Thursday, April 08, 2010

New Church for L'Aquila


Fr Z has this picture of a planned church for L’Aquila, the city hit by an earthquake last year. Everyone on his blog is being unkind about it but I rather like it, admittedly not as a church, but as a piece of architecture it is incredibly exciting, it makes our modern English churches that are designed for eay conversion into local supermarkets look excruciatingly dull.s
For the architect it will be a signature piece, and people will flock to the city to admire this stunning work.
The problem is that choosing an eccentric architectural style the bishop makes concrete the "hermeneutic of rupture". It very deliberately turns its back on two thousand years of tradition and contradicts what ordinary Catholics recognise as ecclesiastical architecture.
A Church building itself is supposed to signify Christ, therefore the architect has to restrain his cleverness, in the sense of  "I must decrease He must increase". The problem with modern church architecture is the same as the problem with modern liturgy and modern theology, it is intensely personalistic

32 comments:

gemoftheocean said...

You're kidding, right? Let me guess, Fr. Z was holding on to this as an "Octave Joke" for April fool's day.

That thing is uglier than mortal sin. Better to have Mass in the open air.

As far as "not as a church, but otherwise." What on EARTH is your "otherwise" usage? A practise barrage balloon for star wars weapons in space?

LA is earthquake prone too. But if such an aborted mess were to be dropped in the middle of Los Angeles, here is what it would look like. It's too bad horse whipping has gone out of fashion.

Hippolytus said...

Looks like a giant slug to me.

Patricius said...

The abrupt "stuck-on" rectilinear doorways seem to contrast somewhat harshly with the bio-morphic, womb-like, form of the rest of the building. A pity we cannot see the interior as that would enable one to judge whether or not it would work as a church.

Paulinus said...

That is SO wrong I don't know where to start....

Anne Chapman said...

Sorry but for a church it's revolting!

GOR said...

It reminds me of a description someone once made of the Sydney Opera House - saying it looked like a "Pregnant Oyster".

Hippolytus is right, it does look like a slug. But then other new churches in Italy - even in the diocese of Rome - have fallen far short of what a Michelangelo, Bramante or Bernini might have conceived.

Architects are a funny lot - and this design is a joke!

Richard White said...

Horrid - looks like fish gills.

Molly said...

I have to admit I kind of like the design--as a musuem, opera house, or just about anything else.

As far as using it for a Church, I can't even put into words how DREADFUL that is.

Terry Nelson said...

I like you very much Fr. Blake.

Mladhos said...

Our Lady of the Soufflé!

Laurence England said...

Nice hopsital!

John said...

People seem to expect churches to look like, well, - er - churches. I like you, too, Fr Ray and I like you putting a cat among the pigeons. Do all the comments come from Tunbridge Wells?

Dominic Mary said...

I'm sorry, Father, but it's just dreadfully wrong, even as architecture : ALL architects ought, always, to be working on the 'I must decrease' principle - they are contributing to a global environment, not setting themselves up as idols - that's what's wrong with Norman Foster et al . . . too interested in people saying how wonderful they are, not interested enough in creating buildings which fit in without 'making statements'.

Two good architexctural principles :
1. Only Churches ought to be in any way distinctive; the House of God MUST be special, other buildings ought not be conspicuously so.
2. Churches ought to look like the House of God, and not as though the architect wanted to be remembered for the building.

(As a useful guideline : ask a hundred people what is Michaelangelo's biggst piece of work in the Vatican . . .)

mikesview said...

'Ere Farver, yor 'avin' a larf, incha? Gid ard uv it!

pelerin said...

At least it has a few beautiful curves although I still think it looks like an albino slug.

My prize for a church horror went to one designed by Le Corbusier in Firminy near St Etienne. I have not been there but there are many pictures on the internet. One of its more unusual features is the constellation of Orion over the Altar! That is one case where I would not wish the Priest to celebrate ad orientem!

Looking further for more designs I came across one which is far worse than either of these. A giant concrete cube was built to replace a church destroyed in an earthquake in Foligno in 1997 also in Italy. The winning design was the result of a competition (perhaps l'Aquila did the same?) and if this was the winning design I hate to think what the others were like.

Are not these architects building for their own glory and not to the glory of God? Two weeks ago I was able to marvel at the West front of Reims Cathedral. After the destruction in World War I it was painstakingly rebuilt and it is still being restored. Its beauty is breathtaking and visitors can still marvel at the work of these anonymous stonemasons. I somehow think that if it had been replaced by a giant cube or slug people would have come to see it out of curiosity yes but is that the right reason to visit a church or cathedral?

johnf said...

