For years, the neighbors of the fishermen village of El Pris had tried to promote the construction of a proper temple, under the vocation of the Virgen del Carmen (Our Lady of Mount Carmel) who is patroness of the sailors. Despite designating for it several different locations, this construction for various reasons was not possible. The image of the Virgin, for which the neighbors are strongly devoted, was stored in a warehouse belonging to a fishermen association, waiting to be placed in a sacred space.
The plot located on a rocky headland next to the old pier, was certainly complicated due to its small size and irregular shape. This difficulty was even increased by the significant slope of the base on which the chapel was supposed to be constructed (it was not possible to excavate the rock due to the danger which such works could cause for adjacent poor, self-build houses) as well as the restrictions of the law and limited economical resources.
In an area without architectural references, where dominate self-build constructions, the planned building aims to complete the façade of the houses erected on the headland. The challenge was to integrate the new volume without imposing it, so that the group of houses constituting the background of the chapel did not lose its character.
The chapel is designed as a single cylindrical volume, diagonally cut in its upper part. In this way, the interior space rises in height, as we approach the altar. Adjacent to the chapel was designed a small prayer space which resemble a cave for the fishermen of the area, as well as a sacristy. The arrangement of the volumes creates open space between both constructions which forms an access patio, protected from the strong winds.
The altar is oriented to the north. The altar table is located on the same level as the space of the nave. A single monolithic bank, which comes from the wall, provides the seats for prayers around the altar table. In the continuity of the wall is incorporated the Via Crucis (Stations of the Cross) which is composed of 14 stars. On the concrete altarpiece, there is an entrance of zenith light, which passing through a blue glass creates the ambient of the space.
On a material level the construction results from great austerity, the simplicity of the used materials and the use of resources such as natural lighting, which provide the building with an ascetic character that seeks the essential. The crushed concrete altarpiece contains blue glasses in its mass, which comes from the bottles of local white wine that was shared by the neighbors of El Pris after the celebration laying of the cornerstone.
The concrete, in contrast to the rough plaster finish of “tiroliano” (made of crushed volcanic stones from the island), together with the interaction of light on them, constitute the material aspect of the design. Polished concrete was used for the flooring of the nave while crushed concrete forms the altar and the ambon. The door is solid mulberry wood structure with handles of the same material forming letters A and M which stand for Ave Maria.
Architecture of the sacred
The circumference that forms the floor plan of the temple, represents the femininity of the Virgin Mary, the maternal figure who embraces the faithful. Thus, the Virgin del Carmen presides the space, being located in the north like metaphor of its function of guide to the sailors during the night. The Stella Maris or Star of the Sea.