The Church of Saint Francis of Assisi is commonly known as the Igreja da Pampulha. Located in Pampulha, it is the first modern piece of design in Brazil and an amazing example of how a brilliant architect can reinterpret religious architecture in a contemporary way.
The design is nothing short of extraordinary. Already well-known for his organic styled projects, Oscar Niemeyer designed this building in the same manner: four undulating concrete parabolas. These forms were achieved through a series of mathematically determined parabolic arches which are decorated, on the exterior, with white, blue and brown mosaic. This shows that organic design is not always random and seemingly without order; intriguing curved, sensible architecture can be derived from mathematical principles and formulas. But in any case, the straight line was invented by men, just like Oscar Niemeyer explains bellow. What is more valuable in a design? The way it resembles and blends in the natural organic shapes around us or the contrast it creates by not respecting the rules and expressing the opposite?
“It is not the right angle that attracts me, neither straight line, tough, inflexible, created by man. What attracts me is the free and sensual curve, in the course of its winding rivers, in the waves of the sea, in the clouds of the sky, in the body of the preferred woman. From curves is done throughout the universe. The curved universe of Einstein.”
Light is probably the most important aspect of a church because it represents a very powerful symbol of Christianity. The lighting is ensured by the vertical louvres at the entrance and above the altar. The nave and the altar are covered by two great vaults which are the main elements of the composition. However beautiful and appropriate the church might be to most people, there were some who thought otherwise. Controversial from the beginning, the design was not accepted by the a mayor of Pampullha who tried to have it demolished and replaced because the new, reinterpreting religious architecture in this case, is not always perceived as evolution by most but as something harmful that changes the normal order of things. He was stopped by the National Department of Artistic and Historical Patrimony who took over the building.
“Architecture must express the spirit of the technical and social forces that are predominant in a given epoch; but when such forces are not balanced, the resulting conflict is prejudicial to the content of the work and to the work as a whole. Only with this in mind may we understand the nature of the plans and drawings which appear in this volume. I should have very much liked to be in a position to present a more realistic achievement: a kind of work which reflects not only refinements and comfort but also a positive collaboration between the architect and the whole society.”
Oscar Niemeyer, The Work of Oscar Niemeyer.
Designer :Oscar Niemeyer
Location : Pampulha, Brazil
Building Type: church
Architectural Style :Organic Modern