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The Sacred and The Profane

Part 2 Project 2012
Ami Skimming
Mackintosh School of Architecture, UK
Lisbon is a place where journeys and emotion come together to make a dramatically historical city. Its oldest neighbourhood Alfama embodies this more than any other part of the city. Its medieval urban grain which follows the steep topography makes this densely constructed introverted neighbourhood a difficult place to reach by vehicle. The community extend their private lives onto the street and the sensory experience navigating around its nooks and crannies becomes enriched by the display of domestic rituals. The site; located adjacent to Sao Miguel Church in the heart of Alfama, is bound by two main routes connecting an intimate outdoor storytelling space with a more exposed & frequented church square.

The seminary brief is based upon 3 main elements that help a man to develop into a priest; intellectual formation, human formation and spiritual formation. Two of these principles rely upon the separation of the priest community from the outside world, focussing on the sacred. The other element; human formation; requires the priest to become integrated with the non-religious, the everyday, the profane.
The project aims to investigate the interplay between public and private interactions and more specifically; how to maintain both the separation and the integration of two communities, one which is sacred and the other profane. Using walls as the architectural tool to facilitate control over the extent of the seminarian’s connection either to the everyday community or to God.

The main strategy to form a new block with the existing church incorporates wrapping the site with inhabited walls and adding a new public garden along the route. The scheme uses 3 wall types to achieve a level of transparency to create connections or opacity to omit them. The programme is separated into 4 components: learning, living, community, and ritual. These elements are arranged in a hierarchy that allows the procession of the priest from the profane towards the sacred. The journey around the Seminary is given a new spiritual dimension and religion becomes a more transparent facet of everyday life. In contrasting both, the profane is enriched by the sacred and the sacred is therefore intensified.

Ami Skimming


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