Most of the church forms I’ve featured have been basilicas – that is, long linear rooms with clearly defined axes and a higher central nave with lower side aisles. But recently, I tried to reconcile my basilican interests with my predilection for squares. Enter two historical church types based on the nine-square motif: the German hallenkirche (hall church), where there is no clear distinction between nave and aisles, but rather a large, open ‘hall’ of columns with extensive windows on all sides, and the Greek cross-in-square, in which a cruciform church plan is contained in a square form, with a large dome over the central crossing. This project fuses the two, with an intense wood roof structure that attempts to read as both the hallenkirche and the cross-in-square in one, and goes even further to render the space as a cube.
As I was writing this post a few weeks ago, I found the plan to be once again worthy of some further reflection and thought – precisely the nine-square plan, with a hybrid basilica and greek cross interior volume, the four empty corners filled with circular forms (bathrooms and stairs) encased in heavy poche, and all of it wrapped in a brick Richardsonian wrapper under a singularly simple red tile hip roof. The bottom iteration was the first, while I was still wrangling the plan into a perfect nine-square.
In a final touch upon the last few posts here (this one, this one, and these two), I just up and slapped Richardson and Nervi on top of one another, aligning the square towers of each project, and highlighting the enormous piers (inner squares are from Trinity, the other ones are St. Mary).
Where the previous project offered more of a synthesis between the modern and the classical in terms of style, this one poses a synthesis between types – structuring a basilica form with equal transepts, similar to a Greek cross. This hybrid typology is not new, and can be found in early Christian churches, such as San Nazaro in Brolo or the Basilica di San Marco in Venice. Stylistically, my interpretation takes cues from H. H. Richardson, with thick masonry walls, continuous cornice lines, and a large hip roof, which obscures the tower over the crossing from the outside. Below are earlier studies of a similar plan with much different attitudes towards envelope.
Taking cues from both the Nervi and Richardson projects, this church places a large tower campanile at the crossing. The circular geometries owe more to Trinity, but the glass corners and spatial fluidity are direct quotes of St. Mary. The tower transitions from a square at its base to a circle at the crown, paying homage to Nervi’s typical hyperbolic paraboloid surfaces.
Following Friday’s post on the High Modernist St. Mary of the Assumption, I present you with another Greek cross church plan, H. H. Richardson’s Trinity Church in Boston. A large tower sits on on four enormous piers at the cubic volume of the crossing, which commands the entire sanctuary, where the apse, transept, and nave ‘arms’ are rather shallow.
This past February, my wife and I took a weekend trip to San Francisco, where we stumbled across the city’s cathedral – St Mary of the Assumption, by Pierluigi Nervi and Pietro Belluschi. The church is a square, with large piers in the corners supporting a gargantuan lantern, which also doubles as the church’s campanile. The large piers dominate the four corners which have been rendered in finely detailed glass storefronts, effectively making the church more of a standard Greek cross rather than the centrally-focused square it purports to be. I’ll be featuring my own riffs on this project over the coming days, but for now, I’ll let you appreciate the brutal simplicity of the form that started it all.