Sunset Chapel designed by BNKR Arquitectura is a beautiful 120 sqm project. It is located in Acapulco, Guerrero, Mexico. The architects had a special job this time, they had to design a wedding chapel where many couples will celebrate their first day of married couple.
Raised high above the surrounding vegetation, the stark concrete of BNKR Arquitectura’s memorial Sunset Chapel mimetically embodies the strength and solidity of the massive stones. The main window of the chapel looks towards the port city of Acapulco, once famed as a playground for America’s rich and famous but now a place of fading glitz and glamour. While there are still many beach resorts, the city is now notorious for drug related violence. The city’s change of fortune reflects the philosophy behind the Sunset Chapel: a place where endings are contemplated and the continuing glory of nature’s endless cycle of decay and renewal is celebrated.
Regular apertures in the open concrete of the walls of the chapel allow shards of light to enter the sacred space, evoking the beauty of heavenly light and transforming the planes of the walls and concrete pews of the interior with gleaming alternations of radiance and darkness. This quality is constantly changing throughout the day and at sunset the chapel becomes burnished and luminous in the fading light. The Sunset Chapel’s emphasis on light symbolically points to the eternally continuing celestial cycles – the splendour of the transition from day to night, and the turning of the year.
In this sense the Sunset Chapel is redolent with ideas of renewal and regeneration, providing a space for mourners to grieve for the passing of loved ones in a space that conjures the inextricability of life and death. The barely-there walls also mean that the building is open to the beauty of the untouched natural surroundings and seemingly the entirety of the world, inviting mourners to remember and celebrate God’s omniscient presence beyond the Sunset Chapel.
After the wedding chapel ‘La Estancia Chapel’ the ‘Sunset Chapel’ was the architects’ second religious commission with quiet a diametrically opposite purpose.
Our first religious commission was a wedding chapel conceived to celebrate the first day of a couple’s new life. Our second religious commission had a diametrically opposite purpose: to mourn the passing of loved ones. This premise was the main driving force behind the design, the two had to be complete opposites, they were natural antagonists. While the former praised life, the latter grieved death. Through this game of contrasts all the decisions were made: Glass vs. Concrete, Transparency vs. Solidity, Ethereal vs. Heavy, Classical Proportions vs. Apparent Chaos, Vulnerable vs. Indestructible, Ephemeral vs. Lasting…
This premise was the main driving force behind the design, the two had to be complete opposites, they were natural antagonists. While the former praised life, the latter grieved death. Through this game of contrasts all the decisions were made: Glass vs. Concrete, Transparency vs. Solidity, Ethereal vs. Heavy, Classical Proportions vs. Apparent Chaos, Vulnerable vs. Indestructible, Ephemeral vs. Lasting…
The client brief was pretty simple, almost naïve: First, the chapel had to take full advantage of the spectacular views. Second, the sun had to set exactly behind the altar cross (of course, this is only possible twice a year at the equinoxes). And last but not least, a section with the first phase of crypts had to be included outside and around the chapel. Metaphorically speaking, the mausoleum would be in perfect utopian synchrony with a celestial cycle of continuous renovation.
Two elements obstructed the principal views: large trees and abundant vegetation, and a behemoth of a boulder blocking the main sight of the sunset. In order to clear these obstructions (blowing up the gigantic rock was absolutely out of the question for ethical, spiritual, environmental and, yes, economical reasons) the level of the chapel had to be raised at least five meters. Since only exotic and picturesque vegetation surrounds this virgin oasis, we strived to make the least possible impact on the site, reducing the footprint of the building to nearly half the floor area of the upper level.
Acapulco’s hills are made up of huge granite rocks piled on top of each other. In a purely mimetic endeavor, we worked hard to make the chapel look like “just another” colossal boulder atop the mountain.
Project name: Sunset Chapel
Location: 34, Jacques Cousteau, Brisas del Marqués, 39887 Acapulco, Guerrero, Mexico
Coordinates: 16.815188, -99.867053
Project Area: 120 sqm
Project Year: 2011
Completion Year: 2011
Client / Owner / Developer: n/a
Architects: BNKR Arquitectura – World Trade Center Mexico Montecito 38 8th Floor Office 1 Col. Napoles 03810 Mexico City, Mexico
Partners: Esteban Suárez (Founding Partner), Sebastián Suárez
Project Architect: Mario Gottfried, Javier González & Roberto Ampudia
Project Team: Mario Gottfried, Rodrigo Gil, Roberto Ampudia, Javier González, Óscar Flores, David Sánchez, Diego Eumir, Guillermo Bastian & Adrian Aguilar
Collaborators: Jorge Arteaga y Zaida Montañana
Structural Engineers: Juan Felipe Heredia & José Ignacio Báez
Lighting: Noriega Iluminadores – Ricardo Noriega
Construction: Factor Eficiencia – Fermin Espinosa & Francisco Villeda
Text Description: © Courtesy of BNKR Arquitectura
Images: © Esteban Suárez