Celebrating faith and Cebuano pride

Dapples of light flood the pathway leading to the interior, thanks to the array of bamboo defining the transitory space and buffers the view outside.
Dapples of light flood the pathway leading to the interior, thanks to the array of bamboo defining the transitory space and buffers the view outside.

A GREAT-looking campus chapel, considered as a celebration of a design collaboration, is making its way to a global festival of architecture from different parts of the world.

The Cor Jesu oratory of the Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu (SHS-AdC) was recently announced as among the finalists for this year’s World Architecture Festival (WAF), the largest and most prestigious global architecture event, under the “Completed Projects-Religion” category.

“We entered WAF because it celebrates excellence in pushing the limits for the built environment. It celebrates the ideas and people behind it,” said architect Buck Richnold Sia.

The project was an opportunity for the Cebuano architect and SHS-AdC alumnus to give back once more to his alma mater. Buck, who heads his architecture firm Zubu Design Associates, was invited by furniture designer and fellow alumnus, Kenneth Cobonpue for this collaborative endeavor. Moreover, they worked with other prolific design specialists to produce a stunning and fitting symbol of what the school stands for as well as its aspirations.

Always particular with the design process and details, Sia did just what an architect was academically trained for—execute an idea, which Cobonpue brought up, to an excellent architectural piece. Rooted in the concept of “cor jesu” or “heart of Jesus,” the building profile reflects a heart’s fragile shape through its dynamic profile such as its undulating roof. Highlighting the Jesuits’ passion for education, the massing of Cor Jesu’s two buildings dramatizes the symbiotic teacher-student relationship. The bigger main oratory building symbolized the caring mentor when positioned with the smaller auxiliary building as “student.”

The design has a directional aspect to it that guides users. The form is more than just random curving of elements but the dynamic shifts and turns are meant to highlight movements, pauses and destinations for the building users. For instance, the undulating ceiling appears low from a bamboo portal entrance and then ascends to its highest point at the climax of this hallowed space—the altar.

Apart from the symbolism connected to the Catholic faith that is vital in church architecture all throughout history, Cor Jesu’s religious character also lies in its materials; concrete and bamboo harmoniously connived, giving the oratory a mix of cool stability and warm flexibility. The extensive use of bamboo is a feat in itself in terms of the scale, exhibiting how the traditional could adapt to contemporary innovation and dismiss the notion that it is just a temporary material. The beautiful combo of bamboo, stone and wood keeps the oratory grounded to its natural environment and more importantly, creates the ideal serene atmosphere for prayer and reflection.

Truly, Cor Jesu creates a celebratory space of faith. As the main design collaborators of this project look forward to December later this year—when they will be presenting their work in Amsterdam in front of a global audience—Cebuanos should take part in the celebration in recognizing excellent architecture produced through a collective effort by design professionals and experts.

Living up to its design concept masterfully translated into a building, truly, Cor Jesu is a structural wonder that does not just enhance faith but also pride for the Cebuano community.


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