When it comes to the history of architectural design, religious buildings are its root. The majority of cultures put a great focus on religion, so belief and practice across the globe has inspired some amazing and impressive religious architecture. We have selected several examples of sacral architecture that, rather than adopting the typical symbols of a church building, seek inspiration in contemporary forms and objects around.
The Parish complex of San Giacomo has been conceived by Barcelona-based studio Benedetta Tagliabue – EMBT Architects (formerly Miralles Tagliabue EMBT) as a contemporary church, rich in strength and symbolism, surprising and familiar at the same time. On the one hand, the design is inspired by the early days of the church, while on the other hand, it is informed by hot air balloons the team saw in the sky of Ferrara during the annual international festival.
The church boasts an uneven, organic shape made of brick, clad in plaster and topped by an undulating copper roof. The lightweight organic architecture of the church contrasts with the robust and compact materiality of the historically important preexisting Ferrara. Externally the building is designed to have a welcoming presence that is open to the people, while its interior feels like a modern take on primitive churches.
The raw, unadorned design of the altar was chosen to recall the most primitive moments of the church when a mass was celebrated with found objects and where the symbol acquired an even greater importance. In line with this ambition, the large cross above the altar is made from wooden beams that were salvaged from Ferrara’s old town hall.
The building is positioned in both a visual and spiritual axis with the new bridge and the city beyond the river, but access is achieved via two lateral axes that join the design of the square to the church, acting as two arms open to the community.
Sitting in a new urban settlement in New Taipei City, Taiwan, the 11-storey building Tamkang Church centre completed by German practice Behet Bondzio Lin Architekten pays homage to the new residential towers being built around it. The high-rise concrete block is topped with an angular roof punctured by cruciform skylights.
Just like in many cathedrals of the past, the award-winning design concept is based on the cruciform shape, but in a broader sense. According to the team, it interweaves people’s lives through the church celebration and their daily life, and brings nature into the city life.
Across its 11 storeys, the building houses events spaces, lecture halls, congregation areas, classrooms and welfare spaces stacked atop one another and connected by staircases and lifts. The main congregation area is a double-height, 600-seat auditorium on the third and fourth floors, with a cruciform window visible on the building’s exterior. Another church hall intended for ceremonies such as weddings and baptisms is on the top floor. It is illuminated by coloured, stained-glass-style windows inset into the steel frame of the angular roof structure.
A playful, informal arrangement of deeply-recessed windows and cut-outs characterize the exterior of the building, finished in exposed, board-formed concrete. The window organization is conceived as a constellation of shades of lights. The lighting situation changes throughout the day, as the sun moves across the sky. For instance, in the afternoon, one can see a cubism painting made out of light in the main stair space. Some of the cut-outs include small planted terraces which offer dramatic views over the landscape.
Combining two artificial elements, a triangle and a circle, Dysis Church of Poly Shallow Sea has been conceived by Shanghai-based UDG (Shanghai United Design Group Co., ltd.) as a poetic expression of time, eternity and sanctity. Erected between the boundless sea and sky, the geometrical chapel comprises a rotating device that orients itself towards the position of the setting sun all year long.
The base is circular, referencing ancient ritual places such as Stonehedge. The completeness and softness of the circle is broken by a sharp triangular form that, according to the team, symbolizes the yearning for establishing a relationship with the divine.
A straight line deviating from the center splits the circle into two pools of varying heights, with a gurgling water curtain in between. Two walking paths are formed by the two high walls and ramps in the courtyard. the lofty walls cast a large area of shadows on both paths.
On the axis of entering the chapel, a vaulted bell tower is added as a ceremonial node of the space. The narrow passage up the stairs concealed in shadows and the symmetrical layout imbue the building with a sense of monumentality unique to classical architecture.