Kieran Donnellan works with students to build tiny clifftop chapel in Lebanon

Irish architect Kieran Donnellan and a team of students have built a non-denominational chapel on a clifftop near the 12th-century Byblos Castle in Lebanon.

Sliding Chapel is the result of this year’s Meetings of Design Students (MEDS), an annual international workshop that takes place in a different country every time.

Sliding Chapel by Kieran Donnellan and MEDS

Designed by Donnellan, the simple structure was constructed by participants at the design festival over the course of two weeks. It is intended as a non-denominational place of reflection with views of the Mediterranean Sea.

“The chapel is for anyone who wants to take a few minutes to stop and think during their visit to the vast complex of the Byblos Citadel, Donnellan told Dezeen. “It offers a great place to rest since it points forwards a strong sea breeze.”

“Making it non-denominational was important,” he continued. “This neutrality was essential due to the wide range of cultural influences on Byblos’ history.”

Sliding Chapel by Kieran Donnellan and MEDS

According to Donnellan, the building is designed to appear as if it is slipping down the side of the cliff into the sea below.

“The angle of the roof is chosen to match that of the slope on which the pavilion sits,” he said. “This is what gives the building the eccentric appearance of being both anchored and sliding at the same time.”

Sliding Chapel by Kieran Donnellan and MEDS

The pavilion is constructed from up-cycled timber shipping boxes that were charred using the traditional Japanese shou-sugi-ban technique.

This method involved tying three boards, which were up to four metres long, together to form a chimney and setting a fire at the base.

Sliding Chapel by Kieran Donnellan and MEDS

Inside the simple chapel, a recessed seat allows visitors to sit, reflect and take in views of the Mediterranean through a lowered window. As the pavilion directly faces the sea, a constant breeze keeps the interior cool.

“Internally, the slope of the ceiling encourages visitors to take a seat by creating a sense of compression in section as they approach,” said Donnellan.

“In plan, the tapering defines an intimate entrance on one side and then expands to create an inviting view on the other.”

Sliding Chapel by Kieran Donnellan and MEDS

MEDs students led by Donnellan have previously designed a chapel at an architecture workshop in Ljubljana and another by the sea in Istanbul.

Project credits:

Pavilion architect: Kieran Donnellan.
MEDS workshop co-ordinator: Samer Hayek.
Participants: Alberto Ibanes, Amber Goveas, Cynthia Antablian, Faustus Lasys, Gregorio Tomasillo, Hadir Hanna Mahmoud, Hassan Debes, Ioanna Maria Vemou, Magdalena Storozenko, Matthias Brenner, Rabia Hant, Roisin Leavey, Shpat Ademaj, Shqiprron Jusufi.

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