Architects and designers aim to keep liturgical architecture and sacred spaces design alive as they join the preparation for the Philippines’ 500 Years of Christianity in 2021.
According to Architect Stephanie Gilles, chairman of the United Architects of the Philippines Committee on Liturgical Architecture and Sacred Spaces (UAP-CLASS), in a time where making sense of faith is one critical point of thinking amidst the pandemic, appreciating places of worship is vital for people to keep going.
She said, “The role of liturgical architecture, along with the use of Scripture and practice of our tradition, help inform the lay people and make them recognize God’s sovereignty and protection.”
Upholding liturgical architecture is a timely advocacy for next year’s celebration on the 500 Years of Christianity in the Philippines. Gilles noted the renewed interest in having churches and other sacred spaces renovated to make them more elegant and dignified for 2021’s festivity.
She added that unlike in other countries where the beautiful churches are now being abandoned and converted into secular spaces such as concert halls, libraries, events places, or museums, the country still preserves the beautiful church and sacred spaces masterpieces.
Some notable local examples of liturgical architecture are those of National Artist for Architecture, Leandro Locsin’s the Manila Memorial Park Chapel in Parañaque City, which has a shape that evokes hands in prayer; Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Quezon City, that looks like a native hat (salakot); and Church of the Monastery of the Transfiguration in Malaybalay, Bukidnon, of Ifugao character.
Gilles also cites other designs that are neoclassic, baroque style such as San Agustin Church in Intramuros,
Gothic-inspired like the Basilica of San Sebastian, the only steel church in Asia, and many others modern or minimalist chapels inside shopping malls. “These renowned sacred structures contribute to the wealth of Filipino religious structures and spaces designed for liturgical celebrations.”
Sacred spaces in the new normal
In the new normal, liturgical architects and designers rethink of ways to adapt to new perspectives in reaching out to people in places of worship. She says, “As people adapt to the new normal on liturgical celebrations such as observing safe distances from one another and wearing masks when attending mass at church, the sacred spaces also conform to the pandemic situation by providing safety measures and spaces to implement health protocols.”
Aside from wearing masks, checking of temperature upon entry, and proper hand sanitizing before entering worship areas, churches and sacred spaces now have markings in areas placed outside and inside the church, pews are rearranged, limited seating capacity is strictly implemented, instructions and reminders are posted on walls, and movement is organized in bringing offerings to the altar.
For their part, UAP-CLASS and GOLD members have endeavored to provide technical assistance to parish priests, bishops and rectors on the design or renovation of their churches and chapels, even to the extent of looking for sponsors and donations in the form of building materials, fixtures, furniture and equipment that are needed in these sacred buildings.
She says, “It is our way of giving back to God for all the blessings we have received.”
Gilles looks forward to unifying the practice of church architects and designers of sacred spaces through UAP-CLASS which aims to align with the standards of liturgical architecture, to live the liturgy in architecture and culture as expressed in spaces and the physical form, and to provide a platform for designers of sacred spaces to share experiences, bring up concerns, lobby for common causes and advocacies. The committee intends to make people aware of what is Liturgical Architecture and the proper way of doing it, by providing a manual on liturgical guidelines, offering courses and modules on Sacred Spaces, from seasoned practitioners who will impart their wealth of experience.
“Being a liturgical architect myself, I can say that this field of specialization is a very fulfilling endeavor, as it is concerned not only with building houses for ordinary people but of designing and building a House for God, who is our Primary Client,” she said. “It may not be as lucrative but it is an enriching and satisfying experience to get involved in this practice. There is no specific design for churches or chapels. It may be either traditional or modern, but what is important is that we design spaces that lead people to communicate with God and to form their spiritual edifice, which is our ultimate goal.”
As preparation for next year’s celebration, UAP-CLASS & GOLD are conducting the “2nd Liturgical Architecture Conference 2020: Celebrating 500 years of Christianity in the Phili5pines”, a Conference on Liturgical Architecture scheduled for 23 to 24 October, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The conference is in collaboration with the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Commission on Liturgy, Pontificia Universitá della Santa Croce, Rome (PUSC), UST College of Architecture Alumni Association (UST-CAAA), the UST College of Architecture (UST-CA), and other affiliated institutions, both academic and professional. There will be an expected audience of about 300 participants, consisting of seasoned practitioners in the field of liturgical design: parish priests, seminarians, liturgical architects, engineers, interior designers, artists, specialty contractors, professionals involved in designing and building sacred spaces.
Registration starts at March 12, 2018, Monday, 1:00 p.m.