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Wooden chapel John Pawson & Dinesen

Published 14 / 03 / 2019

John Pawson, known for his minimalist aesthetic, recently unveiled a project for the Siegfried and Elfriede Denzel Foundation, showcasing wood and its different characteristics through 61 Douglas fir logs.

The logs for the chapel were carefully selected by Danish flooring company Dinesen, who worked closely with six local forest owners as well as Gumpp & Maier who were responsible for building the chapel. John Pawson worked on this project with Dinesen to explore the qualities and characteristics of the material. The Douglas fir lends a warm, tactile quality to the interior, while the rugged, raw exterior of the chapel will continue to evolve and endure over time, becoming part of the forest it inhabits. .

Situated on the hillside on the edge of the forest with stunning views of the landscape and a clear line of sight to the steeple of the village of Unterliezheim, John Pawson's intention was for people to encounter the chapel as an object found, rather than as a work of conventional architecture. In some perspectives, its mass appears in the form of a pile of stacked logs, in others, the placement of the elements on a concrete plinth creates an impression of a sculpture emerging from the forest.

Visitors then enter the chapel through a narrow opening that leads to a dark room seven meters high and nine meters long. The space maintains the feeling of physical proximity to the elements. The brightness of the interior draws attention to a cross-shaped opening at one end of the volume. Along one of the walls, a bench offers a view of a small window that frames the landscape, inviting you to take a break. At roof level, a narrow beam of light enters through a small opening.

Because only one material predominates, it is then possible to inhabit it in an immersive way: to the touch, to the sight, to the smell and even to the sound, because the character of a surface influences the acoustics.

“For me, a special commission is a commission which offers the possibility of truly testing thought, in terms of space and materials, in the purest and most intense way. When I got the invitation to design a chapel on the edge of the forest, I was sure it was such a project, and it turned out. John Pawson explains.