ARQBR's strikingly modernist concrete church is an ode to the endless brazilian horizon

ARQBR's strikingly modernist concrete church is an ode to the endless brazilian horizon

‘church of the holy family by arqbr 

 

Emerging dramatically from the expansive Brazilian Highlands, the ‘Church of the Holy Family’ celebrates faith, spirituality, and community by looking to the iconic forms of post-war modernism. Completed by Arquitetura e Urbanismo (ARQBR), the concrete church sits at the border of EPIA – Estrada Parque Indústria e Abastecimento (Park Road of Industry and Supply), a main component of the radio-centric road system implemented to support architect Lucio Costa’s Pilot Project (Plano Piloto) for Brazil’s new capital, Brasilia, inaugurated in 1960. Quoting Costa himself, ARQBR sought inspiration from the area’s pastoral qualities, namely ‘that horizon without limit, excessively vast. It was out of scale – like an ocean with immense clouds moving over it.‘ 

ARQBR's strikingly modernist concrete church is an ode to the endless brazilian horizon
all images © Joana França

 

 

honoring the expansive scale of brasilia’s city park landscape 

 

It was precisely that expansive scale that defined Brasilia’s city park quality, where the connection between the observer and the environment never breaks, a condition that is necessary for the manifestation of the urban landscape — ‘[this] proximity with wild nature and an aesthetic continuum between living spaces, free spaces, great extensions of cerrado vegetation, parks, green belts extending along roads, and the always unimpeded horizon,’  writes the Brazilian studio.

 

The unique qualities of the Brazilian Highlands led to a transformative design of EPIA in the early 2000s. Characterized by an exuberant avenue of eucalyptus that shaped the entrance of the city, EPIA, which began to be controlled by the federal government in 2004, became an expressway, with its lanes extended, its traffic segregated, and almost all the trees having been cut to accommodate the marginal lane.

ARQBR's strikingly modernist concrete church is an ode to the endless brazilian horizon
‘Church of the Holy Family’ sits at the edge of the EPIA expressway

 

 

As a result, the surrounding rural landscape immediately lost its character, exacerbated by the partitioning of the land, the extensive growth of expensive housing, and great commercial enterprises, creating ruptures in the urban configuration and a generic landscape under constant change. ‘Thus, the urban function of the road, the attention to the scenic qualities and the sensitive experience of the route give place to speed, to efficiency and fluidity under a highway logic,’ notes ARQBR. 

ARQBR's strikingly modernist concrete church is an ode to the endless brazilian horizon
simple monolithic volumes compose the design

 

 

In light of the expressway phenomenon, the architects composed the ‘Church of the Holy Family’ as simple yet equally dramatic concrete volumes that synthesize the fundamental premises of Brasilia. These include its opening to the horizon, the inseparability between public and private space — and, as a consequence, between the community and the sacred — and lastly, the landscape as a structuring and fundamental element of the architectural configuration. More specifically, ARQBR built the church as a mixed structural solution of reinforced concrete and steel — with six concrete pillars supporting the outer area of the main body defined by a circular volume and a metallic truss roof allowing ample daylight to pour in.

ARQBR's strikingly modernist concrete church is an ode to the endless brazilian horizon
recalling the dramatic expansion towards the Brazilian horizon

 

 

The architectural concept adopted unfolds from the relationship between spirituality, nature, and community. Spirituality communicates itself in the Catholic religion through its rites, celebrations, and sacred symbols. The sacred sense stands and renovates itself through sensitive contact with nature, which evokes the divine presence and integration with the cosmos. Architecture, in its turn, has been the privileged space of manifestation of the sacred by the person who occupies it, where the light penetrates delicately or where the silence of the stone manifests itself in the murmur of the prayers. The circular nave brings as a concept this gesture of welcoming, as it approximates the altar to the congregation, continues the practice. 

 

church-of-the-holy-family-designboom-full

 

Natural light penetrates through the roof’s circular ring, transforming the internal space of the nave, which sinks halfway below the natural height of the plot. This allows the overflow of the landscape through a small opening aligned to the ground floor while preserving the intimacy of the internal space. Such a feature is only possible due to the elevation of the circular concrete volume, suspended by six pillars that belong to the structural foundation implanted in the topography. By revealing the presence of the horizon, the architecture becomes a constitutive element of the landscape, an opening to the poetic dimension of the world, connecting the material reality to its spectator’s gaze.

ARQBR's strikingly modernist concrete church is an ode to the endless brazilian horizon
the main circular volume connects to the annex building

 

 

The generating outline of the design is determined by two main axes. The northwest-southeast axis connects the circular nave, the annex, and the existing building to the back, where the parish activities unfold. Along its extension appears a linear square, a space facing the city, which serves as support to the erratic route of those who are immersed in the ritualistic act or even the traveler on the road, in the search for the suspension of the everyday life or for a refuge from the torments of being. Perpendicularly, the northeast-southwest axis preserves the contemplative view: the crossing of the line of the horizon with the vertical volume of the campanile signals and guides the visitor or those who cross the highway in full speed at a distance.

ARQBR's strikingly modernist concrete church is an ode to the endless brazilian horizon
reinforced concrete as the main building material

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ARQBR's strikingly modernist concrete church is an ode to the endless brazilian horizon
lining the interiors with vivid wooden tones

ARQBR's strikingly modernist concrete church is an ode to the endless brazilian horizon
letting ample daylight pour in from the roof

church-of-the-holy-family-designboom-full-3

ARQBR's strikingly modernist concrete church is an ode to the endless brazilian horizon
main congregation area

ARQBR's strikingly modernist concrete church is an ode to the endless brazilian horizon
emphasizing the sweeping gestures with wooden panels

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project info:

 

name: Church of the Holy Family 

location: 27 Distrito Federal, Brasilia, Brazil 

architecture: ARQBR – Arquitetura e Urbanismo | @arqbr.au

lead architects: Eder Alencar, André Velloso, Luciana Saboia 

photography: Joana França | @joanafranca

project area: 3,915 sqm 

completion year: 2022 

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