The interplay of daylight, artificial light and minimalist architecture award the Saint Jacques de la Lande Church in Rennes with an air of contemplative calm.
Medieval architects followed the principal that the dimensions and various iconographical elements within church architecture should serve to emulate and aspire to divine properties. Given the strong association of the divine with light, ecclesiastical architecture from the 13th century onwards became wonderfully luminescent with beautiful stained glass apertures and the like. Since a church or a cathedral was the de facto house of the divine, light served as viable proof that the divine was present.
While the modernist take on traditional church architecture differentiates itself drastically from the ornate intricacies of the past thanks to a reduced and largely linear aesthetic, light still has a central role to play in mediating a contemplative environment. Le Corbusier, James Turrell, Tadao Ando and Dan Flavin are just some well known examples of architects and artists who have successfully transcended the traditional geometries of the church through new combinations of architecture, natural and also artificial light.
The Saint Jacques de la Lande church offers a prime example of this modernist arrangement. Completed by architect Álvaro Siza in 2018, the church, which is located in the Brittany region of France, is built in white concrete and pays special attention to the natural light which bathes the altar, tabernacle, pulpit and baptismal font from above. Externally, different volumes – blocks, cylinders and incisions – add to the overall mass of the building, distinguishing it from the neighbouring housing blocks, while the use of few openings helps to establish a solid, permanent presence in the natural environment.
The altar, pulpit, and baptismal font are zenithally illuminated, further enhancing the sacred feeling of the space. With Siza’s restrictive choice of colours and thoughtful use of light within exploration of form, the result is an architectural triumph, with artificial illumination from Climar further accentuating and underlying the interplay with natural light in the meditative environment. W