Supersudaka’s ceramic-tile clad tent-like structure is home to a new Catholic church. Photography by Cristobal Palma
Resembling a ceramic marquee, this Chilean church is more than just a place of worship. Located in an impoverished part of Talca, a mid-sized town around 250km south of Santiago, it also has a clear social mission of pastoral care and practical succour. Despite the constraints of budget (a mere $60,000 for a 180m² building) and a scruffy, backstreet site, architects Supersudaka have created a dignified addition to a generally undignified public realm.
Based in Chile, Supersudaka is a light-on-its-feet, cross-fertilising collective of architects and designers with a fluctuating organisational structure. ‘It changes like a virus, depending on the requirements and complexities of the project,’ says architect Juan Pablo Corvalán.The welcoming, tent-like form of the church is generated by twisting a truncated pyramid, which Corvalán describes as ‘more of a covered plaza’ than a building, emphasised by the roughly paved floor and ceramic mosaic cladding resembling broken eggshells (a low-budget version of Gaudí).
Recycled urban waste was used for the cladding, which reflects its surroundings’ street-art vibe. Even the figure of Christ on the stone altar looks like a Banksy graffito. Such muscular Christianity is intended to deter local vandals, not averse to casting stones and other objects. ‘The cladding is easy to repair as it’s already broken,’ says Corvalán.
One section of wall is pulled away and enclosed with a metal lattice screen, rooting the building more intimately with its site while allowing natural ventilation. Soft daylight washes the plain white walls, deflected from a single, square roof-light. It’s certainly not your average Catholic church, but fights the good fight nonetheless. Corvalán calls it ‘a sign of optimism in harsh conditions; a light in darkness’. The jury agreed.
Architects Supersudaka, Santiago, Chile
Design team Juan Pablo Corvalán, Gabriel Vergara, Pablo Sepulveda, Jaime Pavez, Miguel Angel Reyes
Structural engineer Cesar Moreira/ Sigma Ingenieros