mérida-based architecture studio cabrera arqs has realized the ‘chapel of the earth’, an underground space of faith, situated in the yucatán peninsula, mexico. without wanting to impose a religious landmark on the area, the architects have designed the chapel as an inclusive meeting point for the community, a place of reflection, silence, and prayer, in close contact with the surrounding nature.

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all images courtesy of cabrera arqs



the chapel of the earth by cabrera arqs settles on the border between a rural housing complex and a small town. the building blends within the site, disappearing from the immediate landscape, while acting as a partition element between the two developments. designed to have an intrinsic relationship with the natural environment, the chapel is ecumenical, reaching out to the whole community, which consists of members with various religious beliefs.

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upon arriving at the site, visitors initially meet a concrete structure framing a long passage on a not very steep slope. escorted by chaka trees, the path leads deep into the earth, with its exposed walls being invaded by natural textures and layers of time. once the tour is finished, the chapel welcomes guests with a concrete slab, extending from side to side, like a plane that sits on top of the stone walls. formed by semicircular vaults, the slab makes a conceptual reference to the churches and other colonial buildings of the area. the materials of the whole structure are rustic, always seeking the most punctual relationship with nature. 

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two rows of benches narrow the path to frame the main space: the altar. being the most important part of the chapel, the altar seems to be the end of a cavern with an open vault, creating a window to heaven. here, cabrera arqs has included a body of water, referring to the many cenotes that can be found in the region, thanks to the particular subsoil of the peninsula. the water element creates a more intense feeling of isolation, providing the ideal space for self-reflection and contemplation. 

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the chapel has no intent to be experienced in a pre-determined manner, it is designed to be interpreted freely by the visitor. guests are invited to observe it however they want, depending on the moment, the climate, the light, and the time. only two elements are imposed in the context: first, the ‘frame’ of the entrance that serves as a reinterpretation of the atrium, where the journey into the chapel begins and where the visitor starts to detach from the outside environment. secondly,  the ‘cross’ at ground level on the edge of the void, which reinterprets a cenote, and is pierced in precast concrete slabs that allow the chapel to be identified from afar.



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project info:

name: the chapel of the earth
architecture office: cabrera arqs / enrique cabrera arquitecto
location: yucatán, mexico


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


edited by: myrto katsikopoulou | designboom