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Foster+Partners' tent-like wooden chapel opened at the Vatican Pavilion in Venice

Italy Architecture News - May 30, 2018 - 03:27   7473 views

Foster+Partners' tent-like wooden chapel opened at the Vatican Pavilion in Venice

Foster+Partners' tent-like chapel welcomes its visitors with its zig-zag form blended in a wild landscape at one end of the Venetian island of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice. The Vatican Pavilion was officially opened on May 25, in the presence of Cardinale Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture. 

The Vatican, presenting the Holy See Pavilion, has participated in the Venice Architecture Biennale for the first time this year, which is curated Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara of Grafton Architects under the theme of "Freespace". The Vatican Pavilion, curated by Francesco Dal Co, presents ten selected temporary chapels, each designed by a different architect. 

Foster+Partners' tent-like wooden chapel opened at the Vatican Pavilion in Venice

Foster + Partners' wooden chapel, one of the chapels, is located in a wooded area at one end of the Venetian island of San Giorgio Maggiore. The studio's tent-like structure features three symbolic crosses set in the landscape, also supporting a tent-like membrane.  

The studio, as the design evolved, also used the crosses as a tensegrity structure of cables and masts, whilst the membrane developed into a wooden latticework attached to the structure.

Foster+Partners' tent-like wooden chapel opened at the Vatican Pavilion in Venice

"The project started with the selection of the site. On a visit to San Giorgio Maggiore, close to Palladio’s magnificent church and the Teatro Verde, I found a green space with two mature trees beautifully framing the view of the lagoon," said Norman Foster, Founder and Executive Chairman, Foster + Partners.

"It was like a small oasis in the big garden, perfect for contemplation. Our aim was to create a small space diffused with dappled shade and removed from the normality of passers-by, focussed instead on the water and sky beyond – a sanctuary," Foster added.

Foster+Partners' tent-like wooden chapel opened at the Vatican Pavilion in Venice

Built by Italian furniture company Tecno and engineered by Foster + Partners , the chapel structure is harmonised with the lightness and ethereal nature of the original concept. 

Visitors walk on a ramped steel floor structure that supports a timber deck and a tensegrity structure, which is made up of steel masts and cross arms, braced by prestressed steel cables and small inclined circular hollow sections. 

Foster+Partners' tent-like wooden chapel opened at the Vatican Pavilion in Venice

"These enable the horizontal cross-arms and vertical masts to be separated from one another while remaining structurally stable. Together, they create a roof structure capable of resisting both vertical gravity loads and lateral wind loads," explained Foster+Partners. 

"The space is enclosed by a series of thin timber slats made from larch that span from the deck to the tensegrity structure. They allow dappled light to enter the space, while providing shade and defining the chapel’s volume." 

Foster+Partners' tent-like wooden chapel opened at the Vatican Pavilion in Venice

"The connections between the timber slats and the tensegrity structure were designed to slide independently to ensure that the slats would not be overloaded when the entire structure moved under wind loads," detailed the studio.

Jasmine vines wrapping around the structure will climb onto it over time, softening its contours and releasing a gentle fragrance to enhance the sense of spiritual calm.

Foster+Partners' tent-like wooden chapel opened at the Vatican Pavilion in Venice

The 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale, curated by Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, will be on view from May 26th to November 25th, 2018 in the Giardini and the Arsenale, and around other venues in Venice.

All images courtesy of Foster+Partners

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