- Yogesh M Singh
How Colab 19’s temporary chapel is solving the challenge of social gathering during the pandemic?
Read on to find out how Colab 19 saved Easter with an open-air chapel in Bogota.
The Colab19 team initiated a welfare project with both public and private coalitions for a needy community. Flux and liminality in architectural space have been an inextricable objective for quite some time.
Yet these spatial attributes were often interpreted and integrated as a design decision that could still be done away with. Since the pandemic struck the world, such spatial properties are gaining further ground in pursuit of a more sanitary and habitable public space.
Due to the escalating covid situation during easter, the Major of Bogota restricted the Easter celebrations in the city. The collab19 team responding to the crisis decided to uphold the celebrations while adhering to the covid restrictions.
On approaching Bogota's archdiocese for donating a church, they were brought in touch with the community of the Parroquia Santa Maria de la Alhambra. This church was facing economic difficulties and the tribulations arising from the lack of an existing temple.
Structure and Evolution
The language behind the experimental proposal can be ascribed to recyclable construction systems with no waste as an outcome. The plan was a direct interpretation of the Greek cross establishing a familiarity between the structure and the purpose it stands for. The idea can also be considered a consequential evolution of church architecture with even more focus on the societal usage and impact of the structure.
The construction employed a horizontal framework that is a system previously used to cast concrete slabs. The pragmatic use of a so-called outdated system led to a very much relevant and guiding solution.
Since the materials used were easily recyclable from the structure, the whole process assumes a cycle of constant reuse and alterations in which the chapel can always become formwork. The use of low-cost recycled materials augments the sustainable aspects of the project.
The inner nave of the structure is partitioned with the exterior using hanging mosquito nets. These nets help in visual separation and social distancing while protecting the inhabitants from horizontal rain showers.
The intersecting part of the cross plan has a skylight that centralizes the spatial focus and stands as the symbol of divinity. The whole interplay between the formwork and the mosquito nets creates an impression of a ‘hoving cloud of fog in a column forest’.
Chapel architecture, often aimed at creating enclosed spaces, symbolizes isolation from the world in search of spiritual connection. The Alhambra cross amalgamates the significance of a chapel with a socially rich public space. The programmatic hybrid thus creates new incidents in the overall experience of the space.
Collaboration and Activism
The project that started as a temporary rehabilitation of a church soon became a campaign supported by the Colombian Society of Architects. The structural materials were donated by a formwork company called Equinorte.
The installation process as well employed students from CESCA (a student's collective organization from the Colombia Society of Architects) who assembled the chapel. While the students provided free physical labour in the assembly, it was reciprocally sought as a learning exercise. The complete processes involved from conception to construction stand as an activistic exercise.
The social architecture considerations and empathetic programming helped Colab19 successfully rehabilitate the Parroquia Santa Maria de la Alhambra Church. The space usage is kept quite flexible. The people even bring their own chairs when the space capacity gets full.
The building has seen a surge in occupants as Easter approached with an average occupancy of 80. The works implemented by the Colab 19 team seem to be another milestone in the way towards a more open, sustainable and sensitive social architecture.
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