Sayama Forest Chapel
On the boundary between the forest and cemetery Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP designed a tree shrouded chapel for offering prayer to the forest. They created a plan for the Chapel on a triangular plot of ground and surrounded it with trees through which the visitor has a glimpse of the deep forest beyond. The upper edges of the walls tilt inward to avoid tree branches and the two main pillars lean toward each other like praying hands to form a gassho‐style roof.
The Sayama Lakeside Cemetery Park, a green space with a cemetery, is located in the centre of the hilly landscape of Sayama in the Tokyo area. On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of its existence the decision was made to build a new chapel and community hall. The new chapel is located directly along the border between the cemetery and a neighbouring forest. It is open to all visitors regardless of their religious denomination.
The building unfolds in every direction as if woven into the gaps between the trees, which allows the roof structure itself to bear vertical and horizontal load without the unwelcome presence of shear wall. The highest point of the ceiling is 7.25 m. The transverse beams are fixed in place with plywood to suppress buckling and have a refined finish because they are interior elements as well as structural members.
The face‐width of pillars made of laminated Japanese larch is a scant 60 mm and joint hardware and ridge beams are concealed. As the only structural members present from ground to summit, the pillars join at the top to form a sasu‐frame that gives the gassho‐style building a sleek, modern appearance.
The floor inclines slightly towards the altar, and the joints of the floor stones run radially in lines toward a vanishing point deep in the forest. Visitors move unconsciously toward the altar and pray to the forest. When people clasp their hands to pray, a small, warm space forms between their palms. We took this small prayer‐space and embodied it in a building. It is a chapel, thus, that prays together with the visitors.
Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP:
The chapel sits on the boundary between the forest and the grave area at top of the hill road in the verdant cemetery park. We focus on creating an architecture that offers a space where people are benevolently watched by the forest, looking up the forest and remember the feeling of reverence for the departed in an eternal sleep in the forest of Sayama.
A series of 9 meters height wooden pillars with 60mm flat section is placed between the surrounding trees provides a space to pray under the forest. The forest can be seen through the window in back of the altar. People will pray to the forest and the departed while praying at the altar. A series of pillars that extends up from the ground to the sky guides the consciousness of people upwards.
The roof and walls get narrower the higher up they go, causing people to unconsciously look up toward the ceiling as they look at the pillars that blend in with one another. The shape of two pillars leaning each other reminds of the same appearance as two palms put together in prayer in Japan. The roof is covered with approximately 9,000 cast aluminum panels with the size of 35 x 50 centimeters, and 3 millimeters thick in a fish-scale pattern. Those handmade cast aluminum panels require special skills of craftsmen and show evidence of the people that worked on them.
Each panel has different texture, and they are slightly bent in order to follow the curved shape of the roof. This results in to have different expression by reflection of sunlight or aging over time. We believe the changes of expression the chapel shows over time is suitable to the surrounding verdant forest of Sayama where the departed in an eternal sleep.
Project name: Sayama Forest Chapel
Location: Sayama, Saitama, Japan
Coordinates: 35.771190, 139.423444
Structure: Timber structure
Site Area: 171 sqm
Total floor area: 114 sqm
Completion Year: November 2013
Client / Owner / Developer: Bornfuyukai Foundation
Architects: Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP – 5-25-7-2F Komazawa, Setagaya, Tokyo. Japan
Principal: Hiroshi Nakamura
Project architect: Kouhei Taniguchi
Structure design: Ove Arup & Partners Ltd.
Contractor: Shimizu Corporation
Text Description: © Courtesy of Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP
Images: © Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP, Koji Fujii / Nacasa & Partners