Snapshot: Forest Chapel

May 2012
Takasaki, Japan
Hironaka Ogawa & Associates

By Asad Syrkett


Snapshot: Forest Chapel
Photo: © Daichi Ano
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Wedding venues (and wedding days), so often precious or bombastic, can seldom, if ever, be described as “serene.” But the Forest Chapel, designed by architect Hironaka Ogawa for a company that runs wedding facilities across Japan, is a delicate pavilion in the inland city of Takasaki, 70 miles northeast of Tokyo. From the outside, the 24-foot-high chapel is an enigmatic stucco-covered concrete box that appears to float over its mirrored-glass base. Little about the building’s exterior reveals its function.

But inside, maple wood pews and treelike, steel structural supports (that give the chapel its name) lend an industrial quality to the airy, ceremonial space. Each column is made of eight L-shaped steel strips gathered in a kind of bouquet, Ogawa explains. He convinced the client that exposing bolts and other structural elements was not only a good aesthetic choice, but also a sound symbolic one: “In nature, trees have knots,” says Ogawa. With any luck, the knots couples tie here will be as strong as the space in which they are joined.

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