By Beverly Pereira
Photography: Koji Fujii/ Nacasa& Partners Inc; courtesy the architect
A wedding chapel in Japan borrows its name from a pair of seemingly entwined spiral staircases...
Tokyo-based architect Hiroshi Nakamura has designed a wedding chapel located midway on a hill in the garden of the Bella Vista Sakaigahama resort in Onomichi, Hiroshima.
The 80 sq. m. chapel mirrors the act of marriage both architecturally and metaphorically. Like the twists and turns of life, the self-standing outer and inner staircases undulate before they unite at 15.4 m. to form a single ribbon. They also allow the bride and groom to take their own path and to descend as one, symbolising a traditional wedding ceremony.
On ascending, sceneries of the ocean, mountains, sky and distant islands successively appear and disappear. At the core of the spiral’s movement is a chapel aisle that stands before a tree, while 80 seats for family and friends look out on to the ocean through the trees.
The team responded to the visual barrier of 10-m high trees on site by extending the chapel’s form to rest at a point higher than the trees. Intermediate posts of solid steel, with a 100-mm diameter, solely support the inner spiral, while an overhang joins the two spirals. The entwined staircases act as roofs, eaves, walls and floors, widening in breath in response to location and function, such as at the summit and in places, where eaves needed to be deep to shield the interior from the sun.
The chapel’s high ceiling promotes natural ventilation, besides forming an observation deck that commands stunning views. Besides a skylight, glass windowpanes of varied thickness, shape and height, are held with dot-point glazing arms attached to the inner side of the coping.
The exterior is finished in upright wood panels, painted white so as to gracefully age with the passage of time. Titanium zinc alloy, resistant to the wear and tear of sea breeze and pliable enough to be applied to curvatures, is employed on the coping, walls, ceiling and window sashes.
The dual spiral structure of this delicate yet bold glazed chapel not only reflects the symbolism of marriage, but also promotes stability. A single staircase, according to the architects, would have been unsteady in a horizontal plane, while it could have been prone to vibration vertically.