area 101 | álvaro siza

architect: Álvaro Siza

location: Rome, Italy

year: 1998

The site chosen for the new church of Santa Maria del Rosario, built to celebrate the Jubilee, is situated in the Roman suburb of Pompei alla Magliana. As a response to the competition organized on this occasion by the Holy See and won by Richard Meier, who subsequently built his project, the one designed by Siza was a work directed by the Frati Gresleri dell’Opera Romana per la Preservazione della Fede e la Provista di Nuove Chiese in Rome. This institute subsequently informed Siza directly of Cardinal Ruini’s decision to renounce the project, by mail and without notice, through Monsignor Amicarelli. The latter, what’s more, wrote “without being able to intervene in any way and obliged to obey my superior the archbishop”. Such an authoritative gesture contrasts with the procedures involving collectivity to which Siza was accustomed, with his patient and courteous pursuit of exchange and communication, as well as his encouragement of participation, where possible, of the inhabitants of emarginated areas. This veto put on the project prevented the construction of a promising work in the ambit of sacred art. In fact, the building would have been glimpsed from afar as a bastion of sacredness. It is formed by an apse, covered by a veil of concrete. Its right side lets the light penetrate through a sort of chimney, which longitudinally follows the façade. Siza inverted the customary layout of the church: the main nave is lower than the raised side spaces, as is the choir. The use of light here is very unusual, based on a simple yet well articulated plan. On one side of the church, a second lower complex would have housed the parish offices, teaching and meeting rooms, a multi-purpose hall and the priest’s quarters.

architect: Álvaro Siza
collaborators: Bárbara Rangel, Andrea Smaniotto, Angela Princiotto
technical project: GOP- Gabinete de Obras e Projectos
date: 1998