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Thread: Jubilee Church - Rome, Italy - by Richard Meier

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    Default Jubilee Church - Rome, Italy - by Richard Meier

    Iconic Arcs: Jubilee Church by Richard Meier & Partners

    Rome: White concrete "sails" soar into a Roman neighborhood.


    by ArchNewsNow

    October 23, 2003


    Detail: Jubilee Church, Rome, Italy


    The church adjoins the Tor Tre Teste housing complex.

    As if anyone would need an excuse to go to Rome…here’s another. This Sunday, October 26th, marks the much anticipated opening of the Jubilee Church (Dio Padre Misericordioso), designed by Richard Meier & Partners. The church is already an iconic landmark of contemporary architecture in one of the world’s most historic cities, and it is sure to establish a new paradigm for international church design.

    This is Meier’s third ecclesiastical building, after the Crystal Cathedral’s International Center for Possibility Thinking in Garden Grove, California (2003), and the Hartford Seminary in Hartford, Connecticut (1981). The project began in 1995 as an invited competition that included Tadao Ando, Günter Behnisch, Santiago Calatrava, Peter Eisenman, and Frank Gehry. Meier was awarded the commission in 1996, and construction began in 1998. It is the 50th new church and community center built throughout the suburbs of Rome, with 15 more planned for completion.

    The church sits on a flat, triangular site in Tor Tre Teste (named for a bas relief of three heads carved in a medieval guard tower dating back to the 4th Century) about six miles east of central Rome. It is adjacent to a lower/middle-income housing complex built in the 1970s on the boundary of a public park.

    The 108,414 square-foot complex contains both a church and a Community Center, connected by a four-story atrium. The project features concrete, stucco, travertine, and glass. Three dramatic concrete shells arc in graduated heights from 56 to 88 feet that bring to mind gliding white sails. Glass ceilings and skylights in the church span the entire length of the building filling the space with natural light. At night, light emanates from within creating an ethereal presence and animating the landscape. The main nave seats 240, and a day chapel seats 24.

    The plan relates to the triangular site. The sacred realm to the south, where the nave is located, is separated from the secular precinct to the north; pedestrian approaches are from both the housing complex to the east and the parking lot to the west.

    The proportions of the complex are based on a series of displaced squares and four circles. Three circles of equal radius generate the profiles of the three shells that, together with the spine-wall, make up the body of the church nave – and discretely imply the Holy Trinity.

    The western side of the church site is laid out as two courts separated by a paved causeway running east/west between the community center to the north and the church to the south. The northern most court adjacent to the center has a recreational garden. The second court features a reflecting pool and is intended as a meditation space.

    The four-level community center functions as a key gathering place for social, educational, and recreational activities. A paved pedestrian approach or sagrato (churchyard) on the east, near the center of the adjacent Tor Tre Teste housing project, encourages parishioners to gather in the piazza as was done in the sagrati of medieval Italy.

    “With the Jubilee Church, we have worked to create a new Roman Catholic church for the 21st century – a landmark that upholds and builds upon the city’s rich architectural tradition,” says Richard Meier, FAIA. “I am honored to have this wonderful opportunity to be a part of history and a partner in the Arch Diocese of Rome’s Jubilee celebrations.”

    This Sunday, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, Vicar General, will consecrate the church, named Dio Padre Misericordioso (God our Merciful Father) by His Holiness Pope John Paul II, on the occasion of his 25th anniversary as Pontiff.


    Glass walls and skylights nestle within three concrete shells.


    The concrete "sails" protect the north side of the church; the outer sail includes a floor-level clerestory.


    Natural light sculpts the Jubilee Church interior.

    Q&A with Richard Meier

    The goal of most religious architecture is to convey spiritual power. How does your design convey that kind of spirit?

