LOCATION Castellammare di Stabia, Naples, Italy
YEAR 2013
THEME Architecture, Sacred spaces, Church
STATUS Competition
DESIGNERS Antonio Monestiroli, Tomaso Monestiroli,
TEAM  Luca Cardani, Federica Cattaneo, Claudia Tinazzi

At the site dedicated to the construction of the church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the beauty of the cultivated countryside must confront the strong presence of a power plant and the elements belonging to it, and the urban disorder generated by an expansive city policy implemented without rules and development plans. Two formal worlds that overlap and create a strong contrast. To the north, on the horizon, stands, as the only landscape reference, Vesuvius, which witnesses as it did thousands of years ago the events of that territory. Designing a church in that place, at first sight unsuitable, was a positive experience. It was immediately understood that we had to build an accomplished volume, with a material related to the soil of that plain, an earthy material that was supposed to soften the landscape compromised by high-tension pylons, and the prevailing disorder.

We are convinced that a sacred building must be recognizable, that it cannot just be a place of gathering but must be able to be expressive of the reason for which it is built. It is certain that at the basis of the reason for the church is the celebration of the rite. The gathering of the people of the faithful has as its purpose participation in the rite. The meeting between the assembly and the celebrant involves the relationship between two places, one intended for the faithful and another where the altar on which the celebration takes place stands. Two places in mutual and necessary relationship. Perhaps this is the intention that can guide in the search for the forms proper to the church: that these correspond to its purpose, which is to establish a close relationship between a community and the rite that belongs to it. In our design, the church consists of four parts aligned on an axis of symmetry and all placed on a one-meter high basement: a garden, an atrium, the liturgical hall, and the chancel. To these four parts are added laterally the weekday chapel and the baptistery. The presence of a garden placed in front of the new church, at the same elevation as the churchyard, gives the place a welcoming character. The garden consists of a lawn in which 25 holm oaks and olive trees are planted arranged in a geometric order. Inside the garden on the longitudinal axis of the church, a stone altar is arranged to accommodate the outdoor liturgical service. Between the two altars, one in the garden and the other in the church, a visual relationship is established that connects the garden, the large church atrium, the hall with the succession of side chapels, and the chancel. Next to the garden is the churchyard, a place of access to the entire parish system and a loggia overlooking the landscape to the north and a privileged viewpoint of Vesuvius. The churchyard overlooks the church through its atrium, an important place, sandwiched between two parallel walls meant to recall two large doors of a door that is always open to welcome the community of the faithful. Between the atrium and the hall an iron and glass compass allows, even when the church is closed, a view of the interior of the hall to the chancel, which is always strongly lit. The small classroom is covered with exposed beams and naturally lit by a series of skylights arranged along the two long sides. It is a place we would like to have a domestic character, a place overlooked by a large, bright chancel that takes zenithal light and reflects it on its walls until it illuminates the altar and crucifix placed in the center of the light space. The altar is set at the edge of the chancel, facing the assembly where, even more, the ambo juts out. Between the hall and chancel there is an absolute spatial continuity but also a strong diversity of materials and light due to the fact that in one dwells the celebrating people and the other is the place of the crucifix. Between one and the other place, the altar plays a role as a relationship between two parts that through ritual are joined. Overlooking the hall to the right of the chancel are two chapels: the weekday chapel and the baptistery. The ferial chapel, which contains the Eucharistic custody, is shown entirely on the hall and is lit by two large skylights, making it very bright. The baptistery, closer to the church entrance, contains the baptismal font, also lit by a zenithal skylight. To the north, in a self-contained building, are the parish works, catechism classrooms and multipurpose room, accessible directly from the churchyard.


L. Cardani (edit by) Studio Monestiroli  Opere e progetti di Architettura Electa Milan 2021