The “Sayama Forest Chapel” In Japan By “Hiroshi Nakamura” Resembles Hands Clasped In Prayer

Located in a forest just beyond a cemetery sits the Sayama Forest Chapel, a three-year-old building designed by Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP. From a bird’s eye view the chapel appears to form both a star and two hands pressed together in prayer, which is a traditional Japanese structural form called “Gassho-zukuri”.

The Sayama Forest Chapel in Japan by Hiroshi Nakamura resembles hands clasped in prayer

On the boundary between the forest and cemetery NAP Architects designed a tree shrouded chapel for offering prayer to the forest.

They created a plan for the Chapel on a triangular plot of ground and surrounded it with trees through which the visitor has a glimpse of the deep forest beyond.

The upper edges of the walls tilt inward to avoid tree branches and the two main pillars lean toward each other like praying hands to form a gassho-style roof.

The building unfolds in every direction as if woven into the gaps between the trees, which allows the roof structure itself to bear vertical and horizontal load without the unwelcome presence of shear wall.

The highest point of the ceiling is 7.25 m.

The transverse beams are fixed in place with plywood to suppress buckling and have a refined finish because they are interior elements as well as structural members.

The face-width of pillars made of laminated Japanese larch is a scant 60 mm and joint hardware and ridge beams are concealed.

The Sayama Forest Chapel in Japan by Hiroshi Nakamura resembles hands clasped in prayer

As the only structural members present from ground to summit, the pillars join at the top to form a sasu-frame that gives the gassho-style building a sleek, modern appearance.

The floor inclines slightly towards the altar, and the joints of the floor stones run radially in lines toward a vanishing point deep in the forest.

Visitors move unconsciously toward the altar and pray to the forest.

When people clasp their hands to pray, a small, warm space forms between their palms.

We took this small prayer-space and embodied it in a building.

It is a chapel, thus, that prays together with the visitors.


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