Beijing studio Vector Architects has built a concrete chapel on a Chinese beach. The Seashore Chapel, It should be seen first and foremost as a work of art. The Vector Architects studio imagined the church as an old boat that had floated over the sea a long time ago and finally landed on this shore. The building features a steeply pitched roof, concealed stained-glass windows and a generous balcony facing the ocean.
In the coastal city of Qinhuangdáo, facing the Bohai Sea from Beidaihe Beach, stands this chapel of concrete. The 270-square-meter construction has a prominent pitched roof and is raised on columns so that it recalls a boat adrift on the sea at high tide. One enters from a wide staircase. Inside, a large horizontal opening on the facade leads to a terrace with views of the ocean. Natural light filters through narrow slits, accentuating the roughness of the white plastered walls. Besides religious ceremonias, the building is to be a venue for community events.
“The design of this chapel considers natural ventilation comprehensively. In order to maintain the uniform and continuous exterior appearance, all the windows are hidden in the gaps between the main envelope and several pieces of paralleled sliding-out walls.” – Vector Architects
“At the noon of spring, summer and fall, when the solar altitude is almost perpendicular, the light projects directly onto the wall on the north, generating a vivid lighting effect,” – said the architects.
We imagine the Seashore Chapel as an old boat drifting on the ocean long time ago. The ocean receded through time and left an empty structure behind, which is still lying on the beach.
The space is thus divided vertically. The covered outdoor space naturally becomes a resting place for people on the beach. It is also a space connecting religious space to the mundane life. When the tide rises, this space will be submerged by water. At that moment, the imagery of the drifting boat emerges out of the chapel.
The atmosphere on upper floor is intensely divine and religious. The spatial experience begins on the 30 meters path leading to the chapel. When people gradually approach, the cue emerges indicating the suspending space on the other side through the 600mm wide gap in the middle of the grand staircases. With a glimpse of ocean in distance, they walk up the stairs, go through the gate, and make a turn around the screen wall into the space with unblocking ocean view. The relationship between space and the ocean is closer due to the elevated position. The view is isolated from the beach and people, leaving the outstretched ocean the only view in sight.
There are limited openings on the chapel. The only large horizontal ocean-view window is on the east facade. Its 2.7m height helps to avoid the interruption of excessive light to the interior, and also frames the view to the ocean. A few narrow gaps in between the walls also bring in natural lighting. Lighting is carefully controlled with the 10-meter tall interior space misting diffused light. On the east facade, a triangle opening gently illuminates the cross from both bottom and up.
There is another light channel on top of the pitched roof allows the natural light streaming into the space which is a 300mm gap between the bended wall on north and the pitched roof. At the noon of spring, summer and fall, when the solar altitude is almost perpendicular, the light projects directly onto the wall on north, generating vivid lighting effect. Although the lights does not stay for long, the texture of the stucco wall is emphasized and celebrated by the light at the moment, and becomes a touchable skin. On the north side, there is a cantilevered space of meditation. The space can merely fit in one person where the walls wrap your body tightly, and one curvy wall extends the sight towards the distant ocean.
Seashore Chapel serves the resort community on its west side. It is the artificial space that is the closest to the ocean in the community. Apart from religious programs, many public and community events are planned in Seashore Chapel. Together with Seashore Library, they provide spiritual spaces at ocean front, where people can slow down their pace, experience the nature and examine their inner state.
Project name: Shanghai Tower
Location: Beidaihe New District, Qinhuangdao, Hebei, China
Coordinates: 39.653662, 119.316292
Project area: 270 sqm
Completion Year: 2015
Client / Owner / Developer: Beijing Rocfly Investment (Group) CO., LTD
- Vector Architects – Rm 208, Bldg 22, 4 North Gongrentiyuchang Rd, Chaoyang District, Beijing, 100027, China
- Dongping Sun , Yi Chi Wang, Jiahe ZhangClient
Site Architect: Dongping Sun
- Structural Engineer: Beijing Yanhuang International Architecture & Engineering Co.,Ltd.
- MEP Engineer: Beijing Yanhuang International Architecture & Engineering Co.,Ltd.
- Structural Consultant: Lixin Ji, Zhongyu Liu
Text Description: © Courtesy of Vector Architects, detail-online.com
Images: © Vector Architects, Chen Hao