While in the Catholic church there is a fair amount of liberty in how temples are designed, very little has changed in the Greek Orthodox tradition in this regard since the Byzantine era.. In fact, religious architecture in the Orthodox Christian world is perhaps its most conservative aspect, since even its music and rituals have evolved over time, while the architecture has stayed the same. This is why this humble little chapel in Paphos, Cyprus, stands out: designed by Michalis Georgiou and Theresa Kwok, the chapel of Peter the Apostle and St. Helen the Martyr introduces contemporary materials and a daring design that creatively reinterprets the Byzantine church typology.
The result of a collaborative process, the chapel achieves its streamlined minimalistic purity and grace by means of abstraction: ornamentation has been eschewed altogether, and architectural elements such as the bell tower and the sanctum have been merged into the main volume to create a single, compact architectural object. In section, the building looks like a stylised reinterpretation of a typical Greek church which was then extruded in order to create the necessary volume. Parametric computational and design techniques (Michail Georgiou’s area of expertise) were deployed for the building’s shell and various interior details, as seen for example in the sculptural reinterpretation of the altar stone. The chapel’s most intriguing aspect however is the movement of its shape: its gentle curvature guides the eye upwards from the earth and towards the sky. Overall, what this unassuming chapel lacks in scale and grandeur, it compensates with its mindful design, modern aesthetics and creative sensibility.
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