Redesigning a church environmentBranded Spaces
The Church of Immaculate Conception is the biggest Catholic parish in Gurgaon. The church is nestled in the midst of a developing sprawling neighbourhood and the church building stands out with its brick tile design.
When the mosaic wall behind the altar had to be repaired, Lopez Design was invited to propose a redesign for the altar backdrop. After a study of the entire space, we realised that a more holistic design intervention was required than just repairing or creating a new altar backdrop. We observed that visually there was a lot of clutter which didn’t help in the space being conducive for reflection and prayer. The overall outdoor space was barren lacking foliage and comfortable spaces for casual community exchanges.
The existing interiors
For the redesign, three aspects were considered – the message, experience and community. We proposed a design that had to be contemporary in today’s context resulting in an inviting worship environment and also creating a sense of belonging leading to a strong well-knit parish community. The new design would also communicate and reflect the name of the church. i.e “Church of the Immaculate Conception”
Immaculate Conception is a concept with many facets. With its special focus on Mary, the space had to reflect various aspects of Mariology. In the Bible, Mary is quoted saying: “My soul rejoices in God my savior” (Luke 1:47) Right at the centre, the focus is on the savior, the “Risen Lord” elevated in front of the split stone (symbolising the empty tomb). The stone is cut by light forming a cross. The altar backdrop behind the “Risen Lord” depicts different facets of the Catholic Faith, including symbols of the four gospels and rosary mysteries. The tabernacle with a stone finish, has the Christogram – “Chi-Rho” symbolising the presence of the Lord inside the tabernacle. It is surrounded by 12 crystal stars, symbolising the ‘new ark of the covenant’ i.e. Mother Mary (Revelation 12:1). The statues of Mother Mary and St Joseph are placed on either sides of the altar. The background has a decorative glass-reinforced cement with embedded stained glass. Overall, the space was designed to have a transcendental feel with colour reminiscent of the old world Jerusalem.
Redesigned altar background
Closeup view of the redesigned altar background
On the sides, the four petal windows have the ‘fleur-de-lis’ – a symbol of lily, traditionally used to depict Virgin Mary. The stations of the cross have a stone finish. The two rows of pews at the left and right ends are oriented towards the alter. This will create greater involvement and participation.
View from the balcony
The word “Immaculate” means “free of sin”, and the space should be able to reflect this perfection. We suggested that by removing clutter and distractions, and by the careful use of lights, textures, placement of objects, and even the use of natural greenery and water body, the space can help people to retreat from the noise of daily life and experience the sanctity and silence of the sacred space. The holy water font was designed for people to access it simultaneously from all sides.
Holy water font
We suggested incorporating cultural practices such as removing shoes, and reducing distractions by shifting the choir to the balcony. The outdoor stations of the cross use a simple engraved stone. Elaborate metal based designs have been avoided to discourage pilferage. Outside the hall, we proposed that the existing grotto should be replaced and the surrounding outdoor space should be redesigned to have a comfortable green space with benches that would encourage people to intercede for long hours.
We suggested that the space should be inviting for the young and old alike, with open interactive spaces such as outdoor benches with ample natural shade. Recreational and activity spaces would attract the youth, and good clean toilets, efficient parking, safety signs, wheelchair passages and other accessibility features would be welcoming for people with disabilities.
We also proposed a new sound system, which would have unified, distinct and clear reach with least amount of boom and echo. Also a totally new lighting system was proposed, which could create scenes appropriate for various occasions or during mass.