Editor’s pickForm and function


The Sayama Forest Chapel, open to all religions and denominations, contemplatively rises out of the forest, offering tranquillity to those who seek it

The breathtaking Sayama Forest Chapel in Saitama, Japan, is a stunning combination of form and function, creating a tranquil space facing the deep forest, which is, according to architect Hiroshi Nakamura, “essentially the subject of prayer.”


Sayama Forest Chapel melds form and function to create a tranquil space facing the deep forest

Shortlisted for the RIBA International Prize 2018, the 114sqm structure – though a chapel by name – is a contemplative space that is built in such a way that the structure avoids the branches of surrounding trees planted in the area, allowing them to grow freely. The curvilinear roof highlights the structure’s form, and is made up of 251 laminated larch beams held by an unseen steel plate. Inside, the larch wood presents a rolling, ribbed framework, and outside, 21,000 handcrafted aluminium panels measured to an exacting 4mm of thickness make up the roof and protect the beams.


The gentle inclination of the Sayama Forest Chapel walls create a structural form that is reminiscent of the shape of palms pressed together in prayer

Timber structures cast cadenced designs along the walls that emphasise the height and curves of the building. Hidden ridge beams affixed to the structure’s concrete foundations soar nine meters into the sky, becoming narrower the higher it goes and drawing eyes upward unconsciously.




Architect: Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP
Location: Sayama, Saitama Prefecture, Japan
Year of completion: 2013
Photo credit: Koji Fujii/Nacasa & Partners Inc.