The making of a handmade Church – Albini Mission Church

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Blog

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Amanda

This Blog is about recording the process of designing and implementing The Albini Mission Church extensions – a very special project for a rural community in KZN.

The process was underpinned by the community’s dreams for the Church and was a collaborative effort by many stakeholders to fulfil those in the most sustainable way.

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A brief comment from Albini Catholic Mission to SAIA

The Parish Priest and all concerned parish groups were consulted timeously as to when the church will eventually start to be build. A few meetings were held in the Parish Priest’s house.

As regards the old church, it obviously was not going to be destroyed as per church’s teachings, but we noted that it was very old and fragile and so it concerned us that such an old church would be integrated into the new extended building. But after so much consultation we were so excited that the old and the new were eventually going to be integrated and we were so grateful to Lead Architect for this great initiative.

As regards the design of the church, Lead Architects communicated in time the possible options and all concerned parish structures were happy with the final design. Also, all concerned structures were made aware of the meetings, invited to go through site process and minutes of those meeting well circulated.

We were not only excited about getting a new and bigger church but were very excited that the locals were going to be involved and that some job opportunities were created such as fencing of site, bricklaying and bead work.

Since the Albini Catholics have been waiting for a long time for the new church, we were so happy and pleased with final results of this church, not mentioning how outstandingly beautiful it is. The church has a lot of space for the whole congregation plus visitors especially on Sunday services. The parish community really like the way the Architects decided to join the two buildings (old and new). The merging of the old and new church was seemingly impossible because of different materials used on each but it eventually happened. While one can still notice certain differences between the old and the new, we are delighted that it has really become one single beautiful building.

Several building projects are still outstanding within Albini Mission and we are looking forward to working with Lead Architects for they have proved themselves beyond unreasonable doubt of their Architectural ability.

Father Mhlengi Ncobo 2019

 

A brief comment : Lead Architects  

The Albini Church project was five years in the making.

It is has become the norm for the Catholic Archdiocese to build Churches in rural areas using standard industrial sheds with concrete block infill walls. When we were first introduced to this project, with its limited budget this was the methodology put forward to substantially increase the capacity of this old, humble, rural mission church from a 90-seater to a 500-seater. This methodology was the result of years of struggling to provide more conventional churches for poor communities on extremely tight budgets.

Lead Architects tried to adopt a different approach.

This approach was underpinned by the community’s dreams and desires for their Church together with strong heritage, sustainability and impact-reducing principles. Contrary to what we expected – the community was very attached to the old, weathered building, it has huge significance and meaning for them. The process we followed from that point is set out in the addendum attached – ‘the making of a handmade church’.  We were very fortunate to receive valuable guidance from experienced professionals – Brian Kearney and Robert Brusse – along the way as well as to have an open-minded client, consultant and contractor-team who were willing to work with alternative-technologies.

The rewards of the project were felt at the end of 2018. Some parishioners cried when they experienced the completed building. One of the parish council verbalized her appreciation to us for having been given a ‘real church’ to worship in. Cardinal Wilfred Napier described it as a ‘a miracle’ when we were invited to talk at the opening service.

Why we think this project is award-worthy ?

We feel the Architecture that has been made through the honouring of a very authentic ‘making’ process, inspired by a community and an old, crumbling but much-loved church needs to be celebrated. In this time and resource-constrained world, the level of attention we have applied to facilitating the making of this building and this ‘place’ is rare. The outcome of the project was ultimately restorative and regenerative – the place is renewed with dignity and beauty.

We hope the results speak for themselves.

Amanda Lead

May 2019

 

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View the project page