The 50 year old Retamar School needed to replace their old chapel to increase its sitting capacity and to provide an additional auditorium for 450 audiences.
Our design aims for integration with the existing brick buildings while at the same time maintaining its own unique character for the school, highlighted on the exterior by a prominent roof, finished in green zinc.
This new church is designed inside out: The inside space of the oratory, which is the most important element of the project, giving it both its character and “soul”. We were looking for a building, being able to serve a variety of activities. With the large volume of space, the big challenge has been to create a large communal space where each individual has the ability to withdraw into ones inner space to communicate with God.
This was achieved within the larger volume by the use of natural light, an asymmetry in the overall composition and by the selection of materials.
The nave and ceiling are clad in bamboo panels and slats in order to achieve a harmonious transition between the curving roof and the side panels, detailed to allow for acoustic absorption between its slats. In the inside shell of the presbytery the bamboo is replaced by titan with a golden flair with extremely thin layers, which are assembled in a fish scale pattern, while the golden granite is replaced by green granite around the altar to mark the significance and importance of this area.
With the exception of the altar and altarpiece our scope of work extended to cover the lighting of the oratory, all the wooden benches, the inverted granite pyramid for the holy water, the stained glass choir window and the three huge stained glass entrance windows (complete with Latin, Greek and Aramaic texts and abstract drawings in blue tones) which combined create a vivid contrast to the warm colour of the wooden interior.
Moving through the entrance hall, an intermediate space between the new and the old building is opened up with a concrete staircase inserted beneath a large skylight. This acts as a second entrance space leading visitor to the auditorium. On the same floor are three more multipurpose classrooms, rest rooms and technical rooms.
The interior of the auditorium is formalized by contrasting two very different materials - galvanized expanded metal mesh and bamboo panels. The asymmetrically designed screen of the cinema is covered by bamboo sliding panels.
From the outside, a concrete staircase is acting as an amphitheatre. Next to the auditorium, the huge cantilever of the oratory choir gives shelter to the outside scenery, where the school has an additional possibility to perform summer theatre and other festivities.
This interplay between the two main spaces is expressed on the exterior by the dialog between the brick and the zinc reflecting solidity and movement, earth and heaven…