic inspiration from Psalm 36:7, the crisp white form is conceived as a lightweight, and dynamic structure which appears to float within the valley. An open embrace which invites in, the chapel symbolises God’s creation within the immediate environment. Constructed from a slim concrete cast shell, the roof supports itself where each undulation meets the ground. Where each undulation rises to a peak, an expanse of glazing is adjoined centrally by a crucifix. Inside, the underside of the roof is exposed within a single volume assembly space. With a whitewashed finish, the undulations cast an array of shadows upon highly polished terrazzo floors, which dance within the volume as light levels change throughout the day. Inspired by the simplicity of the Moravian Mission Stations established in the 19th Century, the chapel lacks a spire. Instead, a landscaped plinth elevates the structure to provide subtle architectural hierarchy on the farm. A basement level is hidden out of sight within the plinth, accommodating building services and store rooms for the chapel benches. New planting including a vineyard and pomegranate orchard create a lush green oasis that helps to anchor the chapel into its surroundings on the otherwise exposed and flat site. These gardens provide a quiet and contemplative environment for visitors to enjoy. Designing the unique shotcrete roof form was a challenge; 3D CAD models were used to calculate the volume while constructing a 1:2 scale model explored structural logistics. On site, 584 bespoke prefabricated timber trusses were assembled to create the undulating curves while four hidden reinforced concrete buttresses provide stability to the ‘floating’ structure. Designing the connections between the glazed walls and undulating roof was a challenge as the glass never meets the roof at the same angle – each connection called for an entirely unique and bespoke design. All glazed elements are also orientated to limit solar gains during peak hours, an overhang in the roof provides additional solar shading and a covered entrance. With a series of deep troughs in the roof plan, rainwater accumulates and is drained into the reflection pond by a submersible pump cast into the concrete. Completed in December 2016, Bosjes Chapel provides a venue through which the rich cultural heritage of the farm can be re-discovered and a wonderful new facility for the community to enjoy for years to come.
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