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Gimeno + Guitart, Church, Spain

Monolith and Metal Veil: Church and Church Hall in Tarragona

The satellite city of Bonavista was built in 1959. Since 1964, it has belonged to the Catalan coastal city of Tarragona, whose centre lies around 5 kilometres to the east. The streets, which are arranged in a chessboard grid, are numbered in the American style; the residential architecture is unspectacular.

However, for the past few months Bonavista has been home to an architectural jewel: right in the centre, beside Constitution Square and the neighbourhood park, architects Gimeno + Guitart have erected a new building for the Church of Santa Maria Assumpta along with its associated hall.

The L-shaped hall delimits the church complex from its neighbouring buildings. The church itself stands directly at the southwest corner of the parcel of land, which means that it dominates the view of the street. Both structures have flat façades with few apertures; however, they consist of different materials. For instance, the hall features a conventional punctuated façade behind a translucent veil of perforated trapezoidal sheeting which conceals the offsets on the vertical axis of the building.

The church has outer walls of exposed concrete whose profiled panels take on a striking diagonal zigzag pattern. This building rises more than 18 metres high; two significantly lower annexes for the sacristy and the side entrance form a link to the neighbouring building and give the entire complex a more closed-off front facing the square.

Moreover, the modest entrance lets the adjacent church nave appear even more spacious than it is. It is surrounded by smooth exposed-concrete walls linked only by the regular pattern of the panelling. Only three large window openings and two long skylights let the daylight into the nave. Here, daylight shines in through three window openings and two long skylights. In this church space, four materials come together to form an exciting synthesis: the ubiquitous exposed concrete, the wood of the pews, the gold-leaf altar wall and the thinly sliced alabaster used by the architects to completely close in two of the three window openings and part of the third.

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