Parish Church of Santa Monica / Vicens & Ramos

Architect: Vicens & Ramos / Ignacio Vicens y Hualde, José Antonio Ramos Abengózar
Location: Rivas-Vaciamadrid, Madrid,
Client: Obispado de Alcalá de Henares
Collaborators: Fernando Gil, Agustín Toledano, Roberto Rodríguez-Paraja, Jesús Gómez, Desirée González, Pablo Gutiérrez, Romina Barbieri, Raúl Rodríguez, Tibor Martín, Patricia de Elena
Photographs: Pablo Vicens y Hualde & Ricardo Santonja

“The project whose is already completed is the third proposal. The first two were rejected and it’s a shame. I think that they were much more interesting, at least from the point of view of adherence to the liturgical rules of Vatican II.”

Following the guidance of the Diocesan Council of Temples and the program of requirements provided by the same and later adjusted to the needs of the Parish of Santa Monica, the building design integrates in one building all the spaces that correspond to Church, Parish offices and priest housing.


The generating idea of the project was that of situating, within the confusion of the surrounding urban environment, a building that would mark a milestone and become a continuos testimony to the spiritual function produced in its interior, and which must necessarily spread and manifest itself permanently to the nearby social and urban medium.

The intention to unify had priority in the conception of the building, that is long and narrow, curved to fit the road along its westerly aspect and cut off abruptly at the north-easterly face. Described by the architect as “an explosion, frozen in an instant after detonation”, the sculptural protuberances at the north end seem to jostle for the light, and almost resemble a hand pointing heavenwards.

The complex is made up of two independent buildings: one houses the church, strictly speaking, and the daily chapel, in a structure with large steel porticos, while a second block with a structure of reinforced concrete accomodates the housing and parochial rooms. Both are tied together by a continuous corten stell skin which, as a whole, creates a piece that gives an image of great unity and rotundity.

The northern and southern façades are symmetrical except in the building of parochial spaces, where on the northen face the steel skin curves to form the main access to the nave.

At the foot of the nave is located the High Chore, which can be accessed directly from the nave by a stairwell and has a seating capacity of 77 and a common lightning system with that of the rest of the nave. The most public and daily zones turn towards the Avenida de la Integración, while the bedrooms face the interior street.

More info about Vicens & Ramos over here.

Cite: "Parish Church of Santa Monica / Vicens & Ramos" 23 Jun 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed 23 Sep 2014. <>


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    Great exterior view. Their formal idea is similar to one of the Ordos projects by MOS architects turned sideway. I am not sure about the spatial feel of the interiors, especially the smaller chapel room with decorated partition walls. Tt seems a bit busy, and it does not produce a serene feeling supposedly required in a church.

    Even the bright white lights that comes from the protrusion and the gold painting of the main hall seems like an unmatched, material resolution. Its importance is somewhat lost when the architects decided to put sideway vertical lighting strips. The spatial feel inside the church became too busy. Maybe it is just the pictures since they can sometimes be deceiving. Or maybe the architects forgot to pay more attention to the interior while they are focusing too much on the formal appearance of the exterior.

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    I agree with Ala, for such an exciting exterior the interior is very disappointing. the architect focused his attention on one object rather than creating a dynamic building

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    Rather have a good concept with an ugly building, than a horrible curvy, stupid digitized building with no concept at all, and terrible space that only gets built because it’s “iconic.” I’m excited to see test models, and the different ways they studied the light. It’s not THAT ugly either…

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    External view: interesting
    Space: boring, poor
    It seems the architects began modeling pyramidal structures and then rotated the model: so they got something more “interesting”; and closer to Ronchamp´s lateral windows.

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    I love this. I’m happy to see it built although I agree that the execution is lacking. The interior shots of the space do not have the same impressiveness that the interior study model pictures do, yet I sincerely doubt that the architects focused on it merely as an object as the design is clearly created with the space as the derivative of the form. This understanding in of itself is beautiful and should be satisfying to all appreciators of conceptually strong architecture. Side note: There is no ugly architecture. If one wants to call something ugly in architecture, one can usually refer to it as architecture of ornament…

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    I think it would be interesting to see this replace a typical storefront in the middle of a bustling urban shopping district as well. Even with how much I personally enjoy the alien/arachnid feel for a building typology that I consider to be overly sacred to people….

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    A building only an architect could love.

