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Santa Ana Chapel

Designed by Póvoa de Varzim based practice Portuguese firm e|348 Arquitectura the chapel in Sousanil, Portugal is a physical testament honoring Santa Ana. Located on a triangular plot of land, the small chapel grows from the site like a piece of sculpture. The modern yet spiritual interior features oak wooden flooring and details, with white washed walls and reinforced fair faced concrete projections. With a capacity of about 30 people the chapel feels grander due to the play of light where the walls punctuated with thin fenestrations.

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© FG + SG


In early 2009, the office handled e | 348 architecture a chapel in honor of Santa Ana in a small triangular area in Sousanil, Santa Maria da Feira, Portugal.

In visits to the site, the architects realized that the proposed location was at the intersection of five streets and rising topography. This topographic condition was a perfect setting for the celebration of the festival of Santa Ana, which is done by locals every year, every July 26.

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The amphitheater-shaped land mass meeting allows people outside, where everyone has good visibility, achieving promote community participation in the ceremony. This was the main key to the whole project. The building seeks to realize this spontaneous sanctuary, improving the conditions for the celebration with a unique building. It is constructed almost entirely of concrete painted white – the floor beams and wooden benches are – with strategically placed holes to generate an interesting play of light inside, including the Cross main shrine.

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The main entrance faces the west, and upon entering, visitors encuentrar at first with an “ante-chapel” which exhibits an image of Santa Ana. Then takes the nave with the altar of background, it is the venue, with a capacity for 30 people. Also available is a private area, which includes a living room and a bathroom.

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© FG + SG

The Location:

Located about 20 kilometers south of Porto in the small town of Canedo with many valleys and mesas, Portuguese firm e|348 arquitectura has completed the ‘Santa Ana Chapel’ on a wedge site surrounded by a very traditional vernacular and an almost untouched natural beauty. simplicity and originality are key components to match the history and aesthetic of the landscape. An L-shape typography was chosen to leave designed space on the exterior in the form of contemporary stone steps and courtyard. the traditional masonry construction is covered in chapisco, a traditional Portuguese finish whereby a special concrete mix is skillfully applied to a wall or roof sealing any cracks in the brickwork but also giving the rounded structure a strong texture, painted white to contrast the environment.

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The site:

The project takes place on a triangular site with a unique configuration: at the centre of an ascending topography, at the crossroad of several roads from Sousanil lies the town of Santa Maria de Feira. To build something here bears the significance of marking a spot that was first carved by nature, then by centuries of man’s influence, a spot at a centre of both worlds. Still, this particular gesture is modest and natural, and the chapel is enchanting thanks to its human dimension, radiating into all possible spaces.

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Building Design:

The architects at e/348 arquitectura had two models in mind when they first formulated the vocabulary of their intended built message. The São Pedro das Águias Church, a 12th century Romanic edifice dug into a granite background from which it detaches itself visually. The relationship with the powerful volume scheme of the surroundings resulted in a subtle presence, noticeable not through size but through its capacity to fill out the landscape. The second reference is far more renowned: Notre Dame du Haut, an iconic building in the history of architecture. The essential of both models has been reiterated here in some form or other.

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The way the light sifts through the architectural space is likewise the subject of a few lengthy observations, based on hundreds of examples probably spanning all religions. It is the same instinctual principle felt in every civilization that has ever built places of worship. In the current case, this 30 seat chapel relies on punctual light accents, grafted at regular intervals on a simple, white, organic shaped volume.

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The space is perceived as ascending thanks to the stage setting the architects put forth. The access seems almost narrow compared to the highest point of the altar. The cover does not rely on the element of surprise as it does in Ronchamp, it is lean and blends simply with the lateral walls, as any other building might. Along the trail to the altar, however, the light is allowed in through gradualy wider niches. God is light, too blinding to be revealed in its full splendour.

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All the furniture pieces, flooring and most of the accents overlapped with the white background of the walls are made from basic, apparently unprocessed wooden beams. The benches where one would sit to listen to the Sunday sermon are rectangular, as is the balcony beneath the bell, linking the interior to the surrounding landscape. On the exterior, this pulpit appears as a cubic accent done in apparent concrete, opening unto the perimetral square the chapel creates.

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Without being conspicuous, without using any structural and design tricks, the Santa Ana chapel is a built testament to the locals’ strong wish to have a place of worship in their town. Through its natural use of architecture, it stands at the crossroad of tradition and the present, of divine worship and the simplest means to facilitate it, and, in these troubled times, it becomes a place for social cohesion.

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e|348 arquitectura

The land, triangular in shape, allows the creation of a building in L, typology, located in the extreme southern portion, outer space and organizes the program has correctly inside. The building is developed on one floor, varying only your right foot up towards the head of the altar and chapel.

It creates the backdrop for the outdoor mass and the entire urban environment, visually punctuating the territory, assuming, as befits a place of religious worship, as an exceptional building, creating a strong visual reference.

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The main entrance is oriented to the west. Inside is, at first, an ” ante-chapel “where the image will be exposed Santa Ana, transforming this space at the site of worship and devotion itself. Then one reaches the nave of the chapel, the place of celebration, with capacity for about 30 people, with the altar in the background. On the opposite side, a small hall and a toilet make up a small area of non-public service.

The design of outer space formalizes permanently, the proposed configuration, intuitively, by appropriating space made by the population on the day of the party and the religious ceremony. Thus, it created a forecourt access Chapel, while forming a small staircase / theater, so as to invite people to take advantage of the space and a religious experience more intensive.

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Project Data:

Project name: Santa Ana Chapel
Location: Sousanil, Santa Maria da Feira, Portugal
Coordinates: 41.018605, -8.449765
Type: Chapel
Project Year: 2009
Status: Built
Completion Year: 2009

The people:

Client / Owner / Developer: Santa Maria da Feira Municipality
Architects: e|348 arquitectura, Travessa do Cais Novo, nº9, 1º sala E, 4490-689 Póvoa de Varzim, Portugal
Text Description: © Courtesy of e|348 arquitectura, igloo
Images: © FG+SG – Fernando Guerra, Sergio Guerra, e|348 arquitectura

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Santa Ana Chapel / e|348 arquitectura
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