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Sanctuary of Nature

Chapel in Rwanda

A lush natural beauty exists within the rolling Rwandan hills. The Sanctuary of Nature creates a sacred space that through focused views ties together this natural landscape and the idea of the divine. The chapel emerges out of the earth and extends up and outwards towards the surrounding landscape.

Upon entering, light, scale, and patterned walls are used to express the sacred qualities of the chapel. Tall finned walls allow light to shower the space and help to focus the gaze of the visitor towards the natural landscape beyond while welcoming those on all sides to enter the chapel. This vertical light and dancing shadows create a sense of weightlessness and spirituality within the space.

The main walls and vaulted ceilings of the space are made using local materials and labor. Adobe clay bricks, which can be made on site, are used to create the simple stacked patterns of the walls that make for such beautiful light screens. The sparse and humble materiality allude the Clarian value of simplicity.

The rising shape of the building culminating in a bell tower seeks to provide a beacon to the surrounding community and become a place of gathering. The open nature of the space invites the local communities to congregate and use the space for religious and community purposes. By focusing the gaze towards nature, the sanctuary creates a calm and quiet space of repose and healing welcoming all to seek their divine.


Designer: David Heaton

Young Architects Competition Finalist

View 1 Final small
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View 2 without nuns small
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Rwanda Drawings
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