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RWA | Rwanda Chapel

YAC Competition


whit Domenico Falci Architetto

1) A building as a landmark

The new Chapel is designed with an iconic shape very strong, slender, and strongly recognizable from afar, within a landscape characterized by hills and cultivated areas: This is a peak on a naturally uneven skyline with soft lines.

This is conceived as an open, spiritual, and welcoming place, capable of hosting the faithful and all those who seek adequate shelter, protection, and comfort.


2) The sacredness: a central plan.

The plant of the new Chapel is a central and circular plan: the idea is to create a place where the Catholic rite and its celebration are placed at the center of the scene.

The altar is central, positioned on a raised platform with respect to the entire classroom which has a sloping section, and therefore welcomes the faithful on seats consisting of concentric rings that descend downwards.

There are no privileged places and each faithful can attend the ceremony on an equal footing with all the faithful present in the room: the circle is the most democratic geometric figure since all the points present are equidistant from a single center, and therefore social equality is symbolized and made tangible through an absolutely circular plant.

The altar, the ambo, and the seat of the celebrant are located in the center of the scene, in a way center of gravity, while in the rear area, separated by a wall, is located a more technical area dedicated to the sacristy.

The bell (not the bell tower) is located in the area of the main entrance, above the reception area that separates the churchyard from the interior space. In the external area, near the Chapel, there is a high crucifix with a slender and slender shape.

3) Verticality: a slender roof

The interior place is entirely covered and surmounted by a cover with an extremely vertical geometry: it emphasizes the sacredness of the rite through the place, creating an iconic and surprising geometry. The triangle (symbolizing the Catholic trinity) becomes a cone, which stretches towards the sky deforming and bending slightly in search of the sun. The spiritual ascension takes on its theatricality and dimension in the slender and sinuous forms of the roof, supported by slender pillars that create an internal structural interweaving: a series of puncture holes and the” oculus” present on the summit allow the light to enter in a punctual and dramatic way.

4) A theatrical space: light and structures

The entire roof is lifted from the ground so creating a continuous fissure of light and air, also allowing access to the faithful along much of the perimeter.

The entrance is the zone of passage between the external forecourt and the classroom and is evidenced through the deformation of the roof, such as to identify an area of greater acceptance: the opening towards the outside world becomes wider, bright, and aerated, and the area of the appeal of the faithful is characterized by the presence of the bell supported by the structural elements present.

The area of the churchyard is free and there is a sinuous and continuous line of seats that surrounds the perimeter of the plant.

The main structure of the Chapel is made with a very visible and scenic structure: the faithful live in the interior space, moving inside a castle of structures to be discovered.

5) Tradition and innovation: materials

We propose local materials and traditional construction techniques, mixed with contemporary solutions: the use of blocks in raw earth with regard to the continuous surfaces of the roof, bamboo and wood for secondary structures, and reinforced concrete for the pillars of the supporting structure. In addition, there is the possibility of using straw bundles to further cover the cover in order to preserve its durability.

The result is unusual in the realization of such slender geometry: there are formal references to the tradition and culture of the Rwandan people, which we find in the overall shape of the building (wicker baskets)or in some details such as its holes or the entrance area, typical of local constructive cultures.

6) The energy aspects

It privileges itself in a passive energy system, in which the shape of the building and its material conformation determines the climate well-being within it:

in the presence of at least 100 people present during the celebration of the rite the building functions like a large fireplace, able to guarantee a natural air change through a central upward current; Moreover, the raw earth that makes up the volume of the roof ensures an adequate level of thermal inertia that does not cause the inner space to overheat.

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