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Group of young architects design a new model for sacred spaces

16 Oct 2019
By Anna Marks

In San Lazzaro di Savena in Bologna, Italy, the new Church of the Penitent Thief strives to be a model for contemporary sacred spaces.


Designed by a group of architects from INOUTarchitettura, LADO architetti, and LAMBER + LAMBER, the church is designed to be of significant architectural and social value, and aims to welcome all. 


The building’s wall casing is painted in light colours, evoking the marble of classical architecture. 


The perimeter of the church is defined by walls that bend and slide off each other, evolving into large half-open doors that signal two points of access to the main hall. 


A continuous crack from the ‘heaven’ of the building to 'earth' runs across the entire roof, and splits the building's shell, revealing the presence of the sky. 


This symbolic crack in the veil of the temple, is connected to the redemption message the Church seeks to convey.


The central void is dedicated to the assembly hall: an intimate and measured space whose fulcrum is the altar, around which the benches are arranged in a semicircle to accommodate over 300 people. 


The liturgical elements – the altar, the ambo, the baptismal font – are stone pieces in selenite: a characteristic crystalline gypsum of the Bolognese hills. 


 The result is a domestic interior space, characterized by a few carefully selected materials that are bathed in natural light.


The parish complex develops on the east side of the church and consists of two new buildings plus a refurbishment of the existing building, previously used as a place of worship. 


The new buildings form an internal courtyard overlooked by all the classrooms for catechesis: an open tree-lined and public space for meeting and play that acts as a filter to and from the urban surroundings.


The roof of the building connecting the church and the two-storey building shapes the east side of the lot and is accessible from the park itself.


This element emphasizes the connection and open relationship of the parish complex with the urban context to which it belongs.


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