The construction of a new church is always a major event in the Christian community – albeit quite a rare one these days. The new Saint Vincent de Paul Church in Nantes, France, was completed in autumn 2015 to replace the temporary church that had been built in an old warehouse in 1950. There was certainly a real need and demand for the new church, one designed to satisfy the demands of the church’s contemporary functions and religious services. Local parishioners were in desperate need of a place that could rekindle their belief.
The new church was designed by architect Bertrand Aubry (Magnum Architectes & Urbanistes), who worked together closely with parishioners, the head of the church and diocese, and artisans in numerous different fields to make the project a reality. The design included the main church building seating 500 and an adjacent parish hall. The church features a spacious choir section and a chapel that is connected to the two-storey parish hall, which in turn houses catering, banqueting, office, meeting and Sunday school facilities.
Externally the design is dominated by a large wooden cross that metaphorically divides the earthly from the spiritual. The church was designed to be modest and in keeping with its environment. Accordingly, concrete, wood and zinc were chosen for the main building materials. The pale hues of the structures combined with the light reflecting from the upper windows and zinc roof reinforce the nobility of the building. Closer inspection of the concrete façade reveals that the surface is not smooth and that it in fact features quotes from the Bible and texts by Saint Vincent de Paul reproduced in vertical lines.
The architect’s aim was to design a church in which the faithful can gather, but also one that could attract those who do not yet belong to the church. “I wanted to communicate through architecture the symbolic and concrete value of the church.”