La Laguna, Tenerife, Spain
Fernando Menis of Menis Arquitectos has completed the monolithic Holy Redeemer Church and Community Centre of Las Chumberas that functions both as a church and a community center with four massive, concrete volumes resembling large restless rocks in the Canary Islands of Spain.
The Church of Santísimo Redentor (Most Holy Redeemer) is devoted to the episode of the biblical narration.
Located in a plain residential area of San Cristóbal de La Laguna, the second-largest city in the island of Tenerife, the fractured volumes of the church emerge from a sort of excavated crater to span the steep slope of the plot.
In a context of pale-shaded housing, the new building stands out for the rough texture of the ground surfaces, the land retaining walls, and the walls of the church itself, which bring the landscape of Tenerife to the heart of the city, as if nature were fighting against urban domestication.
The studio used four concrete volumes with an irregular and angular form to distribute the program inside.
The architects are inspired by the geology of the volcanic island of the neighborhood, embed the volumes in the ground and they rise like “large restless rocks.”
The community center is placed in two of the four volumes, which were completed in 2008, and the community center has been in use ever since while waiting to raise the necessary funds for the rest of the works.
The other two volumes are dedicated to a community church.
“The construction of The Holy Redeemer Church took many years, more than fifteen and it has overlapped with the transformation process of Las Chumberas, which is a neighborhood of 670 homes from the 1970s, organized into 42 blocks, to which were later added shopping centers and industrial buildings,” says Menis Arquitectos.
“Supported at all times by the Bishopric of Tenerife, initiator of the project, as well as patrons and residents, Menis conceived the Church as a necessary catalyst for the urban and social changes that were taking place in the neighborhood.”
According to Fernando Menis, “the new building should have created a place where there was none, and contribute to giving Las Chumberas an identity of its own.”
“The building should have established itself as a reference space in a confusing urban fabric.”
Based on the above, the resulting compound includes a church, a community center, and a public square surrounded by greenery, that is, a public meeting place that the neighborhood needed.
The building is also described as an example of collective action, according to the studio, because the financing of the project has been carried out through donations from various organizations, many neighbors, and some businessmen committed to the neighborhood where they were born and grew.
“The uneven rhythm of remittances is in fact what has determined the constructive logic of the project and its subsequent execution: a compound made up of four independent modules plus their surroundings, which has been delivered in phases,” adds the studio.
The studio aimed to create a low-tech innovation by using concrete and stone materials.
As can be seen from the neighborhood complex, the rough texture of the exposed concrete creates a sharp contrast with the conventional residential context where it goes up.
“It is as if geological phenomena had occurred on the outskirts as if nature were fighting against banality,” the studio continues.
The building’s petrous volumes are separated by narrow cracks filled with sculptural structures made of metal and glass, through which daylight enters the building to configure an austere and stark compound, which relinquishes all superfluous elements.
The volumes receive daylight through the cuts to shape a free-flowing and introverted void and play an essential role in mass by stressing each of the Christian sacraments.
At sunrise, the light comes in through the cross as a cascade of light that fills the space behind the altar to symbolize the entrance to the cave in which Jesus Christ was buried and illuminates the baptismal font, the first light of a Christian.
The altar, the confirmation, and the communion receive light at noon through the skylight. Later, a shaft of light falls on the confessional. The strategic layout of the skylights achieves the same effect on unction, matrimony, and priesthood.
The studio uses concrete as the main material in this building, as the material reveals several aspects at the same time: exterior, interior, structure, form, matter, and texture.
Another reason for using concrete is that it is a common material and accessible locally.
During construction, it allowed the architect to work only with local companies and materials, in accordance with “the Km 0” architecture principles to which Menis adheres.
Meanwhile, the energy efficiency feature provided by concrete, due to its isotropic nature, is enhanced here by the thermal inertia of the thick solid walls.
In terms of acoustics qualities, concrete has been used in this project in two ways: for diffusion, conventional exposed concrete was used, while for absorption, the surface of the exposed concrete was previously mixed with light porous volcanic stone (picón) was chipped.
“The acoustics thus achieved resemble the usual in the opera, suitable for speech and song, ideally designed for a building that combines ecclesiastical and social functions,” adds the studio.
Project: The Holy Redeemer Church and Community Centre of Las Chumberas
Architects: Menis Arquitectos
Lead Architect: Fernando Menis
Design Team: Babak Asadi, Juan Bercedo, María Berga, Roberto Delgado, Javier Espílez, Andrés Ferrer, Niels Heinrich, Joanna Makowska Czerska, Paula Manzano, Natalia Pyzio, Raúl Rivera, Gerardo Rodríguez, Esther Senís, Andreas Weihnacht, and Julia Zasada
Structure: Juan José Gallardo
Acoustics: Pedro Cerdá/i2A ACOUSTIC&AUDIOVISUAL ENGINEERING
Photographers: Patri Campora and Simona Rota