benedetta tagliabue's san giacomo church takes its form from a hot air balloon

benedetta tagliabue's san giacomo church takes its form from a hot air balloon

the fluid form of the san giacomo church


EMBT / benedetta tagliabue unveils the sculptural ‘san giacomo apostolo’ church and parish complex in the northern italian city of ferrara. sited in the city’s arginone neighborhood, the ambitious project was completed after ten years of development. at once, the structure is defined by its undulating, suspended rooftop, whose sculptural form takes influence from that of a hot air balloon. this roof structure informs the complex, abstracted volume with its curving brick walls. see designboom’s coverage of the project’s construction early last year here.

san giacomo benedetta tagliabueimages © marcela grassi | @marcelagrassiphotography



benedetta tagliabue celebrates hot air balloons over ferrara


with the design of its san giacomo church, benedetta tagliabue / EMBT (see more here) integrates nature into every facet. from the exterior, visitors observe a light building made up of organic forms, surrounded by a grove of slender trees. the space is accessed by way of two lateral paths that lead to a natural design square in front of the church, which acts as a meeting point and symbolizes the center of two large arms which open outward to the ferrara community.


benedetta tagliabue, founder and director of benedetta tagliabue / EMBT comments on the design of the project:the inspiration came one day when we were analyzing the territory and the environment, when we saw the sky of ferrara full of hot air balloons for the international festival that is held every year in september.


thus, we imagine a light and friendly church, which comes from heaven and is located in the place where the christian community needs it most, a contemporary church, rich in strength and symbolism, surprising and familiar at the same time, inspired by the early days of the church.’

san giacomo benedetta tagliabue



a modulated material expression


benedetta tagliabue / EMBT modulates the materials and the construction system differently to characterize the various programs of the san giacomo church. with the same materials it has been possible to work from the most monumental space, the church, to the spaces of the parish complex, with a more domestic aspect.


the facades play with plaster and exposed brick placed in different arrangements and made to measure with a three-pointed design reminiscent of ferrara’s palazzo dei diamanti, a renaissance masterpiece. the temple is accessed through a large gate, built with a natural timber, a key material throughout the project — along the roof, in the furniture, and with the carpentry which expresses the shapes of trees.

san giacomo benedetta tagliabue san giacomo benedetta tagliabue san giacomo benedetta tagliabue


benedetta tagliabue's san giacomo church takes its form from a hot air balloon




project info:


project title: san giacomo church

architecture: EMBT / benedetta tagliabue | @embtarchitects

location: arginone, ferrara, italy

client: CEI conferenza episcopale italiana, parrocchia di san giacomo apostolo, ferrara
artist: enzo cucchi
liturgist: don roberto tagliaferri
structural design: studio iorio, francesco iorio

completion: october 2021

photography: marcela grassi | @marcelagrassiphotography


miralles tagliabue EMBT team
project directors EMBT: benedetta tagliabue, joan callis
design coordinator EMBT: valentina nicol noris
wooden ceiling and sacred furniture EMBT: nazaret busto rodríguez, julia de ory mallavia, daniel hernán garcía
management coordinator EMBT: camilla persi
collaborators EMBT: paola amato, letizia artioli, guido aybar maino, sofia barberena cantero, christopher bierach, irene botas cal, maria cano gómez, helena carì, vincenzo cicero santalena, luis angello coarite asencio, maria antonia franco, juan david fawcett vargas, paula georghe, leonardo gerli, francesca guarnieri, evelina ilina, michael kowalsky, philip lemanski, erez levinberg, lauren lochry, ernesto lopez, oscar lopez, pablo lópez prol, annarita luvero, andrea marchesin, laura martín, beatriz martínez rico, agustina mascetti, lucero mattioda, grant mc cormick, marianna mincarelli, andrea morandi, enrico narcisi, marco nucifora, marco orecchia, jiyoun park, mikaela patrick, gonzalo peña, juan manuel peña sanz, marina pérez primo, eleonora righetto, roberto rocchi, cj rogers, francesca romano, gabriele rotelli, javier ruiz safont, bárbara ruschel lorenzoni,antonio rusconi, raya shaban, georgiana spiridon, guillermo sotelo, astrid steegmans, angelos siampakoulis, andrea stevanato, stefano spotti, raphael teixeria libonati, lorenzo trucato, katrina varian, giovanni vergantini, beatrice viotti, federico volpi, ling yang, lisa zanin.
communication team EMBT: arturo mc clean, ana gallego, lluc miralles.


project management: concordia SAS — diego malosso, maria elena antonucci
local engineer: ing. beatrice malucelli
acoustic consultant: higini arau
lighting consultant: maurici ginés — artec3 studio
scientific support: matteo ruta — politecnico di milano installations: studio simax


director of works, C.S.P. E C.S.E.: ing. domenico mancini static tester: ing. simone carraro
catastral practices: geom. sotterri giulio
constructors and suppliers: costruzioni tiziano geom. corrado srl (general contractor), falegnameria lucietti (windows and doors, church roof), gela srl (copper cover coating), filippetto srl (mechanical installations), cieffe elettroimpianti (electrical installations), bertani legno spa (wooden oratory roof), srl (plasterboards and paints), idealwork srl (concrete floors and churchyard, resin coatings), caoduro snc (stone layers), studio d’arte gaeta (ceramic art workshop), berti sisto & c (supplier of sandstone church crosses), manzi marmi (supplying altar and floor stone), falegnameria loro (church furnishings), prase (church sound system/design consultancy), audio solutions (sound system installer), mestriner & piccoli (church metal cross supplier), san marco terreal (consulting, brick supply), antico legno srl (antique woodworking cross), stingers illuminotecnica (lighting supply/consultancy), iguzzini illuminazione spa (lighting supply/consultancy), bover (church chandeliers), map (structural steel supply), sinko (supply of movable walls for oratory bathrooms), ceramica kronos (bathroom ceramics supplier canonica), roverati giardini (parish gardener – outdoor lawn).


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