How to Designing for the Meta-physical

Carlos Arnaiz’s approach to design involves a careful inspection of culture, art and science to accurately reflect the world we live in. IAnD explores his trajectory with the design of spiritual spaces like the 100 Walls and La Salle…

CAZA’s designs are people-centric and rooted in how people use spaces. When applied to the design of sacred spaces, this ideology successfully achieves spatial democracy. It creates architecture that draws people in through the mere act of acknowledging their individual relationship with spirituality.

In conversation with IAnD…

IAnD: As contemporary architects, how do you ensure that architectural interventions do not become desecration? What are the challenges that you have faced breaking away from the historic typology?

CA: In our experience, we have found that religious leaders are very interested in how architecture can represent the future of their congregation. All our projects have started as a conversation about, what architecture can do to open the church to more people, new ideas and how to build on this tradition to evolve it in new ways.

IAnD: The modern church has a varied demographic. How do you cater to such different population with requirements of different levels of engagement? How important is it to make a church feel democratic?

CA: We are interested in looking for architectural forms that speak to this idea of difference and multiplicity and public engagement. Today, it is quite common to talk about our cultures as diasporic, and the story of the saint to whom the 100 Walls Church is dedicated to, for example, is a microcosm of the immigrant experience. This idea of different cultures coming together, but preserving their own unique character is very important to us.

IAnD: How has practicing in Philippines been different from practicing around the world? How does this difference materialize in the churches you design?

CA: It is compelling to explore the mixture of sameness and difference in architecture in local cultures. We employ a convergence of international architectural practices, but local traditions are still important and are folded into our designs as a force for innovation. We also try to build local craft traditions and knowledge of certain materials / economies, etc. through our practice.

IAnD: From where do you draw inspiration to design these sacred spaces? What sets them apart from each other?

CA: While designing sacred spaces, both religious and secular, we try to make spaces with an inspirational value, something that raises the civic quality of our environment. Before starting any project, we try to work like archeologists and anthropologists, collecting artifacts that stand for this wide definition of context. We will look at an old structure from another religion, an art installation, anything that will give us a direction we’re interested in going. We’re agnostic, when it comes to borrowing.

Hi-5

A church should feel like… a place that takes us outside of ourselves.

The best way to explore religion is by/through… asking many questions.

An architect is not a god, but… connects the physical with the metaphysical.

Designing a church requires… some sense of our limits as mortals.

The most striking characteristic of Philippines is… its people.