    Richard Meier: Light is the protagonist of our understanding and reading of space. Light is the means by which we are able to experience what we call sacred. Light is at the origins of this building. I am reminded of H.G. Gadamer’s words in The Relevance of the Beautiful: “We only have to think of certain expressions like the ‘play of light’ and the ‘play of the waves’ where we have such a constant coming and going, back and forth, a movement that is not tied down to any goal. That the sense of freedom and movement – both in human festivities, and also in natural phenomena as the play of light – may be seen as fundamentally theological.”

    If you visit Borromini’s church (Chiesa di S. Ivo alla Sapienza), you will experience a glorious white interior filled with light and magic. It is one of the great works of architecture of 16th century Rome. Also, S. Carlo alle Quattro Fontane, also by Borromini, has a quite animated interior.

    In the Jubilee Church, the three concrete shells define an enveloping atmosphere in which the light from the skylights above creates a luminous spatial experience, and the rays of sunlight serve as a mystic metaphor of the presence of God.

    The Jubilee Church is not a traditional church. If the Vicariato wanted a traditional church, they would not have invited me to participate in the competition. This church was always intended to be a work of contemporary architecture, meaningful for our time and one that is marked by openness. Transparency and light cascade down from the skylit roof, literally invading the interior of the church and also penetrating from below through a narrow slot opened at floor level. People in the atrium are enveloped with mystical light.

    Which churches inspired you?

    RM: When I began to think about this church, I thought about the churches in which the presence of the sacred could be felt: Alvar Aalto’s churches in Finland, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Wayfairer’s Chapel in the United States, along with the Chapel at Ronchamp and La Tourette by Le Corbusier came to mind. These are contemporary churches that have impressed me most, and I would say that what they all share is the importance of light.

    The Jubilee Church is situated in the outskirts of Rome in Tor Tre Teste, a middle-income housing project built in the 1970’s. How does this new church relate to that neighborhood?

    RM: The purpose of this church is to weave an isolated residential district back into the communal fabric of Rome. I hope we accomplished this architecturally by creating a sense of appropriateness, flow, and movement throughout the site. The Jubilee Church and Community Center will provide the more than 8,000 residents of the immediate area a space for ritual, play, and celebration. Hopefully, the more than 25,000 residents of the larger area of Tor Tre Teste will avail themselves of the church facilities as well. The placement of the building in the area where apartment buildings fan out from the main street of the complex creates an anchor for the area. As one approaches, the lines of access are so visually clear that one is drawn directly into the church.

    How much freedom were you afforded in the design? Was the Vatican a demanding client?

    RM: The Vicariato wanted the project to be exactly as presented in the competition proposal without any changes whatsoever. An architect cannot ask for more support than that. I was given complete freedom. However, it has the traditional organization in relation to the altar and the chapel to the side. The criticism could be made that it is too traditional in its organization.

    Is this the first time the concrete shell material was used?

    RM: The white cement was originally invented for the Olympic Stadium in Rome, designed by Pier Luigi Nervi. This material was suggested to me by Ing. Gennaro Guala of Italcementi. It is a beautiful white concrete with a smooth finish that resembles polished marble without veining. The engineering effort involved in erecting the shells was Herculean, and Italcementi did a fantastic job of realizing my design.

    You are the first Jewish architect in history to design a church for the Roman Catholic Church. How do you feel about that?

    RM: I feel extremely proud. It is very clear that the Catholic Church chose my design based on its merits, not because of a need to make a statement in regard to their relationship to Jews throughout history. Three of the architects in the competition were Jewish. They were chosen to compete because they were among the top architects of our time. However, I think it is important that there is communication and mutual admiration and respect between members of all faiths. As the architect of this church, some might say that I am, to some degree, a symbolic bridge between faiths.

    I am a little older than I was last year, and my experience has shown me that there is always someone who feels differently. The true test is how people feel about being in the church, not how they react to me, not whether the entrance is revised, or whether “Richard Meier is a Jew”, but how it is received by those in the parish of Tor Tre Teste, and how it is enjoyed by visitors that will come to experience it. Anything that makes a statement is open to criticism.

    Was there anything about creating this church that surprised you?

