SCF wins competition for Nouvelle Cathédrale Notre Dame de l’Assomption
An international design competition to stabilise and transform the Cathedrale Notre Dame de l’Assomption (Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption) in Port-au-Prince, Haiti has been won by Puerto Rican architecture firm SCF Arquitectos. Hosted by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Port au Prince, Faith & Form Magazine and the Institut de Sauvegarde du Patrimoine National, the competition invited design teams from around the world to breathe new life into this historical building which crumbled during the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti.
The set brief was lengthy and complex. Not only was the design team requested to preserve and stabilise what was left of the original church, but they were to create a new civic space for non-religious activities, provide a worship space for 1,200 people, a space of remembrance for those who lost their lives in the 2010 earthquake and an additional chapel which was functionally separate from the core of the church but that remained visually connected to the main worship space.
Prior to the January 2010 earthquake the Cathedrale Notre Dame de l’Assomption was a strong focal point for the local community in Port-au-Prince and has remained so afterwards, despite the damage it has sustained. Built between 1884 and 1914, the cathedral has long been a source of national pride and inspiration in Haiti and SCF Arquitectos has been charged with helping this historical form regain its original majesty.
Sticking to a cruciform floor plan, a concentric worship space for 1,200 people will be devised with flexibility to hold a larger congregation should the need arise. In order to stabilise what is left of the original building, SCF Arquitectos has suggested flanking the original façade with two new bell towers and connecting the frontage to a new church volume with a steel roof structure. A shadow pattern of small crosses will wash across a sheltered outside space as natural daylight floods through a glass fibre reinforced concrete ceiling, perforated with small crosses.
The construction process will be approached in phases, as SCF Arquitectos explains: “As a first phase, stabilise the existing narthex by building two buttresses that eventually will be extended to reach the height of the two original bell towers. The main entrance portico will be built next.
“A new steel and concrete nave roof will stabilise the original narthex in the main axis direction. A tensile structure will protect this civic space from the rain. The second phase will consist of the final execution of the project as proposed. The overall selection and use of materials was based mainly on local availability and craftsmanship, so as to promote new work opportunities in favour of the local economy.”