WAF 2017 – Neri and Hu completed Suzhou Chapel, a feature building characterized by an white box adjacent to the waterfront of a village 70 km away from Shanghai. Around the central structure a landscape of dark grey brick walls create non-linear paths leading to the main chapel. Here, wood and concrete interiors are filled with natural light from a 12 meter high ceiling.
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“Suzhou chapel’s architectural language is derived from similar elements found elsewhere in the project, such as the undulating brick walls and floating white volume which are taken to another level of articulation.” Say Lyndon Neri and Rosanna Hu, co-founders of the Shanghai-based studio.
The project entered the 2017 World Architecture Festival awards shortlist and will compete for the World building of the Year prize in November. Dark-grey brick walls surrounding the central volume interweave with each other to create a choreographed landscape journey leading into the building itself.
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The white volume is composed of two layers. The inner layer is a simple box punctuated on all sides with scattered windows, while the outer layer is a folded and perforated metal skin, a “veil” which alternatively hides and reveals.
In the daytime, the white box emerges shimmering gently in the sunlight, subtly exposing its contents. In the night, it becomes a jewel-like beacon in the project, its various windows emitting a soft glow in all directions.
Inside the building, visitors continue on their guided journey through the pre-function area and then into the main chapel space, which features a light-filled 12m high space. “There is a seamless integration with the surrounding nature as picture windows frame various man-made and natural landscapes”. Explain at Neri and Hu.
A mezzanine level hovers overhead to accommodate extra guests, and includes a catwalk encircling the space, allowing 360 degrees of viewing angles. The mezzanine is integrated into a wood louvered cage element which wraps around the whole upper part of the room.
A grid of glowing bulb lights and delicate bronze details give a touch of opulence to the otherwise quietly monastic spaces. Custom wood furniture and crafted wood details compliment the simple material palette of gray brick, terrazzo, and concrete.
Another feature of the chapel building is a separate staircase alongside the main space, which allows visitors to gain access to the rooftop for unrivaled views across the scenic lake. Various openings along this stair ascent give unexpected views both internally and externally.
All photos by Pedro Pegenaute – Courtesy of Neri and Hu.
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