    RM: I have worked in every country in Europe except Belgium and Italy, so nothing surprises me.

    Your second project in Rome is for one of the city’s most important historic artifacts, the Ara Pacis. Could you tell us more about this?

    RM: The Museum of the Ara Pacis is designed to house an ancient relic and sacrificial altar, dating to 9 BC. The museum complex will contain public exhibition areas and a small auditorium. It is located in the historic center of Rome on the bank of the Tiber River in close proximity to the Ponte Cavour. The start of construction was delayed when archaeological studies halted excavation. The design of the foundation was revised to accommodate the archaeological findings and construction is now back on track. The schedule for construction prepared by the Comune di Roma currently reflects completion in July 2004.


    Site plan


    Elevations


    Early sketch: elevations


    Early sketch: site plan

    Jubilee Church Credits

    Client: Opera Romana per la Preservazione delle fede e la Provvista di Nuove Chiese in Roma: Monsignor Luigi Moretti, Monsignor Gino Amicarelli, Monsignor Ernesto Mandara, Ignazio Breccia-Fratadocchi (lead contact)

    DESIGN PHASE

    Architect: Richard Meier & Partners
    Design Team: Richard Meier, FAIA, John Eisler, Matteo Pericoli, Alfonso D’Onofrio
    RM&P Rome: Nigel Ryan
    Parish: Dio Padre Misericordioso, Don Gianfranco Corbino (Parish Priest)
    Consultants to Client: Francesco Garofalo, Sharon Yoshie Miura, Antonio Maria Michetti, Pasquale D’Agostino, Caterina Mongiardini, Leonardo Peri
    Structural and Building Systems Consulting Engineers: Arup; Guy Nordenson and Associates
    Lighting Consultant: Fisher Marantz & Stone

    CONSTRUCTION PHASE

    General Director of Works: Ignazio Breccia Fratadocchi
    Director of Works (Structure): M.S.C. Srl
    Technical Sponsor: Italcementi Gruppo
    Site Supervisor: Studio Tecnici Michetti
    Building Systems Engineer: Studio Tecnico Dott. Ing. Luigi Dell’Aquila
    Research and Materials Testing: Enel Hidro
    Seismic Studies: Rita Pellegrine
    Contractor: Lamaro Appalti Spa
    Curtainwall and Skylight Contractor: Frener & Reifer
    Curtainwall and Skylight Suppliers: Schüco International; Pilkington
    Stone (Travertine): Carlo Mariotti & Figli Srl
    Lighting: Erco
    Stucco: MAPEI
    Door Hardware: Fusital for Valli & Valli
    Church Pews: Caloi Industria Srl
    Organ: Organaria Romana
    Acoustics: Bose Spa; Harmonia
    Precious Metals Designer: Bulgari

    For nearly four decades, Richard Meier & Partners has designed dozens of cultural and civic buildings within the United States and abroad. The firm has created a brand of architecture that Louis Kahn once described as "the architecture of occasion." Such are buildings that encourage public gathering and contemplation, inspire creativity, give pleasure, and infuse visitors and occupants with a sense of event. Richard Meier & Partners projects have received numerous awards, and principal Richard Meier, FAIA, is the recipient of the Pritzker Prize for Architecture.

    © 2003 ArchNewsNow.com

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    i love that building, Its in a few of my thousands of architecture books.

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    An outstanding building. I would love to see it in person, in relationship to Rome.

    my thousands of architecture books.

    Emmeka, where do you live, and when are you not at home? :wink:

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    October 30, 2003

    The Vatican's Modernist Moment

    By ALAN RIDING


    The church includes a tower and three soaring sail-like structures.

    ROME, Oct. 26 — If any city is well supplied with churches, it is surely Rome. Yet 10 years ago, after concluding that 600,000 people here had no convenient place to worship, the archdiocese began an ambitious building program. On Sunday it consecrated the 50th new church, and the most spectacular: a striking Modernist structure designed by Richard Meier around three soaring "sails" of white concrete.

