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Santuario de La Salle

An Astrolabe immersed in nature

CAZA

Santuario de La Salle
By Luca Maria Francesco Fabris -

With the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), the Roman Catholic Church undertook far-reaching changes to keep abreast of a changing world and so better respond to the religious aspirations of an increasingly secular society. Variations in thousand-year-old rituals also led to a complete rethinking of the spaces making up a place of worship, with the result that ecclesiastical architecture has seen greater experimentation than any other branch of the discipline – even if the outcomes have sometimes been outlandish.

New York architect Carlos Arnaiz – a Harvard graduate, now lecturer at Pratt and founder of the Brooklyn-based firm CAZA – is a pioneer in the field. Already ten years ago, his 100 Walls Church in Cebu, Philippines, presented a completely open place of worship made up of a succession of stand-alone concrete partition walls of different lengths, all set perpendicular to the same axis to form environments never completely surrounded by four walls that flow effortlessly one into the other. Now – again in the Philippines – Arnaiz has built another church, this time at the Laguna Campus of the De La Salle University in Biñan, where curved shapes and transparent volumes are divided only by a series of inclined planes and the continuous rhythmic sequence of 193 columns. Dedicated to Jean-Baptiste de La Salle, a 17th century French educational reformer, founder of the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, and hailed as a champion of youth education, the church stands at the edge of the university campus in a densely wooded area, its white 25-m bell tower emerging from out of the trees.

On approaching the church on the path through the wood, everything about the complex brings to mind a gigantic astrolabe – the ancient device designed to examine the heavens, nature, and different perspectives as a means of grasping the complexity of divine workings in simple human terms....

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