ADRIFT BETWEEN EARTH AND SKY: A VISIT TO BOSJES CHAPEL
(3 MINUTE READ)
One of the twentieth century’s most pre-eminent architects, Mies van der Rohe once observed that “God is in the details”. His declaration is said to speak to the sanctity of creativity and of holding steadfast to a vision.
As a modernist, van der Rohe was notable for his minimalist approach; stripping architecture down to its purest fundamentals. Perhaps his expression was a reference as well, to that which lie at the core–when in the words of historian Maritz Vandenburg, “everything has been distilled to its irreducible essence”.
The essence that we can all recognize, when regarding work that moves us. Whether we’re observing art, design or architecture.
Standing in the valley of the Waaihoek mountains and glimpsing the undulating dome of the Bosjes chapel, one cannot help but feel moved in this way. Seemingly afloat on the pond before it, the rise and fall of the chalky arches, mimic the hills and valley beyond, while beckoning you into its sheltering embrace.
Designed by the London firm Steyn studios, architect Coetzee Steyn drew inspiration for his design from Psalm 36:7. The verse recounts of the refuge one finds within the wings of God.
Indeed, when viewed from across the pond, the structure appears like a winged creature, readying itself for flight.
Similar to Mies’ Barcelona Pavillion, the chapel sits atop a shallow pond. Framed within the reflective pool, the chapel seems suspended between earth and sky. Standing in the shade of its shelter, the building feels weightlessly adrift, like an elegant swan gliding effortlessly across the water.
Austere and unembellished, the rest of the building, harks back to van der Rohe’s better known sentiment of “less is more”. Perhaps in the Coetzee’s own notion of god-within-the-details, each rising peak of the undulating roof is underpinned by wooden beams that line the shape of a simple cross.
Once inside, you become enveloped by the natural landscape around you.
The building beautifully balances the inner and outer realms, with honest and neutral materials framing the magnificent valley.
The contemplative journey continues when you stroll amongst the beautiful landscape, with its indigenous flora and terraced ponds. Surrounded by the majesty of nature’s creation, one might find yourself reminded, of that which lie at the centre, of your own irreducible essence.
- Breederiver Valley, R43
- Witzenberg Municipality, South Africa