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Rwanda's Earthen Chapel
Independent Competition | Summer 2019
Team Members: Emiel Cockx, Matt Turlock, Claire Yuna Jang

We carry the dust within ourselves – in our bones, in our eyes, and in our skin. When time and trauma erode our lives from this dust, we become vividly aware of our own mortality. Although the Earth grants us life to borrow, it is voiceless to our memories, our love, and our sorrows when we return life back into the Earth. Therefore, we yearn for a divinity to transcend the instability of our Earthen land and humanity. However, much like ourselves, our sacred spaces are formed from the very nature around us. Can our Earthen materials convey a celestial experience?


A proposed chapel and its passageways are carved into the hills of Rukomo, Rwanda, to connect to the town’s existing monastery. Excavated earth has then been used to construct arches of thick rammed earth. These carry a thin tensile roof of cracked earth, through which an ethereal array of light enchants the sacred space; the roof’s pure surface form, compromised of textural and brittle Earth, is forced to crack upon being draped over its structural arches. These fractures relate to human imperfection and how self-inflicted scars of massacre in Rwanda’s memory can still generate beauty through the brokenness.


Team Contributions:  

Emiel Cockx - Design collaboration, site plan analysis, and primary diagrams

Matt Turlock - Design collaboration and primary structural studies

Claire Yuna Jang - Design collaboration and plan dimension studies

Megan Stenftenagel - Design collaboration and primary rendered images


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