‘Chapel for Luis Barragán’ was installed as part of a solo exhibition of work entitled ‘Memory Houses’ at architect Luis Barragán’s small studio located directly across the street from his famous residence in the Tacubaya neighborhood of Mexico City. The installation, carefully placed on the rooftop of the studio, is a half-scale version of an unbuilt chapel originally designed for a rural farm site in Maryland.
The installation is intended to evoke a ghostlike memory of a chapel that never was. Alluding to Sol Lewitt’s ‘Incomplete Open Cubes’, a prefabricated wood structure is designed to trace the minimal outline of the chapel’s pyramidal form. Through post-tensioning of the 4x4 wood members during installation, the diagonal roof members are placed into tension, and the vertical kingpost is placed into compression, channeling the loads down into the central four columns, then horizontally into the two glu-lam ‘foundation’ beams that are placed on top of the existing roof curb. Through geometry and execution, the chapel cantilevers at opposite corners.
To ‘complete’ the chapel, the wood structure was clad in 30 pound ‘Billfisher’ clear monofilament fishing line spaced at 1” on center. A 3D printed kingpost cap was designed to seamlessly gather and draw each of the monofilament strands at the top of the kingpost to its opposite side. Collectively, the monofilament lines assist in the support of the extreme cantilevers, resulting in a composite structure.
The resulting effect is one of both bearing and suspension. The cruciform plan and elevation embeds the chapel within the roof and wall geometry of Barragán’s studio, while the structural cantilevers and flickering transparency of the monofilament line suspends the chapel above the rooftop. While originally designed for a site 3,000 miles away, the chapel is realized as a memory that becomes an homage to Luis Barragán.