Álvaro Siza Vieira

Church of Saint-Jacques-de-la-Lande

Rennes, France - 2018
13. February 2018
Photo: João Morgado
The church of Saint-Jacques-de-la-Lande, Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza Vieira, is the first church built in France’s Brittany region in the 21st century. Siza’s use of light and white concrete provide a unique ceremonial space that gently folds into the neighborhood south of Rennes, a residential area with five-story housing blocks.
Photo: João Morgado
Siza's main concern when designing the project was being able to integrate the church into the urban fabric. One of the hallmarks of the building is the circular shape on the second floor, which holds up to 120 people  and frees up the first floor for social and administrative areas. 
Photo: João Morgado
The church is inserted as a freestanding volume that adapts to the existing plan and the dimensions of the nearby buildings and spaces (extant or planned), in particular the size of the apartment block to the north.
Photo: João Morgado
The program is distributed across two levels by superimposing a cylinder with a 14.75-meter outer diameter on a 16x16-meter square plan with a total height of 12 meters. The Parish Centre and the church are on the first and second floors respectively, with a smaller 97m2 basement for the technical and storage areas.
Photo: João Morgado
Two rectangular volumes break off to the west of this core, framing the entrance atrium and spanning the full height of the building. Another two iden­tical quadrangular volumes lie to the east, along with a cantilevered half cylinder that emerges from the top floor. Circulation between the two floors is via a lift and two stairways, one of them enclosed.
Photo: João Morgado
The central part of the church has seating for 126, with access tor the disabled. A side chapel to the south contains the baptismal font; a semicir­cular apse (Chapel A) contains the image of the Virgin and the tabernacle; and a lateral chapel on the north side (Chapel B) contains the crucifix. A raised platform extends above chapels A and B, the base of the altar and the pulpit. The diagonal axis of the congregation area, which runs from the mam stairs towards the crucifix, defines the position of the altar.
Photo: João Morgado
The restricted access sacristy is on the upper floor of the volume containing the lift and the enclosed staircase.
Photo: João Morgado
A square platform is suspended above the cylindrical space of the church to control the light entering through the clerestory and hold the lighting and ventilation equipment. The sides of this square panel are parallel to the axis of the congregation zone. This church is thus lit indirectly from above, with light reflecting off the ceiling and the cylindrical walls. Another two small clerestories are set above the image of the Virgin and the baptismal font, while light enters Chapel B through a glazed west-facing shaft.

Photos and text courtesy of João Morgado.
Photo: João Morgado
Photo: João Morgado
Photo: João Morgado
Photo: João Morgado
Photo: João Morgado

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