La Estancia Chapel

La Estancia Chapel, Cuernavaca, Mexico, BNKR Arquitectura
Project year: 2008
Address: Calle Cuauhtémoc No. 625, El Empleado, CUERNAVACA, Mexico
Latitude/Longitude: 18.945541,-99.235870

Photographs: |

La Estancia Wedding Gardens were conceived in a traditional Mexican baroque colonial style. When one of Bunker’s associates decided to marry here it was made known to the architects that the owners had been toying for some time with the idea of building a chapel in the same style as their gardens, since all previous weddings took place under a light canvas canopy roof. They found very romantic the idea of an architect designing the chapel he would marry in so the commission was granted to BNKR Arquitectura.

The client brief was pretty simple: a colonial-style closed-wall masonry chapel that blended with the surrounding architecture. This deeply troubled the architects… First of all they did not believe in styles and second, it would be a shame to close the chapel to the surrounding beautiful garden. So they decided to do the complete opposite: an open glass chapel that contrasted with its surroundings. When they finally won the clients over to their design they realized we had a big problem: the wedding was in four months!

The site for the chapel was carefully chosen within an enormous area of abundant vegetation. The architects selected a location that would not require the removal of any of the existing plants or trees, under large jacarandas which form a natural arch over the chapel and provide it with ample shade. They strived to bring about the least possible impact on the site.

BNKR Arquitectura believe Tadao Ando’s Chapel of Light is a cornerstone in the conception of modern chapels. Around the time of the commission, Steven Holl’s Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art had been recently inaugurated and they were deeply impressed by it. They wanted a Tadao Ando meets Steven Holl chapel.

A glass chapel in a warm tropical climate seems like a contradiction in terms. How could BNKR Arquitectura avoid it from becoming a GREENHOUSE? (They disapproved of the use of air conditioning given the size of the project and the environmental issues it engenders.)

The chapel was conceived as a box and compressed to form a peaked roof. Different shapes were traced on its lateral facades to form a prism which was then subtracted from the main volume. BNKR Arquitectura then wrapped the four façades with U-profiled glass. In the altar façade, a cross was subtracted from the glass veil creating a window that looks out onto the surrounding garden. When the chapel was ready to start construction it was three months to the wedding. Time was pressing on…

The morning of the wedding day the bride felt the chapel was “too empty” so she called in last-minute florists to fill the “empty space” with flowers. Our pure, abstract and minimalist space finally had its “baroque touch”.

Lesson learned:

In the end women always get what they want.

Text description provided by the architects.

Project leader: Paola Moire
Project team: Paola Moire, Ingrid Santoyo, Miguel Ángel Martínez, Diego Jasso & Guillermo Bastian
Collaborators: Jorge Arteaga
Structural engineer: Juan Felipe Heredia
MEP: Cien Acres
Construction: BNKR Arquitectura
Area: 117m²

Contributed by BNKR Arquitectura