Stanislas Chaillou recently won the American Architecture Prize, in the student category. His project, “Our Lady of the Fields”, is a conceptual schema of a cathedral for South Boston, inspired by Pope Francis’ Encyclical “On Care for Our Common Home’’. Stanislas finds a new impulse in church’s design, while addressing the intertwined dimensions of ecology and faith.
Our Lady of The Fields, a cathedral for South Boston
The erection of our “Lady of the Fields” in the park of Dorchester Heights (Dorchester, MA), aims at revitalizing the space while offering a strong center for the Catholic communal life, with three main objectives: (1) bring the believers’ community in close proximity with Nature, by inviting the garden into the cathedral, (2) call the community of believers to a journey by using natural elements as symbols of the Christ’s Passion, (3) welcome the Other, beyond the community of believers, by using a roof garden.
The cathedral faces the south, the entrance stair is at the north. On the west side, two stairs bring people from the street up to the park on the roof, at ground level. This canopy is landscaped with trees and bushes simulating a dense nature and offering the visitors an Eden Garden-like experience. The building, sunk in the ground, is surrounded by a landscaped slope. Taking the entrance stairs, the visitor enters the cathedral and discovers the central perspective of the main altar, framed by 20 concrete piers.
The light enters through the spaces left between the concrete piers, offering 16 curated views towards the outside. Each view uses both the landscape in the background and a strong iconography to evoke the Passion of Christ. The preciosity of the 14 Stations of the Cross, painted by Veronique Charpy, contrasts with the rough minerality of the cathedral. Beyond the aesthetic intent, a deeper theological meaning prevails: the presence of the divine (gold) in the mundane (concrete) or the extraordinary present in the ordinary.
Throughout the day, the light moves from east to west, successively enlightening the stations of the Passion of Christ. The landscape in the background also adapts accordingly: mineral paving for the first stations, vivid and green nature for last ones. The daily cycle of the sun magnified by the “mineral to vegetal” gradation of the landscape acts as a discreet allegory to the Passion cycle. Overall, our intent through this project, is to contribute to the creative momentum for a new Christian building design, that Pope Francis has triggered, away from post-modernist architecture.
About Stanislas Chaillou
Stanislas is an architecture master candidate at Harvard University. He has previously worked for international renowned offices such as Shigeru Ban Architect, and Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill. He is the recent winner of the American Architecture Prize (student category), for his project “Our Lady of the Fields”.
Stanislas is also a Fulbright scholar, an Arthur Sachs Fellow and Jean Gaillard Fellow at Harvard University.