plano humano arquitectos sites discreet, tent-shaped chapel in portugal

plano humano arquitectos sites discreet, tent-shaped chapel in portugal

plano humano arquitectos has built a chapel at the national scout’s activities camp (CNAE), which is sited in the municipality of idanha-a-nova in portugal. the project was conceived for the 23rd national jamboree of portuguese catholic scouts, which involved about 22,000 participants. the chosen location is privileged, and is surrounded by a rural environment with extraordinary panoramic views of the landscape.


UPDATE: this project was shortlisted in the ‘religion – completed buildings’ category at the 2018 world architecture festival.

the chapel is located in idanha-a-nova
all images © joão morgado



the spacial experience begins with the access route to the chapel, a gradual passage to a more introspective environment. this area is delineated by a wooden fence — composed of spaced poles — sufficient to delimit the space, yet purposely open to exhibit the chapel in plain sight.

the spacial experience begins with the access route to the chapel



the chapel is dedicated to our lady of fatima and is inspired by the scouting experience: outdoor life, camping, the tent, and by the sobriety and simplicity of buildings and lifestyle. the pointy edges of the building allude to the scout’s scarf, the symbol of vow and commitment of this movement.

the chapel is inspired by the scouting experience



plano humano arquitectos designed the chapel as a large tent, with doors open to everyone at all times — a constant welcoming point for shelter, contemplation, and introspection. its very simple form of a classical tent, is formed by a gable roof, adapted to receive all visitors. the structure approaches people in the entrance area, where the volume is lower and narrower, closer to the human scale, and stretches forward and upward, elevating the user to something higher, facing a dazzling landscape in background, that amplifies these sensations.

the chapel has a shape of a tent



the east/west orientation of the chapel enables the sunrise to illuminate its interior space, and the sunset to fill the place with an immensity of colors, tones and ambiences, that arouse the eye and sustain the architectural arrangement. during fall and winter, the light emphasizes the tranquility of the place, and the unadorned symbiosis between building and landscape.

the sunlight illuminates the interior space



the entrance point, where the building resembles the scouts scarf, and the way it rests on the neck, is also marked by the presence of water that is ‘born’ here. here emerges a watercourse, that invites to visit the chapel and the mystery that it celebrates. this course evokes the long and rich biblical and liturgical symbology.

side view of the sacred space



the water crosses the whole space of the chapel, on a path that develops into the altar — the central place of any christian celebratory space — and then into the landscape, directing the visitor to the cross, which is outside the chapel, in the same alignment.

the chapel at dusk



the large cross, implanted at the landscape, with its imposing and yet delicate form, tapers as it gains height, and testifies the solemnity of the place. the alignment of these liturgical elements is arranged along a path that is covered by the architectural form, which while protecting, also projects the user upwards and towards the landscape, unifying the purposes of the formal and conceptual design of the building.

the pointy edges of the building allude to the scout’s scarf



the wood and zinc structure gives a simple and protective external aspect to the temple, and creates a cozy interior ambience. inside, the covering is supported by 12 wooden beams (an allusion to the apostles) revealing the constructive simplicity and truth. with a total length of 12m, the structure reaches its highest point at 9 meters, after the altar, where the raising of the main beam increases the space depth.

the chapel illuminated at night



the chosen materials integrate the building in the surroundings, the scout practice, and the architectural concept. wood is a material widely used by scouts in their constructions. it is a natural and traditional material, which provides solidity and comfort. zinc, also a traditional material, is chosen hwew not only for its excellent qualities of tightness, but also for the feeling of protection it confers. the altar, the fountain, and the path of water are permanent elements of the building, and are made of stone, a natural and noble material.

the lighting is discreet



the chair, the ambo, the support of the ceremonial candle, the base of the figure of our lady of fátima and the benches of the assembly are movable. these elements are made of solid wood, worked in a simple, almost crude form, cleared of additional elements, letting function overlap decoration.

the light highlights the expressiveness of the space



light, an important theme in architecture and religious expression, was designed to highlight the expressiveness of all interior and exterior space. due to its rural location, the chosen artificial lighting is discreet and harmoniously distributed. at night the illumination highlights and frames the building with the surrounding nature and stars above. the light comes from underneath, and projects itself in the edified set, and in the great cross, enriching ​​the dimensions of the architecture and giving it ethereal dimensions. a single point of light stands out from the rest of the illumination, and falls from the top of the structure’s shaft over the altar.

the light comes from underneath



the chapel serves the scout community, and hosts celebrations for a greater number of people. in these cases, the assembly can be in the large exterior space, leaving the celebrant facing the landscape, which transforms the whole chapel into an altar.

the interior frames views of the landscape

the stream invites passersby to visit the chapel



project info:


name: chapel of nossa senhora de fátima
location: national scouts activities camp, idanha-a-nova, portugal
architecture: plano humano arquitectos | pedro ferreira, arch. and helena vieira, arch.
design team: pedro ferreira, arch., helena vieira, arch., joão martins, arch.
engineering: tisem – emanuel lopes, eng. | ideawood – amilcar rodrigues, arch.
client: corpo nacional de escutas – catholic scout association of portugal, | board of directors, father luís marinho
main contractor: ideawood
use: religious
area: 100 sqm
project year: 2017
photography: joão morgado

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