Architects in ChargeCaroline Leloup Szalkowski, Katarina Dubravcova Malingrey
Text description provided by the architects. At the heart of the Natural Park of Lorraine, the Sainte-Genevieve chapel can be found through the hiking trails near riverside of Meuse, a natural site where the forest remains as the aesthetic environment.
The project aims to provide a shelter for hikers as well as a trendy spot for summer events organized by the municipality of Saint-Maurice in the Côtes.
The main design purpose is to amend/sharpen/upgrade rather than drastically transform the chapel in its natural environment, so the place re-discovers its soul. The other design purpose is to give an opportunity for providing various activities within the closed & sheltered spaces. Exhibitions, reading, performance, or just simply refuge opened to hikers to provide temporary shelter, which the chapel can easily adapt on the demand.
The design intends to maintain the profile of the chapel and extend out its shape through multiplication of the simple wooden frame. Comprehended as a "box in box", it consists of fine wooden frames, pre-fabricated, constructed from environmental friendly local materials.
Cleared of unnecessary additional elements, the chapel retains its original aspect and recognizable shape. This is strengthened by extending the framed wooden structure beyond the original sacred space, inter-connecting with the natural wooden environment - the forest around.
The idea is to replace the existing structure (damaged by fire) with a new dense and repetitive wooden frame. This was a great base which easily adapted itself to each module and its purpose. The rhythm of the interior wooden frames is shown by large battens covering the roof.
The internal form of an ancient rendered arc was created by adding further intensity by crossing fine beams, imposing a strong visual perspective and excellent acoustic conditions. The original stone and brick walls were retained and renovated.
The chosen materials, their scale and density, integrate very easily into the forest. The large beams imitate the branches of trees whilst contrasting with their regularity. The copper membrane becomes grey with time and slowly disappears next to the glazed and coloured part of the altar, which becomes the focal point of the frame.
Raised in the forest, the chapel is a cocoon where you escape the hiking trail. Travelling back to childhood, when we had the feeling of a simple and ultimate being. A calm place of observation and meditation, the chapel offers this piece of simple being and poetic aesthetics whilst set in the natural landscape.