How We Worship: Capela Joá by Bernardes Arquitetura

Known as the “Beverly Hills” of Rio de Janeiro, Joá is a secluded neighborhood that occupies a lush hillside overlooking the South Atlantic Ocean. The district mostly consists of private homes with limited business; one bakery, one pharmacy, one grocery store and now one chapel. Capela Joá is the town’s new place of worship designed by Bernardes Arquitetura.

Thiago Bernardes, founder and principal architect at Bernardes designed a simple and subtle shaped chapel that without a doubt makes a strong statement.

A thin, paved walking path trails the hillside leading to the triangular-shaped chapel. Cantilevered over the mountainside, the unique piece of architecture is as welcoming as a rest-stop; encouraging anyone to stop for prayer and worship.

The chapel’s steel beam frame extends to the outermost point of the triangle-shaped structure for maximum support. Here, the beams extend upward to form a cross that is centered with the main window. Because of this arrangement, the cross becomes the focal point of the chapel with the shifting sea in the background.

The chapel is formed with a series of wood beams, separated by sheets of glass. A design solution that creates and indoor/outdoor effect for visitors who can remain fully engulfed by the surrounding forest while inside the chapel. As the sun falls, the wood planked walls light up with a warm glow that can be seen from the beach below.

Photography by
Tuca Reines