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A church in Rwandan landscape

Under the great celestial vault, rise the hills of Rwanda, where it is possible to meditate, to return to our primordial origins, and rediscover ourselves.

The church is defined by the tension between the sky and the earth: The symmetric roof is generated by two axes (Latin cross) pulled to the sky so to conform a huge vault that is sustained by a series of asymmetrical masses rising from the ground. A big funnel-like opening deforms the vault to be a direct connection between the ground and the sky: the natural light that is coming inside is projected to the baptism pool and reflected inside the building. When it is raining, a waterfall collects the water into the pool and constructs a theatrical backdrop, behind the altar. 
The building is an open system with spontaneous access ways: there are no doors or walls. The intention is to conform a series of open spaces for the community, usable in different moments of the day besides the religious rituals. The church becomes a system of spaces for various activities, from community meetings, meditation, and education. This is possible because of the masses that are excavated to generate more intimate voids projected to the sky. In addition, inspired by the typical terraces of Rwanda’s landscape, the main nave’s floor plays with different levels to contribute to this differentiation and specialization of the spaces.

The materials and techniques used to design the building are coming from the local tradition, on one hand to better ground the building to its landscape and on the other to facilitate the logistics and construction in such a peculiar place. In detail, the roof’s structure is defined by a woven system of locally grown Bamboo poles. The external layer is a composite membrane with some semi-transparent shapes able to deliver the light inside in specific areas. The masses are built with a peripheral wall of unbaked clay bricks, then filled with compacted earth. The floors are earthen surfaces, treated to avoid wear. The pool has an “overflow” to prevent any spillage of water to the outside. The furnishings are made of wood, except for the altar and the lectern, which will be treated in the same manner as the masses. The materials, the colors, and the forms are explicit references to the natural surrounding of the building.

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