Vatican Enters Venice's Architecture Biennale
The Vatican recently released details of the Holy See Pavilion for the 16th International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale, the Vatican’s first entry into the architecture festival under Pope Francis. The installation will consist of 10 chapels, all connected.
Meant to act as a point of entry for the rest of the exhibition—located on the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore, near Venice—the Holy See Pavilion will admit visitors into a circuit of 10 chapels, all connected. The structures are collectively known as the Vatican Chapels, with the total referencing the 10 commandments.
“A visit to the 10 Vatican Chapels is a sort of pilgrimage that is not only religious but also secular,” said Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, President, Pontifical Council for Culture. “It is a path for all who wish to rediscover beauty, silence, the interior and transcendent voice, the human fraternity of being together in the assembly of people, and the loneliness of the woodland where one can experience the rustle of nature which is like a cosmic temple.”
The first chapel, named the "Asplund Pavilion," was inspired by the Woodland Chapel, which was built by Gunnar Asplund at the Woodland Cemetery in Stockholm, in 1920.
The modern reinterpretation, designed by MAP Studio and built by ALPI, will be both timber-framed and clad with 9,000 wooden shingles, with the interior featuring drawings and documents by Asplund for the Woodland Chapel.
After the reveal of the Asplund Pavilion, architecture firm Foster + Partners released renderings for the United Kingdom’s contribution: a serpentine timber project with three sections supported by cross-shaped structural elements. Perforated vertical slats run along the exterior, allowing visitors a view of the woodland.
According to the firm, the idea for the currently unnamed chapel arose from the idea of three symbolic crosses draped with a tent-like membrane. The structure’s support stems from tensioning between different components.
"We found a green space with two mature trees beautifully framing the view of the lagoon," the firm said in a statement. "It was like a small oasis in the big garden, perfect for contemplation. Our aim is to create a small sanctuary space diffused with dappled shade and removed from the normality of passers-by, focused instead on the water and sky beyond.”
Including Foster, the architects chosen to build chapels come from around the globe "to represent this 'incarnation' of the temple in history, the dialogue with the plurality of cultures and of society, and to confirm the 'catholicity' which is the universality of the Church," according to the Vatican.
The architects, selected by Francesco Dal Co, an Italian architecture historian and curator, include: Smiljan Radic, Chile; Carla Juaçaba, Brazil; Javier Corvalán, Paraguay; Sean Godsell, Australia; Eva Prats & Ricardo Flores, Spain; Eduardo Souto de Moura, Portugal; Francesco Cellini, Italy; Norman Foster, United Kingdom; Andrew Berman, United States; and Teronobu Fujimori, Japan.
After the conclusion of the Venice Architecture Biennale—which runs May 24 through Nov. 25—the chapels will be sent to serve in areas lacking dedicated houses of worship all across the world.