Desolate Simplicity - Bruder Klaus Feldkapelle (Chapel) Machernich - Germany  Sept.2019


IRising from the fertile ground of the hanging gardens in Machernich, 50 kilometers southwest of Cologne, constructed Bruder Klaus Field Chapel is quite special. Designed by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor, the chapel was built in memory of "Brother Klaus" by Hermann Josef Scheidtweiler, who lives and works with agriculture in the area. "Brother Klaus", a monk who lived in the 15th century, was also considered the patron saint of Switzerland. The building is in the form of the tower where Brother Klaus, when he was young, intended to live in one day and thus enter the service of the god.
Scheidtweiler has built such a building that it will attract not only Catholic travelers but also architects and architecture students as much as they do. If Zumthor's buildings keep the visitors quiet, even for a short time, one of his goals would be fulfilled.
In front of us is a building made of concrete, burnt wood, and lead, consisting of only one room, the roof of which does not protect the interior from the rain. No electricity, water, plumbing, toilet, wind turbine, solar panels, ventilation, pictures hanging on the walls. It has no clear or defined comfort creative element. However, it is quite challenging and very beautiful nonetheless.
Zumthor's chapel is a modern rethinking of the saint's chapel and cell. The chapel takes the form of a simple, handcrafted, 12-meter-high concrete tower.
The roof opens to the sky and to the stars at night. Rain and sunlight filter through this tiny window, creating shadows and a bright atmosphere. Being alone here brings one closer to the life of the Swiss saint.
For construction, a tent-shaped structure was originally built from 112 spruce trunks. In accordance with the ancient craft tradition of the region, in layers from 50 cm to 12 meters high, the chapel body of compacted concrete was built around this inner construction, which was layered in 24 days by a volunteer compaction team together with skilled craftsmen. In the fall of 2006, fires were lit indoors for three weeks, which allowed the tree trunks to dry and separated them from the concrete so they could be easily removed.
The floor looks like a frozen pool thanks to the molten lead coating. 350 hand-blown glass plugs closed the openings needed to connect the exterior to the interior wood formwork when the concrete is poured. The result is a windowless tower with a minimalist block-like exterior and a pentagonal floor plan. Its interior resembles a cave, the walls clearly show the structure of spruce trunks. There is no electricity or plumbing. Due to the limited space, it is a place for personal meditation, not for church services. The chapel has no altar. On the wall is a cast brass wheel mark corresponding to the meditation mark at Brother Klaus' hermitage. On the floor is a bronze stele designed by Swiss sculptor Hans Josephsohn with a figure of Brother Klaus, inside which is a relic of the saint.