Church of 2000 / Richard Meier & Partners Architects

Architects: Richard Meier and Partners, New York, USA
Location: Tor Tre Teste, , Italy
Client: Vicariato of Rome
Structural engineers: Ove Arup and Partners, Italcementi
Mechanical engineers: Ove Arup and Partners, Luigi Dell’Aquila
Concrete prefabricated panels: Italcementi
Lights and illumination: FMRS, Erco
Year of the competition: 1996
Year of completion: 2003
Constructed area: 830 m2 church, 1671 m2 parish complex
Photographs: Andrea Giannotti, Gabriele Rossetti

Located in the eastern suburban area of Rome, the Church of 2000 “Dives in Misericordia” by architect is the first realized work of the American architect in the Italian capital, followed by the Ara Pacis Museum (2005).


The importance of this project is to give value and attraction to the deepest and most far suburbs in Rome; the occasion came with the beginning of the new Millennium.
The Vicariato of Rome (diocese of Rome’s Bishop, the Pope) committed this work to show and highlight the basic role that architecture plays in holy and religious spaces, and to demonstrate that the connection with contemporary architecture is the key to improve quality of life in suburban areas. These were the goals that the project had to face. Richard Meier’s project won the international competition in 1996.

The Church of 2000 is conceived as a composition of basic elements, clearly referred to the purity of the cube and the sphere, and the in-between spaces and connections.
Approaching the Church by the side-road, first the three enormous shells show their presence. They give a feeling of lightness – given by the small thickness of the shells (about … cm) and the mounting waves movement it suggests – and, at the same time, heavy – due to the absence of openings on large white concrete surfaces. The shells are made by prefabricated self-substainig concrete panels, double curved, (dimensions 400 x 400 x 80 cm) and assembled dry. Italcementi developed and patented a new type of white self-cleaning cement, called Bianco TX Millennium. The cantilever reached is impressive, related to the thickness and extension of the “sails”.

On the interior, it is evident the work on natural lighting, which comes through the gaps between the solid elements and brightens the whole space: main source of diffused light is the glass roof between the shells, but in early morning and late afternoon the sunlight penetrates the entrance facade and the altar facade, giving spectacular atmospheric effects.
The only varieties out off white tone is given by a suspended wood-frames wall, vertical and facing the most internal shell; while the importance of sacred furnishings is underlined by sculpted travertine blocks. All of the sacred furnishings and religious spaces are included in the composition through the continuity and dialogue of forms, and it contributes to the elegance of the project.

The distribution of different spaces is made clear by physical separations: the ferial chapel is at the side of the main hall, slightly separated by the foot of the last shell; the entrance is provided with a buffer space and a second door, on top of which is the organ, integrated in a sculpted cubic element.

The whole design concept is based on the contrast between cube and sphere, and the clear division -or connection point- is the main space of the Church.
The parish complex at the opposite side of the main hall is accessible both from the church (the wood-framed screen hides some balconies) and from the exterior. Some squared patios and green terraces make it part of the general design, as the bell tower, on the right side of the church.
The exterior plaza (sagrato) completes the plot’s design: the yellowish and polished travertine tiles dialogue with the white elevations. The Church has the chance to be in a relatively open area of recent roman expansions, then the park on background and the stone floor give it the feeling of a water pool containing the “floating sail-ship” church.

Cite: "Church of 2000 / Richard Meier & Partners Architects" 19 Apr 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed 02 Sep 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=20105>

25 comments

  1. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I don’t know if the time they took to build this project was too long, but I had much better impressions about it ten years ago… it looks dated to me, but I still like it…

    • Thumb up Thumb down +2

      The glazing between the curved shells is pathetic – straight mullions simply cut up to suit the shape. Better solutions were available even ten years ago.

    • Thumb up Thumb down 0

      Hello

      How, do you identify in which period it was designed? I am a Civil Engineering student and I like architecture!!

      • Thumb up Thumb down 0

        It is simply the quality of the workmanship and the materials used. The quality of the exterior is poor, and the workanship is standard of the 1990s

  2. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    hey guys,

    i can give some insight on the 90′s feel. designed in 1996 ;)
    and it was built more than half a decade ago already. lol

    i agree with both of you two though. its still a cool building but it definitely has lost that great impression it gave me when i saw this design 10 years ago.

  3. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    guys guys guys….the problem is meier himself and his refrigerator look alike buildings.And the guy should be arrested for travertino abuse…it’s his smack

  4. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    The play of light and shadows of the forms within the white color of the stone and the color of the sky through the glass lace, is one of the most powerful spiritual effects I could imagine. Thanks Richard Meier and Partners.

    Carla

  5. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Photos are bad but the rigid grid mullions on the windows between layers is just a signature of Richard Meier’s style. A continuation of th New York Five style, I think it works very well a contrast from where Richard Meier has been stylistically and where he is moving forward.

  6. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    4 quibbles, then praise:
    #1
    I wish the back was a attractive as the front. Old cathedrals could be appreciated from every angle. One of the downfalls of modern architects, particularly American architects, is that they build for street appeal, to the neglect of the rest of the building. It shows here.

