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Nicholas Burns awakens our senses with meditative architecture

Nicholas Burns chapel exterior view

Nicholas Burns has designed a Chapel and Meditation Room where vegetation will slowly grow over and around the built forms over time, blending the spiritual edifice into the surrounding natural landscape.

Nicholas Burns chapel exterior

The project stands on a hill in Minho Portugal inside a thirty-hectare private estate, overlooking denser urbanisation down in the valley and the many green hills around it.

The chapel was designed to awaken all senses…

“sense of time”

“sense of seasons”

“sense of place”

Nicholas Burns chapel garden

Studio Nicholas Burns could not have chosen a more idyllic and serene location for this ensemble of spiritual forms.

The goal was to re-connect architecture with nature and the sense of living, to create a sensorial experience rather than focusing on a simple form or object.


“The idea is to intensify the human experience by connecting us to nature”

Nicolas Burns Architecture


The Chapel and Mediation Room heeds no religion but is spiritual in nature. The elements of the landscape were regarded as building materials, as rooms, as spaces and as an integrated part of the cohesive experience of the architecture of the chapel and not as a separate entity.


“The idea was that the Chapel is supposed to be a calm, tranquil place, a restorative, reflective, beautiful space to spend time alone, and appreciate the landscape, draw your mind into the present, and hopefully have some ideas about whatever it is that you’re doing in life.”

Nicolas Burns Architecture


The entrance is a tunnel made of compression corten steel, moving towards the pier towards the space that expands upwards, and as it does, it draws the eye towards the sky.

Nicholas Burns chapel sky window

Nicholas Burns chapel interior

The idea is that you get a feeling you are going up, up the stairs, one reaches the candle room where the ceremonial part where the 17th-century altar faces pews to seat close to 60 visitors.

As well as the architecture and landscape the chairs, altar and candle holders are all Burn’s designs and made by local craftspeople. The candles themselves were made by Nicholas’s 13-year-old son. While the historical apse piece came from a ruin and was restored by Portuguese woodworkers.

Nicholas Burns chapel interior candle room

Nicholas Burns chapel interior seats

The candle room transforms into a transitional space that provides “a sense of pause” for the visitor. From here you can explore the dark room, a contemplative meditation space. This zone embraces sensorial qualities with small openings below bringing in the smell and sound of the water trickling subtly through the space, reconnecting us with the surrounding natural elements.

Nicholas Burns chapel exterior view

To see more on Nicholas Burn’s incredible insights into the Chapel and Meditation room click here.

Photography: Peter Bennetts

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