January 1, 2013

Contemporary Worship: Ecumenical Chapel

Bunker Arquitectura is a Mexico City-based firm founded by Esteban Suarez in 2005. “Religious buildings today are like a species in danger of extinction,” says Suarez. “Fewer new religious buildings are being built as the church loses followers.” Yes, to his surprise, the firm has completed three religious commissions in the past 4 years including, most recently, a private Ecumenical Chapel in Cuernavaca, Mexico.

When designing a chapel you have more liberty than when you design a church, says Suarez, citing two primary reasons. First, chapels are normally smaller buildings that need only accomodate a few people. Second, the ceremonies are simpler. “Normally you only require an altar and a space for seating,” he says. “Churches have a much more complex program and have to satisfy a lot of necessities.”

For the Cuernavaca commission, “We were given a lot of freedom in terms of design; we could say almost carte blanche,” says Suarez. “This has benefitted religion in the sense that people want to use the space because it visually attracts and stimulates them.They search and visit these particular spaces because of their design, not only out of [spiritual] necessity.”

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