SUB-ARCH | Michael W. Cook shares design for the Notre Dame de l'Assomption Design Competition, Port-au-Prince
This design competition entry was submitted for the Notre Dame de l'Assomption (Port-au-Prince) Design Competition which announced their winners yesterday. Details of the winning concept can be found here. Sub-Arc also entered the competition with a design which looks to honour the past by preserving the most significant surviving elements of the existing Notre Dame de l'Assomption. These elements are the main (west) facade, north and south transept elevations, and interior columns.
As the cathedral is simultaneously a contemporary structure and a historical form, the architects have designed an abstract volume which is clad in panels of local Haitian marble. This is inserted along the footprint of the original side walls and acts as a counterpoint against which the historic remnants of the Cathedral are highlighted. Both the old and new elements interlock and reinforce each other.
The site has been defined by a series of linear beds in which hibiscus plants sit atop a stone perimeter which have benches integrated into it. From certain elevated viewpoints the complex appears to be rising from a ring of flowers. As the site tapers towards the east, the inserted box is carved to allow a more generous pathway.
Inside, the Cathedral's general organisational layout has been maintained, where the cruciform plate steel columns follow the spacing of the existing bays. A new gallery level has been introduced to house a permanent exhibit dedicated to victims of the earthquake and the role of the Church in the relief efforts. Depending on subsurface conditions and specific program requirements, support functions (toilets, archives, etc.) could be located on a full or partial basement floor.
The architects have created a box which has been designed as a rigid, moment-resisting shell. Its exterior is formed out of a marble skin, sourced from nearby quarries, which transmits diffuse sunlight and creates a glowing, diaphanous effect on the interior. Recessed glass sections at the north, south, and west entrances create visual connections to the historic facades.
The three basic panel types, inspired by the patterns of native palm tree leaves, can be mirrored and rotated to provide a rich overall texture. Preserved fragments of original stained glass are given new life at the centre of the east wall's elevated cross which will catch the light in the morning sun.