The project revolves around the design of a shelter and chapel situated along the Way of St. James in Ojcow National Park, near Cracow, Poland. The primary aim of the design was to establish a place of respite and contemplation for hikers on the Camino de Santiago, a renowned pilgrimage route leading to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain. The project seeks to draw attention to traditional modes of travel, such as hiking, where wanderers can find moments of serenity, connect with the landscapes they traverse, and reflect on their journey. Such form of slow tourism brings people closer to natural and cultural heritage and gives them the sense of personal awareness. Notably, the chosen site aligns with the existing Camino route, which, despite being marked, lacks adequate facilities.
The project entails the creation of two structures that follow the rhythm of a pilgrim's day. The chalet serves as a safe haven where weary travelers can find solace at the end of their first day's walk, while the chapel marks the start of the next leg of their journey. The complex is strategically located in close proximity to the Way and harmonizes with it through the carefully designed architecture. The structures were arranged to form a cohesive narrative, both of which are linked to the Way, influencing the buildings' shapes. As pilgrims enter the plot, they are welcomed by the shelter, offering them refuge under its roof. In the distance, the chapel beckons, signaling their passage the following morning, bathed in the first rays of the awakening sun.
The design of this complex is deeply rooted in the philosophy of vernacular architecture, emphasized through the use of local materials and typological consistency. The shelter's framework is constructed from wood, enveloping a core of rammed earth to accumulate the necessary heat. This approach is mirrored in the chapel's design, also employing rammed earth technology. The buildings embody a spatial reflection of the sacred and the profane. The chalet's architecture pays homage to the Swiss-Ojcow style, reflecting the region's traditions, while the chapel's modest form adds new significance to its surroundings.
Life within the shelter revolves around the central core, which houses a kitchen and a fireplace room. Beyond its functional role, it fosters a sense of community among pilgrims. Soft beams of light filter through the skylight, illuminating the space and creating a unique ambiance. Surrounding this core, corridors offer a gathering place with windows overlooking the surrounding valley. The upper floor serves as a bedroom with a more expansive layout than the ground floor, providing an extensive porch where pilgrims can witness sunsets and anticipate their passage through the chapel.
The chapel takes on a transitional form, where light is carefully directed to illuminate the hikers' path, distancing them from external distractions and prompting them to appreciate the simplicity of their journey. Combined with the twilight ambiance of the vaulted ceiling, this design creates a visually striking and memorable experience for pilgrims.
The shelter structure features a mixed system - the core construction made of rammed earth is surrounded by a wooden frame constructed using traditional carpentry methods. A monolithic construction method was employed, shaping rammed earth within wooden molds. The longitudinal core is located in the middle of the building, guiding a narrative axis through the structure. Its elongated shape takes on a tapering form towards the top. At the point of bending, steel reinforcement is used to strengthen the earth. Above it, the construction is continued similarly to the base.
The frame construction is based on the principle of projecting the outline of the upper floor over the ground floor. To achieve stability, two types of pillars are used. The inner row running through both floors consists of 15x20 cm pillars made of planed spruce beams. The outer row of pillars, visible in the ground floor architecture and extending through the upper floor, consists of 15x40 cm pillars made of planed spruce beams. 15x20 cm rafters are supported by the pillars, on them, in turn, rest the purlins of 30x30 cm. This rafter-purlin system is additionally equipped with cleats of 20x20 cm mounted on clamps at the junction with the core. The cleat system serves to provide greater rigidity to the structure. The resulting construction demonstrates sufficient stability to withstand the weight of snow and atmospheric conditions.
The shelter is set on a reinforced concrete foundation slab, on which the rammed earth core and wooden pillars rest. The slab is surrounded by a stone plinth made of local sandstone bonded with lime-clay mortar.
The chapel was constructed using a monolithic design. The walls of the building, made of rammed earth, are created on-site using a wooden formwork. Wooden beams measuring 15x40 cm are installed in the walls to support the structure and create a gap allowing light to shine on the feet of the travelers. The entire structure is covered by a roof made of wood. The chapel walls are made of rammed earth in wooden molds. In the rammed earth walls, spruce wood beams measuring 40x15 cm are installed as purlins. The chapel is set on a reinforced concrete slab.