Det­ta­glio del pro­get­to ed. 2024

alha­m­­bras-cross / Colombia

Ale­jan­dro Saldarriaga

Pro­get­ti­sta Ale­jan­dro Saldarriaga
Loca­tion Bogo­tá, Colombia
Nazio­ne Colom­bia
Desi­gn Team

Pri­ma­ry Authors:
Ale­jan­dro Sal­dar­ria­ga Rubio (Alsar-Ate­­lier), Ger­man Baha­mon (GB Urban Studio)

Con­tri­bu­ting Authors:
Name: Colom­bian Socie­ty of Architects
Role: Fundraising
Name: Equi­nor­te S.A.S
Role: Loan of form­work system + dona­tion of whi­te paintjob

Anno 2021
Cre­di­ti Fotografici

Alber­to Roa Pho­to­gra­phy _ All Files

Foto ester­ni

Descri­zio­ne del progetto


In March 2020, the citi­zens of Bogo­tá saw them­sel­ves facing the upco­ming Holy Week cele­bra­tions in pan­de­mic iso­la­tion. Whi­le usual­ly not con­si­de­red an issue of impor­tan­ce due to the socio-cul­­tu­­ral signi­fi­can­ce of the catho­lic faith within the Latin Ame­ri­can con­text, the senior com­mu­ni­ty of the Alham­bra Nei­gh­bo­rhood saw this as an adver­se restric­tion on their routines. 

For elder­ly citi­zens, rou­ti­ne­ly atten­ding mass is not only a mat­ter of faith but also of socia­li­za­tion with their com­mu­ni­ty and streng­the­ning their men­tal health. As such, the com­mu­ni­ty and the local church had star­ted to take over a gro­ce­ry sto­re par­king lot to con­duct mas­ses with nothing more than pla­stic chairs and a megaphone. 

As Holy Week is when the most impor­tant year­ly catho­lic cele­bra­tions take pla­ce, Alsar-Ate­­lier, in col­la­bo­ra­tion with Ger­man Baha­mon and the Colom­bian Socie­ty of Archi­tec­ts, approa­ched the senior com­mu­ni­ty of the Alham­bra nei­gh­bo­rhood with the intent of dona­ting an open-air tem­po­ra­ry chapel.


The main objec­ti­ve of the desi­gn was to help senior citi­zens adapt to the pan­de­mic rea­li­ty without restric­ting their lei­su­re, espe­cial­ly in times of iso­la­tion. As the pro­ject came to frui­tion, the desi­gn team asked the gro­ce­ry sto­re par­king lot owners if it was pos­si­ble to use their spa­ce to install a tem­po­ra­ry prayer spa­ce. They respon­ded that they were only wil­ling to dona­te a por­tion of their area for said cha­pel for only four days, lea­ding to a con­di­tion of acu­te ephe­me­ra­li­ty that was cru­cial in defi­ning the proposal. 

Addi­tio­nal­ly, the pro­ject nee­ded to host a com­mu­ni­ty of 80 senior citi­zens under a mini­mum of 300 sqm and refe­ren­ce ele­men­ts of clas­si­cal catho­lic archi­tec­tu­re within the final com­po­si­tion, per reque­st of the clien­ts, with essen­tial­ly no funds to finan­ce the project. 

The­se see­min­gly impos­si­ble pro­ject con­di­tions led to the reu­se of the hori­zon­tal form­work system, the rudi­men­ta­ry modu­lar struc­tu­res used to cast con­cre­te slabs in the glo­bal south. The pro­cess nee­ded to cast con­cre­te slabs requi­res the crea­tion of a lar­ge inha­bi­ta­ble struc­tu­re with quick assem­bly and disas­sem­bly, making said system an ideal com­po­si­tio­nal mate­rial for the cha­pe­l’s desi­gn, as it shared the same con­di­tions of ephe­me­ra­li­ty and eco­no­mic acces­si­bi­li­ty. At this point in the pro­cess, Equi­nor­te S.A.S, a com­pa­ny that loans out con­struc­tion infra­struc­tu­re, joi­ned the team and agreed to dona­te the mate­rial nee­ded to con­struct the design.


Alhambra’s Cross is a pro­ject that tran­sfor­med a par­king lot into a catho­lic tem­ple by reu­sing rudi­men­ta­ry con­struc­ti­ve infra­struc­tu­res. The hori­zon­tal formwork’s ortho­go­nal modu­la­ri­ty and struc­tu­ral requi­re­men­ts led to a novel “solid vs void” Greek cross plan that dee­ply reso­na­ted with the struc­tu­res of clas­si­cal catho­lic archi­tec­tu­re. Fur­ther­mo­re, by pain­ting the hori­zon­tal form­work whi­te, the indu­strial for­mal pro­per­ties of the adju­sta­ble posts, cros­sheads, and rebar trus­ses were tran­sfor­med into orna­men­tal archi­tec­tu­ral ele­men­ts. The meta­mor­pho­ses of said fru­gal ele­men­ts into a colon­na­de that reso­na­ted with sacred archi­tec­tu­re makes the desi­gn an exem­pla­ry expe­ri­ment behind the poten­tial of low-cost tectonics.

The cha­pel had maxi­mum occu­pan­cy for the three cele­bra­tion dates of the holy week, It was highly popu­lar among­st the local and adjoi­ning nei­gh­bo­rhood resi­den­ts, who were keen to visit the project—successfully resto­ring a lei­su­re­ly rou­ti­ne among­st the senior com­mu­ni­ty of the Alham­bra nei­gh­bo­rhood. Moreo­ver, as the mate­rial upcy­cled an exi­sting con­struc­tion system, the struc­tu­re retur­ned to its ori­gi­nal use after disas­sem­bly, avoi­ding the typi­cal gene­ra­tion of waste pre­sent in ephe­me­ral architecture. 

The pro­ject is exem­pla­ry of the value of need-based ephe­me­ral archi­tec­tu­re and, as a result, has been wide­ly publi­shed in diver­se archi­tec­tu­re media, inclu­ding NYC’s Metro­po­lis maga­zi­ne, the Novem­ber 2023 prin­ted issue of DOMUS, and was recenl­ty nomi­na­ted for the Mies Cro­wn Hall Ame­ri­cas Pri­ze (MCHAP) Cycle 5 .

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