During the last few decades, Paraguay's political and economic instability has given rise to rampant inequality amongst its citizens, especially in the peripheral areas of many of the cities. For many Paraguayans, scarcity and poverty have become a way of life, especially in the crowded Cerrito neighborhood of Asunción. An unplanned favela, Cerrito sprang up organically when people moved closer to the city in order to find work. The neighborhood is typified by poorly constructed houses, half-open bars and discarded cans.
The Capilla San Miguel Arcángel (The San Miguel Archangel Chapel) by Javier Corvalán and Laboratorio de Arquitectura (Laboratory of Architecture), is a contemporary work of architecture that seeks to celebrate the working-class inhabitant’s daily lives. The building itself is deceptively simple, but also permanent thanks to its clean lines, concrete construction, and the way it climbs up its narrow lot, like a road connecting the chapel to the people. To reach the sanctuary, worshippers must first climb a set of terracotta stairs which mimic the journey they make each night to rest after a hard day’s work; but unlike their crowded apartments, the walls at either end of the chapel have been left open to the air, creating an atmosphere, a feel, similar to a worshipful vacuum, and also a floor-to-ceiling expanse which draws the eye upwards, past two deliberately-left-open walls, and beyond the trees, trying to create a dialogue with the heavens.