Church of Atlántida
The Church of Atlántida is a construction known for its innovative construction technique designed by Eladio Dieste.
The works of Eladio Dieste show a local, innovative form of architecture. He was an engineer and built a range of structures. He started in the 1940s. His works can be found in Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina and Spain.
Map of Church of AtlántidaLoad map
Visited November 2019.
The Church of Christ the Worker and Our Lady of Lourdes (Iglesia de Cristo Obrero y Nuestra Señora de Lourdes) is a Roman Catholic church located in Estación Atlántida, around 50 km east from central Montevideo. Most buses from Montevideo bus station (Terminal Tres Cruces or Terminal Rio Branco) heading towards Maldonado/Punta del Este will drop you at the crossroads simply called Atlántida. To get to the church you have to walk 3 km north or wait for a local transportation (the stop is on the road named after Eladio Dieste) between Estación Atlántida and Atlántida Playa Brava. Although the church itself is not very big, it is seen from the road when you approach.
The church is composed of three separate elements: the church itself, the triangular entrance to the underground baptistery to the left of the door of the church, and the round bell tower on the right side to the church; from the street it looks rather like a warehouse, only the crosses (not very big) by the main door and on top of the bell tower remind you it is a religious building.
Built in 1958-1960, totally in bricks, it shows the flexibility of this material and is a symbol of post-modernist approach to architecture, called sometimes Brick Expressionism. In “A Global History of Architecture” by Chiang, Jarzombek and Vikramadotya, it is called “a simple rectangle with side walls rising up in undulating curves to the maximum amplitude of their arcs”.
The waving walls and the roof were built without any columns. The church is open only during Sunday morning service, but we asked the teacher form the school which is located close by to call somebody who cares about the church; after few minutes a lady came to open it and give us some information about the building and catholic community in the area. The interior of the church is pretty dark, ‘cos it lit only by light coming in through small irregular coloured glass windows on the sides and the kind of opening on the façade, filled with marble blocks. There’s no ornamentation inside and the altar is a single piece of boulder. The chorus is located above the entrance. The first impression – it looks like a cave church.
It is so original building that makes you think about the role and possibilities building material can offer you and your imagination. It is a piece masterpiece of engineering. Eladio Dieste called this church “my first architectural experience”. Among others of his works there are: Montevideo Shopping Mall, Deposito Julio Herrera in Montevideo Port, his house in the eastern suburb of Montevideo (for sale now!) and Church of St. John of Avila in Alcala de Heneras, Spain.
As I wrote in the forum, it still remains to be determined which ones of Dieste's works in Uruguay are going to be included in the nomination, but two of them are certain: Cristo Obrero church in Estacion Atlantida and San Pedro church in Durazno. During my last visit to Uruguay I visited the first of the two which is situated about 50 km away from Montevideo and quite close to Atlantida, which is a busy summer resort. The church is not at the resort itself but in a small, poor neighbourhood constructed around the railway station some 5 km inland. The church is situated right where you enter this neighbourhood and is easy to overlook. Despite its unusual shape, its small size, earthen colours and proximity to other buildings make it difficult to spot. It is very well known among architects, but completely unknown to the general public and is currently open to visitors only three hours a week on Saturday afternoon. The church was built on a short budget and in a very short time, so it is striking that this work became the icon of Dieste's oeuvre. It is typically made of bricks with wavy walls and ceiling and touches of coloured glass. It is simple, yet impressive in its originality and spiritual atmosphere (Dieste was very religious). Except the main hall, you can visit a side chapel, the organ balcony, the separate bell tower and the underground baptistery which receives its water from an opening in the ceiling (oculus). The church has been recently renovated and work on the baptistery is still ongoing. I don't know the quality of the rest of the nomination, neither am I familiar with the international impact of Dieste's work. But visiting this church is worthwhile and if it represents the quality of the entire nomination I daresay it could stand a chance.
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