The tectonic enclosure of Porciúncula La Milagrosa Chapel can be shifted back over the entry courtyard to the east all the way to the stone wall holding the chapel bell. This transformation, first, allows the nave to double in capacity. Second, the movement opens the sanctuary to the north towards the forest and to the south towards the open meadow. And third, the shifting pulls the higher roof plane out from above the solid lower plane (which does not transmit light), allowing light to filter into the space from above.
This flexible space allows for three primary configurations. With the volume closed, a small, intimate ceremony or service can be held with about 30 people. With the volume open, larger events can be held in the chapel – up to about 60 people – while also allowing the event to better connect to the lush natural environment. However, a third configuration exists for more substantial events. The entire spatial construct rotates to a north/south alignment with the opening in the volume. In this configuration, the altar moves to the center of the nave, facing south, and the congregation moves to the terraced grassy meadow, which is ideal for seating large crowds.
Image | © Chad Schwartz