This is the first time ever that the Holy See will participate in the Venice Biennale of Architecture. Ten chapels designed by great architects were hosted in the woodland on the island of San Giorgio that will become the metaphor of a labyrinth. The aim: to re-open in dialogue with the world of art.
Architects with different origins, backgrounds and religions have come to the island of San Giorgio with the aim of confirming “catholicity”, or rather the universality of the Church: ranging between nearby Europe, with its historically diverse configuration, and faraway Japan with its unique religious roots; from the vivacious spirituality of Latin-American countries to the seemingly secularized USA, as well as remote Australia that, in reality, reflects contemporary concerns.
One of the architects is Australia’s Sean Godsell who has used the Venetian Zintek titanium zinc in his design. The steel-framed tower and it’s zinc covering, bolted onto pile caps which, in turn, are locked onto wood pilings similar to those historically used throughout Venice. All four sides of the tower open to reveal the altar, and when open and seen from above, the vertical doors of the chapel form a cross. The double steel equal angle corner posts are a deliberate reference to the German architect Mies Van de Rohe, who once quipped “God is in the details”. According to Godsell, the church of the 21st century must be a peaceful, safe place, a multi-generational place, an engaging place for contemplation, self-reflection and meditation and all of these before being a space for liturgy, prayer, mass, hymn, dogma and ritual. A place where people feel at ease and willing to congregate.