Not everybody likes concrete for a church (but we do)
The cube made of concrete by Fuksas, in Foligno, has sparked a lot of controversy. It is a church that has rekindled a never ending debate on the features of sacred architecture. So, what must sacred architecture be like?
The project of the new church of Foligno by Massimiliano and Doriana Fuksas is the winner of a competition organized by the Italian Episcopal Conference in 2001. The church was opened in 2009, in an area that had temporarily housed hundreds of post-earthquake displaced people. According to the intentions of the Fuksas couple, the cube is a tribute to the victims of this catastrophic event, resembling in shape the containers, which first were placed in quake-hit areas, for first aid.
Thus, the building does not definitively respect the traditional stylistic features of sacred architecture. The orientation of the liturgical elements within a church, in line with the cardinal points, have always been fundamental. On the contrary, this is a square-plan architecture with no specific orientations; inside the new Foligno church, the presbytery and the altar are placed in a central position. The new church, according to Fuksas, proposes the rethinking of the relationship between faith and architecture, demonstrated by the wonder that one feels when entering the church and looking up, and by the shadows cut by the light entering through the irregular-shaped windows on the face of the cube.
The structure is formed by the composition of two boxes without visible knots - a box inside a box - made of reinforced concrete, for a surface area of about 1300 square meters. The volume, from outside the church, seems monolithic but it was realized using an internal structure of concrete beams with internal and external lining of self-compacting concrete, with a thickness of 10 cm. Massimiliano Fuksas himself comments on the discrepancy between the perception of the monolith from the outside and from the inside: "You have to come inside. Outside you do not fully understand" and then, with regard to the technological performance of the building, "I do not want people to watch the technical performance of the building. Just standing in the space should be enough to create awe."
The interior furnishings and the lighting system are designed entirely by the Fuksas couple while the artist Mimmo Paladino was involved for the fourteen chapels of the Via Crucis, and Enzo Cucchi for the huge cross in the churchyard - a totem of 13.5 meters in height. The church is clearly inspired by some milestones in the history of architecture such as the Ronchamp Chapel by Le Corbusier and the Villa Nemazee by Gio Ponti in Tehran.
In conclusion, the new church of Foligno most definitely declares the majesty of the divine-faith relationship, albeit in unconventional way. The only quibble is in the inclusion of the complex within the landscape, perhaps a little too aggressively. But, time could turn this huge cube of concrete into an irreplaceable landmark for the city of Foligno.
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