Construction time | Íñigo García Odiaga

Capilla de San Benedicto en Sumvitg, 1988, Peter Zumthor
San Benedicto’s chapel in Sumvitg

In 1998 Peter Zumthor concluded the construction of Sogn Benedetg‘s small chapel. The Building was coming to replace the baroque church constructed in the Swiss people of Sumvitg that had been destroyed by an avalanche of snow. The original church knew of the risk to which it was exposed for what one of his buttresses had specialized himself in the shape of prow to offset the force of the fall of the snow. A parking of new construction used as artificial slide to the accumulated snow and everything was useless.

The new chapel adopts a form that remembers the pointed vertex of the original one. Zumthor constructs the form from a lemniskata and uses therefore of the mathematical function to solve the geometry of the plant and the forceful volumetry. The volume appears in the hillside with a constant coating in which the door appears as an added element, so much on the outside, like from the interior where two props cut the threshold of access preferring the structural statics to the particular detail of the access.

But in addition Peter Zumthor possesses a powerful ally to construct the building, the time. The coating of small strips of larch does not have any treatment, for what is exposed by crudeness to the climate of the Swiss mountains. The natural oxidation of the wood and the passage of time they have gone tiñendo of rusty quoits and of silver colors the whole surface but in an irregular way.

Detalle Capilla de San Benedicto en Sumvitg, 1988, Peter Zumthor
Detail San Benedicto’s Chapel in Sumvitg, 1988, Peter Zumthor

The oxidation depends on the ultraviolet beams, on the dominant winds and on the zone most exposed to the rain for what the time, slow but unstoppable construction, has gone esculpiendo a variety of tones that enrich the surface of the building, depending on the orientation. If the north is more exposed to the wind and the rain, the south it is to the erosion that provokes on the wood the Sun.

This way the aging has been creating a patina in the surrounding one that heightens the form of the chapel, his curved side remains tinted by the gradation of tone that the tejuelas of larch acquire there tinting every generatrix of the curve.

In the opposite side, on the edge they find of radical form both opposite orientations stopping there in the contrast between the pieces more and less spoilt the passed time and revealing that the time is probably the best of the builders.

Detalle Capilla de San Benedicto en Sumvitg, 1988, Peter Zumthor Fotografía Rory Hyde
Detail San Benedicto’s Chapel in Sumvitg, 1988, Peter Zumthor | Photography: Rory Hyde

Íñigo García Odiaga. Architect
San Sebastián. May 2016

Íñigo García Odiaga

Doctor Arquitecto y profesor asociado de Proyectos Arquitectónicos, ETSASS. Editor de NOMU. 1/5 del estudio de arquitectura VAUMM. Vivo en Donosti.

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