    More surprising, perhaps, is that a world-renowned architect who designed the Getty Center in Los Angeles would build a parish church in an outer neighborhood of Rome. But the Vatican apparently wanted the building, referred to as the Jubilee Church (for the celebration of the 2,000th anniversary of Christianity), to serve as a powerful symbol of renewal.

    In 1995 it invited six leading architects to submit designs: Frank Gehry, Peter Eisenman, Santiago Calatrava, Tadao Ando and Günter Behnisch, as well as Mr. Meier. When Mr. Meier's blueprint was chosen, he duly showed the model to the bishop of Rome, Pope John Paul II himself.

    At the time, though, what most struck reporters here was that a Jewish architect from New York had been assigned such an important Roman Catholic project. Yet, interestingly, this never became an issue for the Vatican. Three of the six competing architects were Jewish, and the designs' authors were not identified when the archdiocese's jury made its decision.

    "We didn't judge the person, but what he could do," said Msgr. Luigi Moretti, a spokesman for the archdiocese.

    By now, Mr. Meier, too, is well practiced in answering questions about the relevance of his religion to the project. "Regardless of one's religion, I think most of us acknowledge that there are things in this world outside our realm," he said at a news conference before the consecration ceremony. "When I think of a place of worship, I think of a place where one can sit and be reminded of all the things that are important outside our individual lives."

    From an early age, he was also inspired by the "light and form" of the great Baroque Roman churches designed by Bernini and Borromini, Mr. Meier, 69, said. And although this is his first church, he has done two other ecclesiastical projects: the Hartford Seminary in Connecticut, completed in 1981, and the International Center for Possibility Thinking at the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, Calif., a building for a religious broadcaster that was finished this year.

    Construction of the church, whose religious name is Dives in Misericordia (Mercy of God), in Tor Tre Teste, a working-class neighborhood six miles east of central Rome, was delayed primarily by a shortage of funds. Financial pressures led the archdiocese to seek donations of materials from builders and suppliers. (These gifts have also made it difficult to calculate the cost of the project.) Now that the church is opening three years after the jubilee, it has been dedicated to the 25th anniversary of John Paul's pontificate, celebrated this year.

    But Mr. Meier's design, combining curvilinear and rectilinear shapes, also posed challenges. The three soaring sails sweep over a side chapel and half of the nave. A glass roof connects to a community building, which includes a four-story atrium, living space for the parish priest, a community meeting room, classrooms for catechism lessons and a tower with five vertically placed bells. Typical of Mr. Meier's designs, the entire building is white and bathed in light.

    For engineers, the main hurdle was building the freestanding sails, which are designed to withstand heat, wind and earthquakes. Each is made of 12-ton blocks of precast white concrete, a material developed by Grupo Italcementi, one of the project's main corporate sponsors. To mount the sails, Italcementi invented a huge skeletal machine that moved on rails as it gradually lifted the blocks into place.

    "It took enormous effort to create what today looks so simple," Mr. Meier said, paying tribute to the engineers.

    Entered through large doors within a glass facade, the interior of the church presents an intriguing blend of sophistication and simplicity: to one side, the largest sail reaches 88 feet above the nave, creating an almost Gothic form; the opposite wall is made of vertical wooden slats; the organ pipes at the rear resemble silver; the church's floor, altar and baptismal font are pale travertine. Hanging above the altar is a single large crucifix.

    "The central ideas for creating a sacred space have to do with truth and authenticity," Mr. Meier explained, "a search for clarity, peace, transparency, a yearning for tranquillity, a place to evoke otherworldliness in a way that is uplifting. And to express spirituality, the architect has to think of the original material of architecture, space and light."

    The altar's position here is unusual, at the church's western end. (It is traditionally placed east.) This choice was a function of the plot's triangular shape and position, with apartment blocks framing the church on two sides. "To have placed the altar in the east would have meant entering the church from the back," Mr. Meier said. "No one in the archdiocese objected to what we proposed."

