Árvore da Vida Chapel

Árvore da Vida Chapel


The intervention strategy involves the insertion of a Chapel in the Santiago Seminary, in Braga. It is a loose volume in the antechamber of the Seminar which stands out for its centrality. The design of this «body» aims to make it a unique, balanced and visible structure, making it a present and exceptional piece in the building.

The design of the new volume is linked to the pre-existence, creating moments of openness and new ways of perceiving the surrounding space. This semi-compact body is distinguished from the existing one by its physiognomy, but it is complete in symbology. Throughout the analysis of the intervention area, we found data that codify the space, such as: rhythm and materiality. These data were important for the conceptual development of the Chapel.

The structure of the Chapel is handcrafted, developing in almost sculptural contours, covered by wooden slats that create moments of opening, allowing the power of light to filter from the inside to the outside and vice versa, giving greater dignity to the structural elements resulting from manual work. The benches emerge from the excavation of the walls, as if it were a cave.

The Tree of Life Chapel as a secret object and due to its scale of detail required a broad approach beyond architectural intervention. Its surrounding space and narthex were designed in an austere and monochromatic way, letting the Chapel stand out, functioning as a space that filters and directs natural light to the Chapel. In this space you can see inscriptions and symbols carefully crafted by the sculptor Asbjörn Andresen, as well as a small mural as a color note created by the painter Ilda David. Inside the Chapel, the ambo and altar – by Asbjörn Andresen – were designed as unique pieces, as well as the paintings at the entrance and behind the altar by the painter Ilda David and the pottery pieces by the artist Júlia Ramalho.

The organ inside the Chapel was built based on the Chapel’s own construction logic and integrated into its interior as a carved piece. The “larger” organ that is now found in the Church of S. Paulo in Braga was designed as an exclusive design piece assuming its fittings, the doors refer us to the confessionals found in churches, hiding the sound pipes also built in wood.

Árvore da Vida chapel won 2011 ArchDaily Building of the Year and was distinguished with a Honorable Mention in 2015 National Wooden Architecture Award.


Completed 2012
Photos: Nelson Garrido