only human completes coffin-like chapel for karen people in thai village

only human completes coffin-like chapel for karen people in thai village

a coffin-like chapel


only human has completed a coffin-like chapel in sohelou village, around four hours uphill by car from the city of mae sot in thailand. the final composition takes shape as a rectangular structure topped by a roof that forms a cross. the design team decided to use the presence of a giant cross as an architectural medium that expresses one of the most important symbols in christianity. ‘the coffin-like chapel provides an experiential journey from the dark and heavy to the light and weightlessness guided by the cross as a solemn reminder to us all of the jesus’s sacrifice,’ explained the architects.


sohelou village is populated by karen people, that live almost off-grid without electricity, engaging with agriculture. the topography of the village is slightly inclined down to the forest and goes up to the mountains. on this low area of the village, the chapel sits and projects outwards the horizon. 

coffin-like chapel topped by a giant cross hovers above a hill in maesot, thailandall images by ACKI



a religious space by only human 


dubbed ‘sohelou st.marc catholic chapel’, the project by only human (see more here) is informed by the vernacular timber houses, slightly lifted off the ground in order to allow air ventilation under. generous amounts of glazing are placed at a low height letting diffused daylight and ventilation flow through the interior, all the while allowing for a clear visual connection to the exterior scenery. with this gesture, the light adopts a greater role to possibly create a state of transcendence in dialogue with the sacred.coffin-like chapel topped by a giant cross hovers above a hill in maesot, thailand


once entering the church, visitors are welcomed by mesmerizing views of endless rolling hills. the cruciform volume from outside is translated into a cross of light that slowly moves around the interior. the design team clad the exterior with steel and copper, which will age as time passes, to reflect coldness and cruelty. in contrast, the interior becomes more welcoming wrapped with reclaimed wood flooring and plywood walls. the entire volume stands on a structural concrete base made of sand and gravel collected from the river downhill by the villagers. the final construction was completed with the aid of the local builders and villagers, regardless of their religions.

only human completes coffin-like chapel for karen people in thai village


the sohelou st. marc catholic chapel recently received an award from the faith & form international award for religious art and architecture, within the ‘religious architecture: new facilities’ category of which 16 works have been selected from 92 projects around the world.


‘a stunning site, which the chapel has a symbiotic relationship too. the interiors are particularly striking, the way it admits light and creates the experience of the cross, created with light as well as shadow. the interior creates a frame for experiencing the verdant outdoor environment,’ the jury comments.


only human completes coffin-like chapel for karen people in thai village




project info:


name: sohelou st. marc catholic chapel
designer: only human

location: tak, thailand

design team: chayaluck peechapat, runn charksmithanont, artit markshom

project manager: father camille rio m.e.p.

builder: banjong nithiwangsomjit and team

completion: 2021

photography: ACKI



designboom has received this project from our ‘DIY submissionsfeature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.


edited by: christina petridou | designboom

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