A bit like a seashell, a bit like a slug.

From a practical point of view, it looks expensive to build and possibly expensive to maintain.

It looks as if it could be less susceptible to earthquakes which may be an advantage - or maybe not as sooner or later people would be glad to see the back of it.

Most of the 'exciting' architecture that we were subjected to in the UK in the 60's etc has dated dreadfully and in many cases has been pulled down. It's a pity that steps were not taken to recover the architects fees...

Delia said...

But what does it look like inside and how is it lit? Sluglike on the face of it, I agree, but who knows, may be wonderful inside. Might also look better in its mountain setting than on the floor.

georgem said...

It‘s a fantastic design. Very feminine. But, as a church? Hmmm. Perhaps the architects are harking back to caves/catacombs structures. I can’t see any windows to let in the natural light (not a very “green” design) and therefore no distractions.

However, it could foster the modernist tendency to introspection, as the external hints at an altar and sanctuary “in the round“ and no reaching upwards and outwards toward God at all. The whelk shape as sacred symbol is more allied to Hinduism and Buddhism.

I wonder how the building would weather and if it would fall victim to those unappealing rust stains caused by runnels of water. Architectural designs often look good on paper and in model form but can disappoint when built. How would the design sit within the remaining topography?

I suppose if you look to church architecture of the past it has, in its way, been at the cutting edge of design and it would be wrong to try to create a pastiche of what has been lost. But, but . . . . . .

OTOH the faithful could have been landed with this:
http://www.ymag.it/2009/04/23/new-church-in-foligno-by-massimiliano-and-doriana-fuksas-event/

Stunning, but is it a church? If you scroll down to the end of the page the single comment sums it up: “The locals hate it”. And, after all, it’s the faithful who are paying.

Albert said...

Poor people - their City is devestated and now they will have to endure this slug like edifice.

pelerin said...

I see georgem has also discovered the giant cube church in Foligno.

I noticed the comment too that the locals do not approve and on looking at the Wikipaedia site for the city it looks as though they have the last laugh. I had a quick look at several of the entries in various languages for this city and while there are pictures of beautiful ancient churches nowhere could I see either mention of or a picture of the new one.

I found an official site too but no mention here either so it looks as though the locals indeed do not wish others to know about it and if you don't type in the word church with Foligno they have succeeded!

berenike said...

It's a rather good slug, I like it. Dunno about it as a church, though.

Definitely better than this vast and expensive and unneeded horror they are building in the south of Warsaw. Poor old Cardinal Glemp chose a different (beautiful if masonic-looking) design, but when he was sick someone got him to change his mind.

ugh ugh ugh ugh ugh.

Annie said...

'Tis a maggot of a church, but as a sculpture, or a tent, I'd like it.

Michael Sternbeck. said...

Very good Father - you had me going for a moment.

This execrable design - everything that a design for a Church should NOT be - indeed does look like a giant slug, or "grub" as we call them here in Australia.

Throughout Australia, there is a fascination with enlarged forms of the Natural Kingdom as tourist attractions: we have giant wombats, mosquitoes, kangaroos, bananas etc.

But we don't have a big slug...and our giant forms are not used as places for the worship of God.

Please God the Faithful of L'Aquila will rebel against such an appalling concept for God's House.

Michael Petek said...

Looks like a giant nose!

B flat said...

I would offer this as an alternative.

http://tinyurl.com/yyw2azn

This is the church of the Resurrection in Białystok, Poland.
The people who built it in the 1990's were as poor as those of L'Aquila, but their parish priest had taste which I like.

Elizabeth from Sussex said...

Y-U-K

Hilary said...

Looks like an anaemic turd. (Sorry Father)

Mark said...

...looks more like a large white chocolate mouse !!!! At least no cat can swallow one that large!

pelerin said...

One of the latest comments on Fr Z's blog links to a church now under construction in Restelo in Portugal. It has a minaret and masonic symbols in its design! Perhaps a first in church architecture?

Attending lectures on architecture when a student were never this interesting! But then the horrors of the 60s had barely started.

nickbris said...

Something built to last by the look of it and as all the churches in that area were destroyed,just what's wanted.

It will probably overtake the Sidney Opera House & Eiffel Tower as tourist attractions.

Independent said...

Is it a conch shell to wear in the hat of a pilgrim to Compostella?

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

"It very deliberately turns its back on two thousand years of tradition and contradicts what ordinary Catholics recognise as ecclesiastical architecture."

Plus, it looks like a giant sea slug.