Architects: Nomena Arquitectos + Ximena Alvarez
Location: Bridge to Manchay, Cieneguilla, Lima, Peru
Client: De la Piedra Family
Contractor: Americo Chavez
Structure: Luis Yeckle
Site Area: 15,000 sqm
Project Area: 85 sqm
Project Year: 2009-2010
Photographs: Ronald Harrison
The de la Piedra Chapel is located at the margin of the Lurín river and beside the Lomas de Castilla hill, in the district of Cieneguilla, east of the city of Lima.
The area is characterized for a natural context of desert vegetation, in contact with the foothills of the Andes mountain chain.
The commission was to design, within a rural lot, a private chapel for a couple who values solitude.
The placement, away from the preexisting dwelling, isolates from everyday and induces a long walk in order to reach the project. The generating line of this hike derives from a form of nature: the seashell.
This continuous spiral creates an enclosure within the vastness of the plot, and by means of reflection and surprise, values the transition from the “profane” of everyday life to a profoundly “sacred” space where verticality is the means to approach the divine.
Its orthogonal geometry allows to differentiate stages throughout the pilgrimage. The first approximation takes place in contact with nature, accompanying the river and vanishing the visual towards the valley.
Further ahead, the water appears as a purifying element, whilst allowing the confrontation with one’s self.
The patio provides the necessary pause for reflection. An enclosure is created which completes the surroundings: the height of the visual determines a new horizon, gathering nature (exterior) and architecture (interior) on a same plane.
The verticality of the interior attempts to approach the divine, underlined by a skylight which is hidden behind a suspended plane. No typological or symbolic references which manifest a religious character are deliberately used. The materials are austere and elemental in order to dissolve in the experience.
The project is solved as an abstract object, although the multiple lecture underlies in all of its components. When discovering the interior, a cross is configured on perspective between the vertical of the open door and the horizontal of the exterior bench. The altar has a dual function: on the inside for individual meditation and on the outside for mass ceremonies.
Searching for a correct human proportion, a module (modulor) is used as a starting point. Such is the case of the internal space with its three differentiated heights. The first (1.83m) relates to men. The second (2.26m) to its aspiration and spirituality. And the third (2.26m) to the divine and unattainable. The presence of the constellation solves the natural ventilation of the tower, becoming manifest from the inside out during the day and from the outside in during the night.