architect: Plano Humano Arquitectos
location: Idanha-a-Nova (Portugal)
The construction of this building came from the desire to have a chapel at the National Scout’s Activities Camp (CNAE), in the municipality of Idanha a Nova, central region of Portugal, for the XXIII National Jamboree of Portuguese Catholic Scouts, which involved about 22,000 partecipants, and to join the other definitive buildings that this scouting center has.
The chosen location is privileged, a plateau area, central in the CNAE, surrounded by a rural environment, with an extraordinary panoramic view, that also impelled the design of the building.
The spacial experience begins with the access route to the chapel, a gradual passage to a more introspective environment.
This space is delimited by a wood fence, composed of spaced poles, sufficient to delimit the space, but purposely open, showing a chapel available to all who pass by.
The chapel is dedicated to the Lady of Fatima of Idanha-a-Nova and it is inspired by the scouting experience: outdoor life, camping, the tent, and by the sobriety and simplicity of buildings and lifestyle. The pointy edges of the building allude to the scout’s scarf, the symbol of vow and commitment of this movement.
The chapel was thought out as a large tent, with open doors to everyone, at all times: a constant welcoming point for shelter, contemplation and introspection. It’s very simple form, as a classical tent, is formed by a gable roof, adapted to receive all visitors. The structure approaches people in the entrance area, where the volume is lower and narrower, closer to the human scale, and stretches forward and upward, elevating the user to something higher, facing a dazzling landscape in background, that amplifies these sensations. This intimate setting is allied to the scout and Christian spirit of communion with nature.
The east / west orientation of the chapel enables the sunrise to illuminate its interior space, and the sunset to fill the place with an immensity of colors, tones and ambiences, that arouse the eye and sustain the architectural arrangement.
In fall and winter, the light emphasizes the tranquility of the place, and the unadorned symbiosis between building and landscape.
The entrance point, where the building resembles the scouts scarf, and the way it rests on the neck, is also marked by the presence of water, that is “born” here. Here emerges a watercourse, that invites to visit the chapel and Mystery that it celebrates. This course evokes the long and rich biblical and liturgical symbology.
The alignment of these liturgical elements is arranged along a path that is covered by the architectural form, which while protecting, also projects the user upwards and towards the landscape, unifying the purposes of the formal and conceptual design of the building.
The wood and zinc structure give a simple and protective external aspect to the temple, and creates a cozy interior ambience.
Inside, the covering is supported by 12 wooden beams (an allusion to the Apostles) revealing the constructive simplicity and truth.
With a total length of 12m, the structure reaches its highest point at 9m, after the Altar, where the raising of the main beam increases the space depth, and highlights this sacral point.
The chosen materials integrate the building in the surroundings, the scout practice, and in the architectural concept. Wood is a material widely used by scouts in their constructions. It is a natural and traditional material, which provides solidity and comfort. Zinc, also a traditional material, here chosen not only for its excellent qualities of tightness, but also for the feeling of protection it confers.
The altar, the fountain and the path of water are permanent elements of the building, and are made of stone, a natural and noble material.
The chair, the ambo, the support of the ceremonial candle, the base of the figure of Our Lady of Fatima and the benches of the assembly are movable. These elements are made of solid wood, worked in a simple, almost crude form, cleared of additional elements, letting function overlap decoration.
Light, an important theme in architecture and religious expression, was designed to highlight the expressiveness of all interior and exterior space. Due to its location, the artificial lighting is discreet and harmoniously distributed.
This is a spiritual place, a simple, sacred existence. It invites to reflection, in encounter with faith, while looking forward, to a higher horizon.
architect Plano Humano Arquitectos
where National Scouts Activities Camp, Idanha-a-Nova, Portugal
design team Pedro Ferreira, Helena Vieira, João Martins
engineering team Tisem (Emanuel Lopes); IdeaWood (Amilcar Rodrigues)
client Corpo Nacional de Escutas - Catholic Scout Association of Portugal
area 100 sqm
photographs João Morgado