Architecture for the Spirit: The Magallanes Church

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Certain spaces are designed not just for the aesthetics or functionality. Some forms of architecture are made to convey a meaning that is deeper compared to what message is seen through the physical elements. This meaning or the so-called “Spirit of the Place” affects or triggers certain feelings among the people who experience the architecture. One example of such architecture is the Magallanes Church which feeds not only the people’s eyes but their spirits as well.

The St. Alphonsus Mary de Liguori Parish Church, better known as the Magallanes Church, is a very eye-catching building. Upon seeing the church, one can’t help but notice the splendid roof structure on top which consists of arches of different sizes, layered next to each other, along with the unique and also splendid carillon tower next to it. It also has a couple of solid buttresses at the sides which make the building more interesting.

The building, which is mostly white, has a very friendly and inviting feeling. Its entrances were welcoming and even the pathway to the back of the church is well lighted. The harmonious repetition of the elements – in this case the buttresses – add rhythm to the design.

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The interior of the building is just as magnificent as its exterior. It is very spacious as the ceiling is very high. The roof arches mentioned above can also be seen from the inside, and again it is just as breath-taking. One principle of the design very evident in the structure is the rhythm. Aside from the roof, several elements were also recurring, and the over-all effect looks very pleasing to the eye.

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Of course, the “star” or highlight of the building is the altar and the altar wall. Instead of the usual wooden or cemented altar and podium, the ones in the Magallanes Church are made of big blocks of stone. The altar wall is made of wood-clad concrete and incorporated some stained glass materials, which is commonly used in most Catholic churches.

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The church also has a mezzanine which increased the seating capacity inside. It is fully air conditioned so the gaps in the layered roof are covered with glass. Most windows are glassed as well, yet operable. Even though the air conditioner is turned off, the inside of the building doesn’t get too hot because of the materials used and perhaps its white color contributed to the less absorption of heat.

Another interesting feature of the Magallanes Church is the landscaping outside the building. In the garden, sculptures depicting each station of the cross were displayed. That way, the people could easily pray and move from one station to another, instead of the ones in most churches which were mere paintings inside the church.

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All these elements of design and physical characteristics of the building mean something deeper. The kind of design concept the building has could be the ideals because it greatly signifies the spirituality of the people and the holiness of the place. According to the blog of Dominic Galacia Architects, the group which rebuilt the original structure by Architect Leandro Locsin after it was torn down by fire, they added the glorious roof to the structure to symbolize “a community transforming tragedy into grace”. The original Magallanes Church didn’t have the same room, nor the mezzanine and the altar wall. These new elements signify things related to the faith of the people – the 13 roof arches symbolize Jesus, the top arch with the cross, and His twelve apostles, and the altar wall signifies the burning bush where God appeared before Moses.

Upon the sight of the whole building, one could already feel the message the architects wanted to convey, even without knowing what they were exactly. The glorious structure and its calm and peaceful feel make the people want to go in and truly feel the presence of God. Indeed, this architecture feeds the spirit.

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