The Chapel of St. Benedict and St. Scholastica by WTA Architecture and Design Studio is shortlisted in the World Architecture Festival 2017 under the Religion – Completed and Best Use of Color categories.
Northern Samar is one of the Philippines’ top 10 poorest provinces. About 65 percent of its population live in rural areas. With a population of 32,000, Pambujan is one such town. Moreover, it lacked a proper hospital. In 2009, the Diocese of Catarman, Northern Samar, appealed to the Benedictine Sisters of St. Scholastica’s Priory for assistance in building a mission hospital. WTA Architecture and Design Studio took on the project.
In the hospital courtyard is a small chapel for the sisters and patients. The Chapel of St. Benedict and St. Scholastica is formed by planes that come together as if they were folded in prayer. Like praying hands or a kneeling figure, this abstract form creates a mood of hope and spiritual seeking appropriate for the setting. The form is, in fact, inspired by the roofs of nearby houses making the chapel resonate with the locals and intriguing them with the unfamiliar scale.
The chapel’s roof is also its walls. Roof and walls are one, and so the structure is one continuous mass. The wall planes are made of treated abaca fibers called almacan, wrapped around a lightweight steel structure. The structure is a sculptural skeleton of relatively soaring proportions, rising to the center and tapering to four corners reaching out to the edges of the courtyard. The entry portal as well as the back of the altar are bordered by a pair of stained glass windows, creating a mirrored imagery of entry and ascension.
The Philippines is a devout Catholic country making chapels and other places for contemplation part of a person’s weekly, if not daily, routine. The Chapel of St. Benedict and St. Scholastica serves as the heart of the mission hospital compound. Around this prostrate form, the bustling activities of the hospital goes on. And as one goes through the hospital or even as one arrives, the sleek wooden cross can be seen held up high by the praying hands of the chapel.
WTA Architecture and Design Studio has two more projects shortlisted in this year’s World Architecture Festival, namely El Museo del Prado en Filipinas in the Display Category and One Valenzuela Mall in the Shopping – Completed category.