Theoklis Kanarelis, Architect

Rukomo village, Nyagatare, Rwanda

The Chapel of Saint Agatha is a Catholic temple situated on the riverbanks near Rukomo village, in northeast Rwanda, in the Nyagatare district. The form of the chapel is a parallelogram, made of concrete, 14×30 meters standing 9.2 meters high. It is contained in a two-story structure that can shelter more than 200 people.

The layout of the walls prevents the external ephemeral picture from entering the place of Saint Agatha. Over the course of the day, the concrete “wreath” that holds the walls projects a shadow over them. The shadows projected on the body of the building create incomprehensible letters from the language of the believers.

According to the architect, the theoretical approach in this design is that sacred space cannot be contained or included in the regularity of the ordinary. Air and faith are the two essential elements without which man cannot live. The air fills the void, and faith is built on the ability of man to grasp the infinity and talk and think about things he does not know and may never know. The sacred space is a void, severed from the secular. Its severance is achieved by walls, thresholds between the secular, and divine voids.

Jury Comments

In response to the hot climate, this sanctuary of darkness and shade offers a cool place for contemplation. It manipulates light in a very mature way over the course of the day. It’s heavily experiential, with non-traditional shapes, but they have a timeless quality at the same time. There is no ‘front’ or ‘back’ on this church, it is very sculptural.

Project Team Members

Anastasia Kanareli: architecture student
Maria Irini Konstantinidi Manesi: architecture student

Project Consultants

Argiris Balatsoukas: architecture student, photographer
Miltiadis Igglezos: Architect, photographer
Konstantinos Kontokonstas: Architect, 3D modeling
Dimitris Molonis: architecture student, 3D modeling