September 24, 2010

La Capilla del Retiro

September 24, 2010
 

La Capilla del Retiro is a newly constructed chapel in Auco, Chile approximately 70km north of Santiago. I recently headed up to Auco to try to catch a glimpse of this project.  The result was unfortunately not an up-close view, however I did have the chance to interview two of the nuns who use this space.

Upon arriving at the parking lot of Sanctuary of Teresa de Andes, the experience was completely different than I had imagined.  It was a Monday afternoon, and there were car attendants and I was joined by at least  a hundred other visitors who were enjoying the holiday.  (After some research I realized that Saint Teresa of the Andes is quite popular and has over 100,000 pilgrims who visit her remains each year.  The Sanctuary of Auco-Rinconada is the destination for the visitors of both young and old).

There was a very helpful visitor's desk where I inquired about La Capilla del Retiro and they gave me directions on how to get there.  La Capilla is located within the grounds, however about a 10minute walk down a dirt path.  The first building I encountered was a simple one story building that seemed to nearly be empty.  The glass doors to enter were locked however two nuns came to greet us, and then we discovered that this area was part of their monastery.  We could see La Capilla  just beyond, however we were not able to go in.  The nuns were fantastic though and were happy to answer questions about the chapel.  Their response seemed to be positive as they liked it's over all design, a simple square with no adornment except for christ at the center.  There are no windows - however there is a nice amount of indirect light that seeps into the space.  The use of recycled wood from old railway sleepers helps to deaden any noise.  Both of these elements are key to eliminating distractions and are reasons why this space works so well for the nuns who use it.  In their opinion this was a whole new concept of a chapel for prayer and they had never seen anything like it.

Since I was unable to take any exterior or interior photographs I will reference you to the architects photographs - Undurraga Deves.

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