Tucked inside the mountains that surround a famous lake called Coatepeque in El Salvador, this chapel overlooks breath-taking waters with a surreal sense of form. It is built within a large open space and on site are complimentary spaces like a restaurant among others. It is a very simple form, but privileged with the spectacular views towards the lake and the highs of the mountain.
When seated inside the chapel, there is only one place you could look – the lake. And yet perhaps it feels so befitting it be so, as you connect with your religious sense, to avoid other distractions that may come from adding so much complexity in the chapel. The architects, EMC Arquitectura, insist that simplicity was the approach towards the whole project, and the chapel is representation of that, as well as a culmination towards a higher power by having it designed furthest from other spaces and with clear intention to create a relationship with the lake.
Circulation between the spaces on the site is intentionally fragmented to ensure users absorb the full scenic beauty of the mountains, lake and site itself. The architects call it a relationship between the built and the natural, and a kind of dissolving limit between the interior and exterior.
Local materials were used to develop the complex. Wood was acquired from a nearby farm while stones were dug from a quarry nearby. The goal is to ensure the materiality of the project is contextually informed. Foreign materials are not left out though, with concrete and steel being used to float the project over the ground.
The chapel exudes a particular roughness in form and materials. Its interiors have seating furniture for the congregation and an altar that appears to float towards the pool of water. Its walls are rough with the feel of concrete, and the whole project in totality appears like it is subdued so that nature in the shape of a lake and mountains can stand out. It feels like a structure floating within the trees and overlooking the lake with a strong depiction of magnificence.