Beautiful Smallness

This is an exquisite, beautiful, tiny little thing; a humble but impressive addition to an amazing alpine landscape.

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A calm, serene intervention. L: (c) Qian Lin; R: (c) Eden Seadia Twili.

Building Study 008: Oberrealta Chapel, Grisons, Switzerland, 1992. Christian Kerez.

I was fortunate to visit this building on a campervan trip with three friends between 4th and 5th year at college.

The chapel is located on the edge of an elevated meadow which overlooks the Upper Rhine Valley.  It occupies the same space as a former chapel which no longer exists – the foundation stones of which have been retained, and form the edge of the floor in the new chapel, establishing an interesting architectural dialogue with the past.

This subtle gesture of protection somehow adds gravitas to the artefact, by enclosing it so discretely and poetically.

The new ‘building’ is a simple concrete vessel, formed in one pour.  It is bereft of architectural flourishes or decorative styling.  There is a simple doorway which gives access to the space, and a sliced aperture on the opposite face.  The space enclosed within the chapel creates an intimate moment of enclosure.

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A tiny thing within a vast landscape. (c) Christian Kerez.
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The joy of doing very little; very well. (c) Dynamic Stasis.

There is an interesting juxtaposition between the diminutive scale of the building when seen against the robust, muscular materiality of the concrete.

The reductive aesthetic of the Oberrealta Chapel feels like an appropriately modest intervention within a spectacular mountainous environment; and illustrates perfectly that joyous idea of taking a little, apparently simple task; and carrying it out with delightful creativity and deft attention to detail.

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Purity in geometry and detail. L: (c) Magdalena Szczesna; R: (c) Jamie Keesling.

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