The original building had become inadequate, to the point that it was disintegrating, and dappled light peeped in through holes in the roof. The design of the new church and its materials were inspired by the cylindrical forms that are found in various local designs, from almost room-sized maze storage baskets, to chicken coops and the walls built around saplings to protect them from predators. The cylinder thus has associations with safety and protection among the community, which gives it a symbolic resonance.
The memory of the old church was carried through in the dappled light that shines through hollow bricks. On one level, they’re functional devices for ventilation, but harnessed for the aesthetics of the pattern of light and shadow they create. Local labour and materials were used, and the construction process, which involved the architects working side by side with community members, also involved skills transfer, as well as a sense of profound ownership and growth in the process of making it. Despite its relatively lo-fi technology, the design involved fairly sophisticated methods of ventilation and cooling. The architecture of this rural church combines the symbolic significance of the final structure with the entire process of construction to imparts its significance — architecture as process as much as product.
CHAPEL OF LIGHT:
This chapel, built at the Vaal University of Technology in Vanderbijl Park a decade and a half ago, is one of those small, low-budget, but catalytic projects that appear, through sheer will and imagination, to make something out of nothing. The site was almost featureless, so the chapel, essentially, had to be the making of it.