    It was certainly not a problem for the large crowds that arrived on Sunday for the church's consecration by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the vicar general of Rome. Outside the church, Mr. Meier and the mayor, Walter Veltroni, met Cardinal Ruini, who was accompanied by 50 priests, for a brief handing-over ceremony. With no room for everyone inside, several hundred people watched the church's first Mass on television screens outdoors.

    Although the church is finally open, Mr. Meier's relationship with this city is not over. He is also building a new Museum of the Ara Pacis, devoted to the altar of peace that the Roman emperor Augustus ordered built to give thanks for his conquest of Gaul and the consolidation of his empire. Consecrated in 9 B.C., the altar was finally restored from fragments in 1938 and placed in a building constructed at the order of Mussolini.

    In 1995 the Rome municipal government chose Mr. Meier's Modernist design for a new museum on the east bank of the Tiber River beside the mausoleum of Augustus. In 2001 Vittorio Sgarbi, then undersecretary for culture in Silvio Berlusconi's rightist government, tried to block Mr. Meier's project, describing it as "disgusting." But Mr. Sgarbi was later fired, and work is now going ahead on the museum, which should be completed by 2005.

    "It will be the first new building in Rome's historic center since Mussolini's," Mr. Meier said with a smile.


    The New York architect Richard Meier in front of Dives in Misericordia, a church he designed in a working-class neighborhood of Rome.

    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

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    How does this man manage to make every one of his buildings beautiful?

  6. #6
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ablarc
    How does this man manage to make every one of his buildings beautiful?
    Pure, pristine, perfect...white.

  7. #7

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    perfect is right Merry, the Platonic 1962 suburban chapel, kind of what Ronchamp might have been like if Corbusier could draw

    but what I want to know is how "Jubilee Church" is a translation of "Dio Padre Misericordioso"

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    Photo © Alan Karchmer/Esto

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    Thumbs down Location, Location, Location

    A beautiful building, yes, but totally insensitive to its surrounding and the neighboring buildings. The juxtaposition is a bit jarring.
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    What's to be sensitive about? Suburbia is no place.

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by osopardo
    A beautiful building, yes, but totally insensitive to its surrounding and the neighboring buildings. The juxtaposition is a bit jarring.
    You not see the neighboring building of it's site. They are very, very ugly!
    In a very ugly suburb, isolated from the rest of the thousand-years old city of Rome, Meier was able to create an attraction-building, a vitalizer for this island forget by the city hall.

    Dear ZippyTheChimp, if you are plannig to visit it, prepare for lost yourself in the Rome's mazy-system of streeet.
    Since three years, by the opening of the church, the city hall hasn't place any roadsign in the city yet.
    When I visit it, a church' guard saw me that they were very angry with the city major, beacuse he has placed a lot of roadsign of Renzo Piano's Auditorium, and none of the Jubilee Church.
    This occur beacuse the Renzo Piano's Auditorium is a city major's credit, and the Jubilee Church is a Vatican's one.

    Hi

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    I find the building confusing. The one interior pciture looks stark and forbidding. Why would I want the interior of a church to be 'sculpted' by jagged light games?

    About the only good thing about it is that it's painted white, which is cheerful as opposed to raw concrete and that it's in such an ugly neighborhood that frankly who cares.

  15. #15

    Thumbs down

    Quote Originally Posted by ablarc
    What's to be sensitive about? Suburbia is no place.
    Suburbia is a place of people. The church ought to be for the benefit of people, but this particular church sits on an unwelcoming, barren, no-man's-land of a plaza which acts as nothing more than a pedestal for the building. No consideration is given to the human need for community, gathering and socialization. It offers no attraction to anyone but possibly skateboarders and vandals because of its isolationist attitude (if I may stretch a point and assign attitude to a place). Compare this to some of the older, more well known exterior public spaces created in relationship to places of worship, such as San Marco, and their success in creating an inviting human environment.

    This project had a fantastic opportunity to reach out to the community and totally missed it! After all, shouldn't that be the primary function of a church?

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