The inverted-pyramid chapel in the Azores inspired by Scarpa’s Brion Tomb

In a small village in the Azores, the Portuguese studio Bernardo Rodrigues Architects designed a chapel that aims to be an apparatus measuring the passing of time.

Built near a cemetery in the south of Azores’ São Miguel Island, the “Chapel of Eternal Light” was commissioned by the village council to serve as a significant urban and social gesture, almost twenty years ago. Defined by studio’s founder Bernardo Rodrigues as “slow but sure”, the project’s development was partly informed by his own experiences of grief and the death of his child early on in the project.

The idea for the shape of the building, sprouts after the visit to Carlo Scarpa’s Brion Tomb, which features an altar lit by an inverted wooden pyramid. The particular shape – obtained with a concrete and steel structure – was intended to resemble a flower tilting forward towards the sun or bowing down to the village and ocean.

Its interior was designed to function as a “time apparatus”: the silver walls in fact are naturally lit by a six-meter-long skylight and a small window by the altar. While most of the building was clad in green Guatemala marble, some elements are left exposed externally and internally. The main space acts as a room for gathering around an altar, with a room for the priest and a bathroom below. The floors and furnishings – including six chairs and a custom-designed Afzelia wooden bench – are made of wood.

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