RSAA develops a 771-square-meter church made of illuminated, layered slices creating a visual base to further strengthen the sense of ritual and sanctity


Cologne, Germany

German architecture and design studio RSAA has designed a church building made of uniform, illuminated layered slices that equally distribute light on the interior of the temple in Qingdao, China.

The Chamber Church by RSAA

The 771-square-meter church features a bell tower with a spire and rose window in front of the façade, creating a sculpted appearance for the church.

Aiming to create a spatial container that both respects the past and looks towards the future, the church provides a religious experience and secular touch. 

While the lower part is dedicated to an auditorium, it is divided into two parts: a semi-sunken space and a connected patio that form a connection to the surrounding landscape.

It is embedded in the mountain and connected to the square.

The Chamber Church by RSAA

“It is the hidden foundation on which the upper part of the auditorium can stand proud between the mountain and the water, reflecting the power of heaven and earth and spreading the gospel of creation,” states the studio.  

“Looking backwards, we find the archetypes of architectural associations in history.” 

“The design echoes the memories associated with them but interprets them in timeless modernity creating a sense of the future. The architecture integrates this duality in plan and section,” the firm adds.

To create this modern icon, the architects wanted to create a pure shape, that still evokes the archetype of a church. Therefore, during the design process, the team integrated different vernacular façade images of traditional churches. 

They expressed the base volume through a series of all-white slices.

The architects claim that “the created contour meets the expectation of client and visitors of the space’s first visual impression.” 

The Chamber Church by RSAA

“The sequential slices are introduced in a pure and modern way, whilst the gaps of the façade create various visual effects depending on the angle of the observer.”

Although the church seems contemporary, the derived prototype still contains the classic components associated with a church, such as a bell tower with spire and rose window, the cascading interior arches, and the Basilica layout, but the team abstracted most of the decorative elements – not out of an aversion or rebellion against ornament, but in order to reveal both the interaction of archetype and experiment and the core issue associated with it: divinity and ritual.

The Chamber Church by RSAA

“Not only in sections and elevations but also in plans, the building seeks to emulate its predecessors: the axial prolongation, the symmetrical layout, the stepped elevation, the progressive sectional rhythm, the implied basilica, these are all tributes to and an evolution from tradition,” says RSAA.

“Emphasizing the traditional roots of the building and following that layout, the principal direction of the building is strictly east-west oriented.” 

“The topography changes its height at the front edge of the building, naturally dividing the surroundings into a plaza in front and a sloping landscape with a manmade lake behind the building.”

The Chamber Church by RSAA

Exterior features in the landscape include an artificial lake to create privacy, while the open space of the plaza emphasizes the relation to the public. 

The design team closes the height difference between the building and the plaza with large water feature steps.

On the lower part, there is an auxiliary space for the main sanctuary, including the reception desk and preparation room.

The path towards the main entrance of the church leads past the southern side to the western portal.

The Chamber Church by RSAA

On the northwest, there is another entrance where a direct connection to the VIP facilities in the base exists.

As the studio explains, the rear view seeks to break the rigid impression of the building edge and forms a fluid connection to the lake. 

The team creates a cavernous space for the assembly hall thus attempting to give people a sense of peace and shelter in the form of an enclosure, just as caves once did. 

The Chamber Church by RSAA

It again provides a frame for the ritual and sacredness desired by the people holding the ceremony, thereby triggering a connection between the real and spiritual dimensions.

The interior space of the assembly hall is a soft, flowing cavity that creates an interesting detachment from the sharp geometric exterior contours. Its construction creates at the same time a cavernous space and a bright ambiance.

The Chamber Church by RSAA

The design subtracted a series of gentle curves that scale with the spatial sequence to form an introverted cavity.

Its primary layout continues the traditional Basilica form, while at the same time having a strong sense of fluidity.

The Chamber Church by RSAA

This softness contrasts with the hardness of the exterior to create a visual interaction between the interior and exterior. 

On the one hand, the spacing between the bars is reduced without increasing them, making the whole building form a box-like structure.

The Chamber Church by RSAA

The expression of the structure is alienated and dissolved in the longitudinal direction, while the spatial progression formed by the horizontal portal frame in the longitudinal direction is enhanced. 

On the other hand, the secondary beams become the backbone of the façade structure at the same time, achieving the integration of skin and structure.

The Chamber Church by RSAA
The Chamber Church by RSAA

Project: The Chamber Church 
Architects: RSAA 
Design Team: Ziyu Zhuang, Fabian Wieser, and Na Li
Lighting Design: Puri Lighting Design
Lighting Designer: Hu Fang
Photographers: RSAA 

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