Feldkapelle für den heiligen Bruder Klaus 02 (Bruder Klaus Field Chapel, Mechernich, Germany)
Hélène Binet, Peter Zumthor

Gelatin silver print
23⅝ x 19¹¹⁄₁₆"

Bruder Klaus Field Chapel all began as a sketch, eventually evolving to become a very elegant yet basic landmark in Germany’s natural landscape. The design was constructed by local farmers who wanted to honor their patron saint, Bruder Klaus of the 15th century.

Arguably the most interesting aspects of the church are found in the methods of construction, beginning with a wigwam made of 112 tree trunks. Upon completion of the frame, layers of concrete were poured and rammed atop the existing surface, each around 50cm thick. When the concrete of all 24 layers had set, the wooden frame was set on fire, leaving behind a hollowed blackened cavity and charred walls.

The unique roofing surface of the interior is balanced by a floor of frozen molten lead. Gaze is pulled up by way of obvious directionality, to the point where the roof is open to the sky and night stars. This controls the weather of the chapel, as rain and sunlight both penetrate the opening and create an ambience or experience very specific to the time of day and year.

On a sunny day, this oculus resembles the flare of a star that can be attributed to a reference of Brother Klaus’s vision in the womb. The very somber and reflective feelings that become inevitable in one’s encounter with the chapel make it one of the most striking pieces of religious architecture to date. With no plumbing, bathrooms, running water, electricity, and with it’s charred concrete and lead floors, the seemingly uninviting chapel remains an anticipated destination for many. —ArchDaily

For twenty years Hélène Binet has photographed contemporary architecture and co-operated world-wide with the most renowned architects such as David Chipperfield, Zaha Hadid, Coop Himmelblau, Daniel Libeskind, Sauerbruch Hutton and Peter Zumthor.

She expresses the uniqueness of architecture, lets light and shade take effect, seizes walls and openings, corners and curves, to express through the use of her camera a personal point of view.

The photographs reflect Binet’s interpretation of the building, resulting in her work separating itself from pure documentation to a work of art.

Hélène Binet has co-operated for over 10 years with Peter Zumthor and photographically recorded and also artistically interpreted all of his buildings.

Hélène Binet was born in Geneva, studied photography in Rome and lives and currently works in London. Her work has been shown in numerous solo and group exhibitions. —Dezeen

The concrete mass of Bruder Klaus can be characterized as the building of a mound, referring back to primitive construction methods.1 After finishing the formwork, the concrete was laid in twenty-four layers or lifts, each a separate pour. One lift was poured each day for twenty-four straight days, each with an approximate height of 50 centimeters [19.7 inches]. The team doing the concrete work was composed of friends and family of the client working under the leadership of several skilled craftsmen.

The technique used for this concrete work is called rammed concrete and is similar to the process used to create rammed earth structures. It results in a final product that reveals its layered nature. The striations in the concrete reflect the earth’s composition and highlight the process of construction – the individual pours made by the building team. The resulting texture is not only critical to the overall quality of the project, but a distinct departure from the texture left on the inside of the space by the log formwork. —CJS

📷 MoMA, Openhouse, CJS