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San Giacomo Church and Parish Center

Light and Materiality in a Place of Worship

Miralles Tagliabue EMBT

Officially consecrated on 16 October 2021, the parish church of San Giacomo (St. James) in Ferrara was built in the wake of an invitation-only competition called by the Italian Episcopalian Conference (CEI) for a total of three new parish churches for the north, center and south of the country. The Ferrara brief was won by the Barcelona firm Miralles Tagliabue EMBT, which worked together with liturgist Roberto Tagliaferri and artist Enzo Cucchi whose densely expressive art underlines the close dialogue between art and architecture immediately apparent in the new building. Located just outside the old city of Ferrara - an historical jewel of art and architecture - the site is of particular note: an amalgam of ancient hamlets in a landscape that still speaks of the age-old traditions of these southern reaches of the flat Po valley. Water is a key feature, the river running alongside the new church is lined by tall slender trees running along one side of the church grounds. Nearby, a bridge and ancient rectory are all familiar features of a landscape into which the building slips with ease while at the same time asserting its presence. Not only a recognizable place of worship, the church is also immediately perceived as a community facility, part of a wider complex offering teaching and socialization activities.

The contrasting component parts making up a place of
worship - intimate contemplation and overt declaration; light and shadow - are here expressed by both the spatial configuration and the striking artworks. Together they create a spiritual and cognitive experience that is both personal and collective. Although standing as an exceptional landmark in its setting, the church comprises many “colloquial” architectural features, like the use of brickwork and timber. As if to emphasize how it blends into its setting, the churchyard continues into an open concourse whose paving slabs in typical materials are embellished with a large...

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© Maggioli SpA • THE PLAN • Via del Pratello 8 • 40122 Bologna, Italy • T +39 051 227634 • P. IVA 02066400405 • ISSN 2499-6602 • E-ISSN 2385-2054