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The Chapel of Silence, Botticino Classico Marble in contemporary Architecture

La Cappella del Silenzio, esempio di Botticino Classico in architettura contemporanea

The Chapel of Silence is an architectural work designed and built by Studio Associates founded by young Architects Nicolò Galeazzi and Martina Salvaneschi, for I Fuori Onda, a social association actives in Brescia area that deals with children affected by mental diseases.

A contemporary work that includes elements in Botticino Classico marble, which is finding great resonance and international success, so much to have earned a nomination for the prestigious  European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture – Mies Van Der Rohe Award 2019, and recently won the BIG SEE Architecture Award 2019 | public and commercial architecture.

Located in Botticino, on the top of a valley, the Chapel is placed on the border between the vast wild forest that dominates the landscape and the vineyard owned by the buyer, acting as a “threshold” element between the man-made world and the natural world.

The building, although precisely defined as a “chapel” due to its shape and its function as a spiritual place, is actually a secular space because it is not intended for worship in the strict sense, but rather is intended for contemplation and meditation.

The Chapel, long and high 6 meters by 3 meters wide, is entirely made of wood with interiors painted in black; externally it is coated with bitumen, which, in addition to waterproofing, gives to the structure a textured effect.

The Chapel of Silence is also accompanied by two important elements in Botticino Classico marble: the first welcomes us on the street that leads to the Chapel itself, it is a monolith with a triangular-shaped recess for collecting rainwater, a natural element of  reference in the spaces of contemplation and prayer, and which recalls, even in a secular form, the baptismal font.

The second element in Botticino Classico is a Menhir 3 meters high, placed in the middle of the wood, in the direction of which you can look at it from the inside structure, outwards, catalysing your attention for concentration and contemplation.

Great importance was given to the structure that defines the interior space and to its shape that comes from a careful study of the local archetypes, so that the small chapel could recall, not betraying its contemporary look, images present in the memory whose has lived those places for years.

The chapel created by Associates Studio, therefore, is a masterpiece and a relational architecture under several points of view. First of all, this place contemplates the relationship between people who can meet here, or the relationship between the two worlds on the border of which it is located and, finally, it is a place that dialogues with the territory.

It is exactly in this last sense that the Architects decided to use the local Botticino Classico marble, explains Martina Salvaneschi of Associates Studio, allowing them to face this material and its technical challenges, such as cutting  triangular, and to find functional solutions together.

Very interesting is also the choice to create a laboratory, which is a format used by Associates Studio and called “Lab”, selecting approximately twenty students per portfolio from architecture schools, throughout Italy (Naples, Florence, Mantua, Milan, Venice, the main ones) who contributed to their realization. This means that a group of students participated concretely in the success of the project, having the opportunity to experience, personally, constructive themes, that they often cannot access in the course of study.

Martina Salvaneschi, together with Galeazzi, who with she had the opportunity to study and work abroad, told us that this is a typical problem of many Italian educational institutions, which do not offer to the students the opportunity of practicing with the real work and with the proper subjects that they are studying.

Infact, the authors of the Chapel of the Silence think it is here emblematic that Botticino Classico marble is almost more well known abroad than it is in Italy, also due to the fact that in most of the schools in our Country, they don’t practice experimentation, there is no direct use of materials and there is no knowledge of the territory.

The theme of “collaboration”, dear to the young Architects of Associates Studio, who use it always in their “Labs”, sometimes going beyond the “Construction in cooperation”, which involved the Chapel, up to a “Shared architecture”, like in the project of St. Anthony’s Chapel, that they are planning together with a community of 120 people in the small town of Avaglio, near Udine.

It is an opportunity that makes projects extremely interesting, and also important because they are responsible of the habitat changing, so that it is fair and sensible that the people who live in this environment are involved in its transformation process.

Collaborations like these are unique, therefore always different; what it is not changing is the experience of “Collaborative Immersive work” (the students work in shifts, and also eat and sleep all together in the workshop), which is a great and interesting experience for them, so that they regularly get back in touch with the Studio, asking when they can participate in the next Lab or make formative stages.

A formative and informative methodology that rewards all, perhaps for this reason, interesting and successful projects grow up, it seems so, that the example of the Chapel of Silence can open to a collaboration between Associates Studio and the Consortium of Botticino Classico Marble Producers, a deal that would contribute, along with the initiatives already carried out by the Consortium and by other local institutions over the years, to the promotion, knowledge and national and international use of this material in masterpieces and in contemporary architecture.

In the same way, we are considering a collaboration that would configure other interesting educational opportunities, in particular for local students; opportunities that should be added to the partnership recently started up by the Consortium and Professional Schools, Zanardelli and Vantini. In particular this last one, which is a local training school for marble workers and stonemasons, has been cooperating for years with the local Municipalities, with the Consortia and with several companies in the area, that sponsor its activities and cooperate for stages and teaching.

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