CHAPEL OF TEARS . Saint- Ferréol

© David Foessel


POEM won the international architecture competition “Le festival des cabanes” for a self-built construction in the French Alps.


The Chapel of tears has been included in the 5th edition of the “Festival des cabanes” and it is situated in Saint- Ferréol, a place near lake Annecy, which is an UNESCO world heritage site. It is placed on the side of a stream, along the nature trail that leads to the “Cascade de Fontany”. It has been built by both the designers themselves and some volunteers with the aim of maximizing the use of economic resources, complying with sizing constraints imposed by the announcement and using only one material, wood. Starting from this simplicity and in this primary context, the project site becomes a kind of bond that gives shape to the architecture.

The building, thought as a lay meditation chapel, finds its own dimension in the dialogue with nature, like a new point of view to the waterfall. A sensory experience where the visitor is stimulated to find his own way of living and he is able to interact with space, all in a contrast of lights and shadows.

The chapel looks like a high and narrow parallelepiped, which is cut lengthwise at the middle section, as if the water of the stream had eroded the matter during its course. This is a 20 cm thick cut that runs through the entire covering and joins the two openings, which are placed on the short sides. These last are aligned and they are respectively the front door and a window; this one frames the view of the waterfall. The long sides, which are parallel to the creek, are blind and punctuated by a scan of wood elements of different thickness. The interior space is exposed both to weather changes and some light effects amplified by a sequence of panels placed at the roof.

The structure has been made entirely of spruce wood. The planks and the strips are naturally cured and were supplied by a local sawmill, using commercial thicknesses and sizes. The chapel has a different surface treatment. The outer shell, consisted of burnt wooden boards, contrasts chromatically with the interior space where the material is left natural. The wood burning technique, practiced in the area, allows to preserve it over time from atmospheric and natural agents. In this way, it remains stable, durable and hydrophobic in a totally natural and ecological, without changing its own internal structure.

Architects : POEM
Type : Chapel, pavillion
Location : Saint- Ferréol, Région Auvergne Rhone Alpes, France
Date of construction : June 2020
Area : 10 m2
Client : Le festival des cabanes
Suppliers : Sawmill Cavagnon et Fils
Collaborators : Marion Weymuller, Mathilde Chumillas, Alexandre Varet, Fabrice Henry, Mathieu Nouhen et Mathieu Butts.
Photographers : ©David Foessel, ©Alice Cecchini.