Designing Cityscape: The Courtyard
The site’s name was labeled as the ‘End of the World’. It was one of the city’s last slums.
The project brief was determined through a participative process involving everyone in the local community in order to guarantee the project’s social and economical sustainability. The final brief included a church, a community center (providing childcare and jobs to some of the slum’s former residents), a primary school and an auditorium. The local community set as one of the main goals the creation a new identity to rescue the site from its decade-long negative stigma. To the east and south, anonymous suburban surroundings offered no interesting references; hence, we designed the church’s tower to create an iconic reference. To the west, we designed a courtyard connecting to the city’s existing public spaces and to a steep valley offering distant seashore views. Today, the ‘End of the World’ is locally known as Senhora
da Boa Nova (or Our Lady of the ‘Good News’).
Designing Sacred Space: The void
Throughout the project’s development, the key conceptual elements were two empty spaces: the courtyard, where the community could meet; and the nave, the sacred space presenting what cannot be presented. We wished the nave to be an introspective, infinite, and in irrepresentable space. In order to achieve this, we followed creative paths suggested by the works of Bernini, Piranesi and Rachel Whiteread. Today, the church stands with an elliptical plan, providing a dynamic sense of scale, and covered by an interior dome, that eliminating the wall/ceiling division. The windows are deep, bringing indirect natural lighting into the nave, and distancing the suburban surroundings. The exterior walls curve to present an anthropomorphic object holding within the in limit, infinite, and irrepresentable void.