'Vatican Chapels' Heading to Venice

John Hill
21. March 2018
Image: MAP Studio/ALPI

The Vatican has released some details on the inaugural Holy See pavilion at this year's Venice Architecture Biennale, which will consist of ten chapels by ten architects and a pavilion inspired by Gunnar Asplund's famous Woodland Chapel in Stockholm.

As announced in January, the Holy See pavilion will be located on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore and consist of ten chapels that will be dismantled after the six-month run of the Biennale and shipped to Catholic communities in need. The ten contributing architects are:

  • Sean Godsell, Australia
  • Carla Juaçaba, Brazil
  • Smiljan Radic, Chile
  • Francesco Cellini, Italy
  • Teronobu Fujimori, Japan
  • Javier Corvalán, Paraguay
  • Eduardo Souto de Moura, Portugal
  • Eva Prats & Ricardo Flores, Spain
  • Norman Foster, United Kingdom
  • Andrew Berman, USA
Yesterday's press conference at the Holy See press office revealed that Vatican Chapels, as the Holy See pavilion is named, will be composed of the ten chapels plus the Asplund Pavilion, which will display the drawings and model of Asplund’s Woodland Chapel and will be set up as the first encounter at the entrance of the Holy See pavilion. Francesco Dal Co, curator of Vatican Chapels, said:

With this small masterpiece Asplund defined the chapel as a place of orientation, encounter and meditation, seemingly formed by chance or natural forces inside a vast forest, seen as the physical suggestion of the labyrinthine progress of life, the wandering of humankind as a prelude to the encounter. ... In the forest where the "Asplund pavilion" and the chapels will be located there are no destinations, and the environment is simply a metaphor of the wandering of life. This metaphor, in the case of the Pavilion of the Holy See, is even more radical than the one configured by Asplund, who built his chapel amidst the trees, but inside a cemetery.

Image: MAP Studio/ALPI

The Asplund Pavilion is being designed by architects Francesco Magnani and Traudy Pelzel of MAP Studio and built by ALPI, which specializes in composite wood construction. The exterior of the small building will be covered by "an experimental material," 9,000 shingles developed by the company. In essence, the Asplund Pavilion will be a contemporary reinterpretation of the Woodland Chapel and other Scandinavian structures, readying visitors for, in Dal Co's words, the "surprising variety" of the ten chapels developed by ten architects.

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