30. Nov 2016

St. Bernard’s Chapel in La Playosa, Córdoba/AR

Text: Jo-Eike Vormittag

Photos: Nicolás Campodonico


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There are still some left in the world: natural, unspoilt places, somewhere between civilisation and wilderness, which are not yet affected by the powerful influence of electricity and can therefore become retreats for reflection and renunciation. Where there is no electricity, there is no electric light. And where there is no electric light, it is all down to the best light of all, natural light, to determine the course of events. This applies in a very literal sense to the tiny, newly built chapel of St. Bernard in the village of La Playosa in Argentina. It is here that the course of the sun fulfils a very special task. And the effect is impressive.

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La Playosa itself is naturally not cut off from all power and supply lines. But a little way outside the village, between a small wood and overgrown fields, architect Nicolás Campodonico has created a quiet, isolated place of worship named after the local patron saint St. Bernard to meet the needs of the “modern” churchgoer. The site was formerly occupied by a small farmhouse. This was demolished to make way for the new structure and the 100-year-old bricks used to build the chapel. From the outside the structure looks very simple and rectangular. In contrast, the architect designed the inside of the chapel as a round space. In the sun the facades stand robust, the brickwork glowing reassuringly in the warm light. This is even more evidence of this inside the building.

An upper section of the chapel is open to the sky, allowing natural light to penetrate the place of worship and pour comforting life into the minimalist interior. And this is where the course of the sun comes into play. Not only because of the natural brightness grazing the curved walls, but also because the architect had a very special idea in mind when he was designing the space. Over the course of the day, the sun casts the shadows of two poles – one mounted vertically, the other horizontally outside in front of the large opening in the upper section of the building – bringing them slowly but surely closer together until they form the shape of a cross, the only obvious religious symbol in the small church. This spectacle takes place day by day throughout the entire year.

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Die Kapelle St. Bernard lebt vom natürlichen Tageslicht. Sie wird einzig und ganz traditionell von der Sonne gespeist. Und erst durch ihr Licht – bis zwei schlichte und unscheinbare Schatten sich treffen – wird ein christliches Symbol erkennbar. Ein Gotteshaus also, das gerade durch sein Understatement besticht.


Architekt: Nicolás Campodonico


www.nicolascampodonico.com

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