    The small chapel interior is especially ugly. Get somebody to put up some wallpaper so no one has to stare at whatever the hell is covering the partitions.

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    i think it’s superb too. an interesting concept, gorgeous materiality, interesting manipulation of light… i would feel very “en-heightened” in there.

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    The fenestration is great, and the type of light effects it could create should define the space: both the oblong pyramids and irregular rectangles in rows along the length of the main chapel. Unfortunately, the finish materials are absolutely dreadful. Goldleaf, white drywall, and shiny black marble floor? And what’s up with the graphic nonsense in the small chapel? It’s really too bad, because the space could be amazing, as defined by the natural light, a sort of contemporary take on Ronchamps. Instead, it’s late ’80′s Italian-American kitsch.

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    some of the interior pics remind me of hospital chapels.

    a chapel forced into dull hospital buildings

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    nice , interesting exteriors… i hope some more consontration on interiors would bring better interior.

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    Looks to me like someone’s visited Ronchamp, nicked an idea (mould the negative space of the window apertures from the old curved stone wall) and managed to successfully translate a thing of beauty into a crass one-liner. Congrats, boys.

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    The exterior of this building is so much more powerful and beautiful during construction, before the corten steel was faded/oxidized. I wish they had kept it this way, or similar to it, it would have been so much more interesting that way as a religious building. The finished product is much more refined, and I’m not sure that’s a good thing.

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    Mixed feelings here…i don’t care too much about the exterior…i find it strange but not bad at all…the altar from inside is just magnificent…the best i’ve seen in a long time…the rest of interior is space is poorly detailed even kitsh shopping mall style both as the chapel show clearly.It seems they spend too much time designing the altar and forgott about all the rest.Another thing is that on the external view it doesn’t resemble a church at all…there’s not cultural link to catholic tradition whatsoever and with so many wonderfull churchs throughout the centuries it seems to me like a major set back…then again i must say the altar is really impressive…the quality of the light is great.Compare this with the new Fatima basilic where Tombasi doesn’t know what to do with the light

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    WHAT?!?!?!!……how can someone not like this?

    @MODERATOR: thanks so much for posting this, there’s no much information on the web about this project, but a few pictures.

    The interior is so stunning that it doesn’t even looks real, those interior photographs of the altar looks almost like 3d renderings, those with that “foggy dreamy effect” and almost transparent.

    If it looks grotesque to some I guess it’s because it’s a whole new formal language for a church, which is good, in this case atleast.

    It kinda reminds me Mansilla & Tuñon’s Leon Auditorium.

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    shame it has a vertical slatted fence addressing the street. that facade should be right up on the side walk.

    this is really interesting, but interesting doesn’t translate to good. If any of my design students were to use this as a precedent, i would question them very hard on many aspects of their decision and the building…

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    Some clear inspiration from Ronchamp….by le corbusier….

    Wish the architect could have been more tricky in implementing the concept…..if we cut of the front facade its just an average building….the interiors not much fun.

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    @ Korbanzo
    “No such thing as ugly architecture?” , “rather conceptual and ugly”, i think if you asked any non-architect, they would say those are crazy statements. Personally i am torn, my architecture education and desire to find the reasons behind forms makes me want to appreciate that street facade … but if im honest, my gut reaction when i saw that was to retch and run away.

    I think its important to decide whether you want to design an object of beauty for the average passer-by, something essential, accessible and jargon-free
    design for the architects/lecturers/journalists to make something really clever and academic that relies on refences and the observer’s knowledge to make a conceptual statement.

    im not taking either side, its just an observation. do youall agree?

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    Hey guys, you cannot be serious…

    This is amazing, awesome, ethereal… and, that’s what a church should be. It also should give amongst hope and security, a sense of discomfort, and it does!

    The originality is exceptional, inside, outside, where ever you look. Not for a long time have I seen an artistic approach in such an architectonic way. The wall behind the altar is a Ben Nicholson or a Graham Sutherland in three-dimension. The detail, delicacy but energy of the sculptures against the searing light that comes from all directions.

    It comes through spaces that because the edges are so crisp have an abstract quality emphasised by those planes picked out in gold…

    etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., I really could go on and on, and on, and on, and on, and on…

    The chapel cross so unusual and seen with the Madonna and angel of the main body of the church. The artistry of the altar, font, etc..

    Enough you should really enjoy this, it’s one of the best.

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