‘Proxy Churches’

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Saturday, December 28, 2013

AT this time of the year, Catholic churches see a lot of days when these are teeming with people. As the Misa de Gallo dawn masses serve as a novena to Christmas Day, churches are brightly lit, inviting the faithful to wake up from deep slumber and join many others in prayer.

However, not everyone had a church building to go to for the Misa de Gallo this Christmas season. In Bohol for instance, many of their churches—Spanish-era treasures at that—are either completely or partially damaged. In the absence of these iconic religious buildings, people settle for temporary tents and structures, often built near the damaged heritage buildings, for their daily church activities.

With an expected long duration for repair, rehabilitation and for some, reconstruction, people would need a more fitting structure where they could truly feel the sacred ambience of a “house of God.”

Thus, a group of Cebuano architects met up in an effort to provide the “church-less” with some design options for a semi-permanent church in the towns badly hit by the earthquake last October. The idea was an offshoot of an initiative by the members of the Cebu-based chapters of the United Architects of the Philippines to design temporary shelters for the victims of super typhoon Yolanda.  

The group dubbed as “One Architecture” or “1A,” encourages young architects to actively participate “in Filipino society” through their profession.

Just over a month after they were formed, they got the opportunity to make their presence felt. “One of our officers, Archt. Nigell Abarquez who hails from Bohol, was approached by two parish heads in his home town. They asked for help in designing a temporary church in Tubigon, Bohol and a permanent church in San Isidro, Bohol,” narrates Archt. Ralph Su.

For the church in Tubigon, Bohol, the group decided that the best form to use would be a cube as this would signify strength with a sense of firm understanding of the events that transpired recently. It shall be “built from the inside out”, according to Su. There will be a modular-type of bamboo support system which shall serve as the skeleton of the structure.

A three-layer tensile fabric roofing system would allow passive cooling through clerestory windows created by the regressing layers of white fabric, which also provides natural illumination inside.

The exterior shall be made of bamboo with fine plastic mesh to hold it together while serving as a natural protection from mosquitoes. The skin is made up of bamboo segments, which can be rotated via the implementation of a pulley system to allow up to almost 100 percent visibility. Each bamboo segment is designed to allow 50 percent air flow and natural illumination.

The proposal for San Isidro’s new church, explained Su, reflects the Filipinos’ strength and resilience after a calamity. The structure allows natural air flow and illumination as well.

Ideas like these reflect architecture’s softer side by being sensitive to calamity victims. These may have not yet materialized during Misa de Gallo, but there is still time for these buildings to be serviceable while people are waiting for the damaged churches to be fixed.

A semi-permanent church is another way of boosting the morale and muddied confidence of the people in the affected towns and cities, by reassuring God’s vibrant presence in their earthly midst.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 29, 2013.


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