The parish complex is located in a flat area in the municipality of Erice. It is part of an urban zone that abuts Trapani, where the continuity of buildings has completely blurred the border between the two cities.
The parish complex is a farsighted vision of a community in search of an identity. The community gathers around this building of spirituality, around the sense of community generated through catechetical activities, education and reception in classrooms that follow the line of the building and the lateral orientation of the complex, leading to the parish hall, to the places where a community does the sharing that makes it a community.
The resulting formation is a highly-aggregative urban core, embodying an urban vision of architecture that transforms a district through architectural evolution. To all intents and purposes, this monument to spirituality transmogrifies into a town, offering people a chance to belong, to experience solidarity, community life, and all of the repercussions this can have on civic life.
The architecture is of prime importance in a project that effectively combines contemporaneity with the historic hallmarks typical of sacred buildings. The fusion of architectural sensibility and urban value is evident in the construction of a recognizable environment where the church building – and its particularly meaningful annexes – guide our perspective to a place that invites us to participate, to follow its pathway along a succession of architectural bodies and open spaces that reflect the form of lived reality.
The church building is oriented East/West, corresponding to the inclination of the sun’s rays on October 13 – the date of one of the miraculous sightings of the Virgin Mary at Fatima in 1917 – resulting in a rotation of the church’s square plan by a few degrees towards the lot’s interior. The building rises regally on this symbolic decalage, standing somewhat aloof from the path of the road, focusing in on the angular parallelepiped-shaped tower. Indeed, the bulk of the bell-tower speaks volumes, communicating the firmitas of the stone and plaster that make up the sacred building’s volumes. The resulting parvis becomes a piazza, a protected space that encourages us to follow the path that opens up inside the complex. The church’s elevation is one of measured elegance and declarative power, thanks to its luminous materials and a reinterpretation of the volume-based composition that accompanies the outsized portal whose stylized stone moldings frame the entrance. The arch design of the entrance also features a rose window.
The church clearly entertains a close relationship with light. The hall straddles a square plan, the arms of its Greek cross truncated; light streams in from the openings above, augmented by yet more light filtering through vertical “slits” along the walls. The roof intrados hovers without weighing, despite its statically reinforced configuration. The internal space embraces people who come in, with the great extension of its linear dimensions and its fragments, details that mark out the liturgical elements and symbols as part of a precious cavalcade of artefacts of both structural and material value: the altar, the pulpit, the presbytery seat. All the while, without betraying its compositional rigor, the refined combination of the plan’s axiality and rotation create space for meditation and make visual highlights of the side chapels, the SS. Sacramento chapel and the baptismal font along the inside of the façade, above which an aerial musical balcony crowns the entrance.
External prospects onto the roads to the south and east of the complex manifest a composition that amplifies the value of its volumetry through “slashes” in the walls, openings that let light in from the side, further highlighting the volume of the apse area. Along the road to the East, the linear disposition of the catechism classrooms stands out as an architectural fragment, an urban demarcation line in a city set for transformation.
The long side road façade follows the rhythm of tall vertical windows cutting into the walls from the tall central geometrical portal, which offers access to the complex’s secondary courtyard and leads to the Community parish hall. The squared-off building plan has undergone a pronounced rotation; its entrance portico is held aloft by tall, slender columns; it is imbued with traces of geometrical lightness and elegance which, indeed, serve as the formal and expressive hallmarks of the parish complex as a whole.
Location: Erice, Trapani Province
Gross Floor Area: 1,930 m2
Cost of Construction: 3,280,869 Euros
Architects: ICARO progetti (Benedetta Fontana e Michele Fabio Granata)
Works Management: ICARO progetti (Benedetta Fontana, Michele Fabio Granata, Alessio Chirco)
Main Contractor: Co.Sa.Pi. & C.
Glulam Wood: Mayr-Melnhof Holz
Roof Tiles: Wierer
Marble: Santoro Marmi, Incammisa Marmi, Cusenza Marmi
Interior Doors: M.a.r. Trading
Concrete: Mannina Vito
Under-tile Ventilation: Brianza Plastica
Sound-proof Panels: Saint-Gobain
Windows Frames: Indivest LT
Glass: AGC Your Glass
Ceramic Flooring: Marazzi Group
Photography: © Benedetta Fontana
Icaro Progetti Studio Associato grew out of the close partnership between architect Benedetta Fontana and engineer Michele Fabio Granata, as a way of pursuing their shared belief that it is possible to foster integrated architectural and engineering-based design. Their research is underpinned by the idea that architectural design has a deep unity with structure, rather than structure being a subsequent juxtaposition. The studio works in the fields of civil engineering, in particular bridge design, architectural planning, building and design, from spoons to cities. Icaro Progetti designed and built the new Nostra Signora di Fatima parish complex in Erice. It has been responsible for a number of upgrades to churches, creating many design objects for these sacred spaces. Collaborating with architect Alessio Chirco, the practice team has also worked on designing and building a number of public and private works, cooperating with a variety of architectural and engineering practices on structural design and works management. During both the design and construction phase, Icaro Progetti pursues the concept of “zero mile” architecture at all times integrated into its context. Their architecture embraces models from Sicily’s construction traditions. At the design stage, the studio choses local materials made in the area by consolidated, deeply-rooted industries and craftsmen. The studio favors the use of building components and systems with links to the local area and a low environmental impact: components and systems that are remarkably durable over time, capable of passively offering high performance standards and only relying on installations to a moderate extent.