Form and symbolism
Space and time intertwine across the hills and plain of Fasano, along the border where Salento meets Terra di Bari. A short way from the dig that is gradually unearthing the remains of the ancient city of Gnatia, a major settlement on the Via Traiana that was described by Pliny, Horace and Strabo, stands the modern-day town with the incongruousness typical of many contemporary places. At its northern edge, where the houses meet the first olive groves, the place names appear to symbolically recall a link between earth and sky, between the profane and the divine, and reveal that „heterogeny of ends“ that resulted in the new church being built in Via degli Astronauti.
The architecture of the new religious complex – which as Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung pointed out is the symbol of psychic totality, where our own personal history intertwines with that of all humanity – appears to embrace this complexity while seeking to simplify it not through subtraction but stratification.
The result is a building where the volumes, layout, functional hierarchies and architectural elements perform very different parts of a musical score in which the notes in the tonal scale generate unusual harmonic relationships. No less evident are the references to the architecture of the past and to the genius loci, the „spirit of the place“. Take for example the unusual architecture of the ninth-century Little Temple of Seppannibale that stands a few kilometres to the north along the road to Monopoli, where the lintel, pitched roof and the vault coexist with the greatest of ease. Asymmetry becomes method and the volume an icon thanks to the two masonry tambours that rise to the roof. Another example is the Norman church of San Giovanni al Sepolcro in Brindisi, with its round base and octagonal colonnade supporting the emerging vault roof, a construction inspired by the Rotunda of the Anastasis in Jerusalem.
The floor plan of the new parish church complex in Fasano likewise appears to be traced out by a compass. The same applies to the massive colonnade with its archaic proportions supporting the pilgrims‘ arcade alongside the entrance doorway. The roof, like a priest’s mantle, spreads protectively over the entire building and in turn is symbolically articulated by a regular eight-sided semi-polygon. The resulting volume assumes a powerful, symbolic form, extending behind a formidable partition wall that like a transept separates the altar from the nave reserved for the faithful, and finally reaches towards the open sky. It culminates in a gable that extends skyward and houses an oculus with a crucifix.
The building materials were chosen with the greatest care, combining static requirements with contemporary technologies and the symbolic values of the cultural and material tradition. Consequently both concrete and natural stone are used. But in terms of aesthetics, the project focused above all on the roof. The laminated wood structure encircles the walls and assumes a daring, spectacular quality with seven trusses emerging from a single point of origin on the transept wall and radiating out in a semicircle across the nave. This striking effect is echoed on the outside where the building is entirely clad with porcelain tiles from Ardogres (Daytona Group) in a 24×40 cm size and stone grey colour. This solution allowed for perfect installation of the ceramic cladding not just on the complex inclined façade and roof system but also on the large barrel vault that covers the main entrance of the church and the vestibule.