Kapelle Unterliezheim von John Pawson
‘I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately,
to front only the essential facts of life,
and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not,
when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.’
Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Set on a hillside on the very cusp of the forest, with sweeping views across the Swabian landscape and a clear sight line to the church tower of the village of Unterliezheim, the intention is that people encounter the wooden chapel as a found object, rather than as a conventional work of architecture. A small path branching off the main trails leads to its entrance, located at the transitional point between woodland and open ground.
The structure itself is framed as the simplest of gestures. From certain perspectives its mass appears as a pile of logs stacked up to dry; from others the considered placement of the elements on a concrete plinth creates a more formal impression of a piece of sculpture emerging from the forest.
The purposefully narrow entry maintains the sense of physical proximity encountered as one moves through the dense woods, adding visceral and visual theatre to the exhilarating experience of passing into an attenuated space over seven metres high and nearly nine metres long. Light levels are deliberately low, with a narrow beam of natural light entering from above, through a small aperture near roof level. The dimness of the environment helps focus attention on the two other sources of light at the far end of the chapel: on the elevated cruciform opening and the structure’s single window.
A slender bench offers an invitation to pause – for a moment of inward reflection and also to contemplate the rich but rigorously restrained interior world of the chapel, the outward view it frames across the landscape and the sustained counterpoint of compression and expansion that lies at the heart of this architectural composition. When a single material predominates, there is scope to inhabit that material in a sensorily immersive way – by touch, sight, smell and even sound, since the character of a surface affects the character of an acoustic. Inside the chapel the glory of the cut timber is immediate – in its warm hues, tactile surfaces and the patterns of the sawn grain. Outside, where the timber has been subjected to the minimum intervention and where time and the weather will each contribute to a process of ongoing physical change, the structure will carry in perpetuity a powerful memory of the forest from which it has been formed.
John Pawson zeichnet die Kunst des Weglassens aus. Tür, Bank, Fenster, Kreuz: weniger geht nicht. Verzahnung mit Wald und Landschaft, von Gehen und Innehalten, Hell und Dunkel, Riechen, Fühlen und Sehen: mehr ist nicht möglich. Leere und Dichte als Resonanzraum für das Heilige. Monumental und zugleich völlig selbstverständlich und natürlich: geschichtete Baumstämme. Die Kapelle lädt zum Besuch ein.
Dank dem Entgegenkommen der Bayerischen Staatsforsten und der Gemeinde Lutzingen war es möglich, am Radweg von Unterliezheim nach Finningen oberhalb der Mühle eine aus dem Wald herauswachsende Kapelle zu errichten. Mein besonderer Dank gilt dem dänischen Unternehmen Dinesen, das für den Bau der Kapelle 40 Stämme Douglasie aus dem Schwarzwald mit einer Länge von etwa 12,5 m und einem Durchmesser von 90 cm (ca. 100 ccm) zur Verfügung gestellt hat.
Dr. Peter Fassl