Oratory of the Parish of the Holy Family, Manfredonia - AtelierMap | AtelierMap
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Oratory of the Parish of the Holy Family, Manfredonia

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Edited By Francesco Pagliari - 1 April 2012
The Apulian town of Manfredonia on the Adriatic coast, dating from medieval times, has an area of high-density building development. One plot contains the triangular Parish Church of the Sacred Family complete with presbytery, and is now being completed with an Oratory of the Sacred Family. The parish building site provides no significant landmarks to refer to or dialogue with. Nor is there any room for choice: in order to meet a complex brief (youth meeting hall, catechism and education classrooms, community activities centre) the architect can but focus on the remaining space in the plot, concentrate the volumes, and go for a site plan that steers a middle course between open place and rooms proper. The firms of AtelierMap and Planprogetti, who are used to teaming up on major operations, have taken their cue from the cloister idea and developed on from there: a place of mediation, part open, part protected, concentrating spaces though with a fragmentary sense of ‘through’ direction, a place that has an airy feel despite being in a building block. The plan hinges on the open central area or court onto which alone the various structures turn. A set of cube-shaped buildings at right-angles forms a rectangular quad: two long thin one-storey structures house teaching rooms and meeting halls, while the bottom end is occupied by the main feature, a large double-height multi-purpose hall, its façade divided into a groundfloor strip of glass and an upper strip of exposed cement framing the “cloister”. On the road side the access point is straddled by another series of small rooms. It suggests a 16m-long carriageway through which the court area and its architectural backdrop are glimpsed. Its original purpose may have been to allow a steady flow of faithful towards the Oratory; what remains is a visual access through to the interior. Limited funding meant simplifying materials while marking the relation between spaces and their activities: the architectural concrete of the perimeter wall makes decoration out of the varying course width and the roughcast finish; fine-smoothed cement floors link outside to inside; the string of aluminium-framed windows lend a pattern to the façades overlooking the court. The big hall acting as end-stop to the cloister is emphatically multi-purpose in its barrage of doors and windows which close off or open up the hall straight onto the central quad. The upper wall surface is freely strewn with Perspex apertures inserted right from the casting phase. This surface decoration also lets through shafts of light which reflect inside the hall and make fascinating geometrical compositions – achieving an immaterial connection between earth and sky.

Francesco Pagliari

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