    #2
    Personally, I would have preferred more color. It seems to me that the classic division between Catholic and Protestant churches was expressed by the presence or absence of interior color. A Catholic church build in a Roman suburb in today’s era of sectarian (if fraternal)assertiveness, would have benefited from incorporating one of the classic visual signals that one was entering Catholic sacred ground.

    #3 The backs of these shells and the white pipes are natural collectors of dirt and grime. Already one can see the collection of grit forming behind the shells in picture 34, and “white self-cleaning cement” isn’t the phrase that comes to mind. I’ve seen what these white pipes look like after 20-30 years. It ain’t pretty.

    #4 One of the chronic aesthetic failures of modern architecture is that it fails to acknowledge that the human eye is drawn to the variation from the background. All this white, and all these flat spaces guarantees that over time, the wear and tear, of the building- the cracks and/or dirt and/or irregular spots that occur with the passage of time and regular use, will jump out from all this background and the eye will be drawn to it in a way that does not occur when there is more visual content for the eye to take in.
    In this regard,Opium’s wisecrack about the travertine is well stated. There’s a material that rarely ages well.
    Furthermore, the glass roof is structured in a way that doesn’t appear to have considered the impact of rain and leaves and frost along the edge where the glass meets the concrete. I’d bet heavily that they church has already had to deal with leaks and they are going to stand out against all that white blank space..

    I like the concept of using these shell structures as stand-ins for the arch, which is another of those visual signals of the classic European cathedral. However, the first impression is that the architect liked the Sydney Opera House a little too much.

  7. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    This really is an abomination from the theological point of view. It has all the bells and whistles that Modernists love–industrial materials, transparency, backward-looking NeoModernist Corbusiphila…. but it is not a church. The ontology of the church building is not a meditation on a sphere or cube or proof that Modernist architecture is the key to improving life for people. That is like asking a chicken to be a dog. It might be a good chciken but it is a terrible dog. This is masterful for what it is, except what it is isn’t a Catholic church. A church is supposed to be a sacramental image of heaven, a glorious reality populated with angels, saints, radiance, gem-like color(based on biblical models) that appears stable, ordered and theocentric. This building is more interested in being Modernist than it is in being a church, and so it fails the most fundamental programmatic requirements of a Catholic church. It may meet the functional program, but it is clear that neither the client nor the architect had the first idea of its *purpose*. What a shame and a shame.

    • Thumb up Thumb down 0

      I go to church and I would feel right at home in Meier’s Building here.

      I like to see it as redefining what a church represents and feels like. The Catholic Church is sometimes said to be too dated with tradition, I think this is something that disagrees with that.

      God is infinite so why can’t the expression of His house on Earth be as diverse… just saying :)

      • Thumb up Thumb down 0

        “Dated” is not a theological term. “Sacrament” is a theological term. Architecture is intended to be a sacrament of heaven, not a statement about how up to date the Church can be. God is infinite, but God is not evil, God is not formless, God is not alone in heaven, God is not hateful, God is not defined by the tenets of Modernism, etc., etc. There are an infinite number of things that God is not. And so there are an infinite number of things that church architecture should not be.

  8. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    very beautiful , meier create white space , use transparency , effect of light like a gothic church , and focous on a buttom

  9. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Per Joe: “There are an infinite number of things that God is not. And so there are an infinite number of things that church architecture should not be.”

    It always amazes me how those who know so little about something seem to know it ALL.

    Joe, GOD is all inclusive and therefore there cannot be an INFINITE number of things that GOD is not………..that’s an absurd definition/comment. You can define the world to your hearts desire but for GOD such definitions are only man’s feeble attempts to define the undefinable. GOD is ALL INCLUSIVE whether it’s this planet, that solar system or the infinity of ALL universes………it’s ALL ONE!!!!

    Church by definition is (as heritical as you may find this remark) is all about separation by mere definition. Church only exist because man is trying to control the way in which God is defined and perceived. GOD’s message can be presented just as well under a tree (as it was during Christ’s time) or in a broken down garage. It’s what happens within the hearts of the people who gather not the framework around which they gather.

    This building whether good or bad as Architecture goes is just ‘different’ when it comes to churches. Quit trying to control the world by your definitions as a whole new UNIVERSE of possibilities may open to you.

    Then again those who really don’t know are always trying to define and tell the rest of us that they do know. NOT!!!!

  10. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    A closing thought Joe…………………

    God defines man. Man does not define God. Although the church and organized religions seem to be all about the latter. If you want to overlay your dogmatic definitions about what church architecture is or should be then have at it. However the human spirit can just as easily be lifted in a movie theater or in the case of Reverend Dr. Schuler (L.A.) in a Drive In Theater (before Phillip Johnson created for them the Glass Cathedral). If this Meir building lifts the congregations human spirit then mission accomplished as that is what it is all about……..regardless of your myopic definition(s).

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