The chapel of Notre Dame du Haut in Ronchamp

Informally known as "Ronchamp", the chapel of Notre Dame du Haut in Ronchamp (French: Chapelle Notre-Dame-du-Haut de Ronchamp), completed in 1955, is one of the finest examples of the architecture of Franco-Swiss architect Le Corbusier and one of the most important examples of twentieth-century religious architecture.
Notre Dame du Haut was thought of as a more extreme design of Le Corbusier’s late style. The chapel is a simple design with two entrances, a main altar, and three chapels beneath towers. Although the building is small, it is powerful and complex. The chapel is the latest of chapels at the site. The previous chapel was completely destroyed there during World War II. The previous building was a 4th century Christian chapel. But, at the time the new building was being constructed, Corbusier wasn’t exactly interested in “Machine Age” architecture. He felt his style was more primitive and sculptural, so he decided to build something more interesting.

The structure is made mostly of concrete and is comparatively small, enclosed by thick walls, with the upturned roof supported on columns embedded within the walls, like a sail billowing in the windy currents on the hill top. The Christian Church sees itself as the ship of God, bringing safety and salvation to followers. In the interior, the spaces left between the walls and roof and filled with clerestory windows, as well as the asymmetric light from the wall openings, serve to further reinforce the sacred nature of the space and reinforce the relationship of the building with its surroundings. The lighting in the interior is soft and indirect, from the clerestory windows and reflecting off the whitewashed walls of the chapels with projecting towers.

The structure is built mostly of concrete and stone, which was a remnant of the original chapel built on the hilltop site destroyed during World War II. Some have described Ronchamp as the first Post-Modern building. It was constructed in the early 1950s.

The main part of the structure consists of two concrete membranes separated by a space of 6'11", forming a shell which constitutes the roof of the building. This roof, both insulating and watertight, is supported by short struts, which form part of a vertical surface of concrete covered with "gunite" and which, in addition, brace the walls of old Vosges stone provided by the former chapel which was destroyed by the bombings. These walls which are without buttresses follow, in plan, the curvilinear forms calculated to provide stability to this rough masonry. A space of several centimeters between the shell of the roof and the vertical envelope of the walls furnishes a significant entry for daylight. The floor of the chapel follows the natural slope of the hill down towards the altar. Certain parts, in particular those upon which the interior and exterior altars rest, are of beautiful white stone from Bourgogne, as are the altars themselves. The towers are constructed of stone masonry and are capped by cement domes. The vertical elements of the chapel are surfaced with mortar sprayed on with a cement gun and then white-washed - both on the interior and exterior. The concrete shell of the roof is left rough, just as it comes from the formwork. Watertightness is effected by a built-up roofing with an exterior cladding of aluminium. The interior walls are white; the ceiling grey; the bench of African wood created by Savina; the communion bench is of cast iron made by the foundries of the Lure.

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