The work of engineer Eladio Dieste: Church of Atlántida

http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1612

The Church of Atlántida with its belfry and underground baptistery is located in Estación Atlántida, 45 km away from Montevideo. Inspired by Italian paleo-Christian and medieval religious architecture, the modernistic Church complex, inaugurated in 1960, represents a novel utilization of exposed and reinforced brick. Built on rectangular plan of one single hall, the church features distinctive undulating walls supporting a similarly undulating roof, composed of a sequence of reinforced brick Gaussian vaults developed by Eladio Dieste (1917-2000). The cylindrical bell-tower, built in openwork exposed brick masonry, rises from the ground to the right of the main church facade, while the underground baptistery is located on the left side of the parvis, accessible from a triangular prismatic entrance and illuminated via a central oculus. The Church provides an eminent example of the remarkable formal and spatial achievements of modern architecture in Latin America during the second part of the 20th century, embodying the search for social equality with a spare use of resources, meeting structural imperatives to great aesthetic effect.

Brief synthesis

The Church of Atlántida of engineer Eladio Dieste with its belfry and underground baptistery is located in Estación Atlántida, a low-density locality, 45 km away from Montevideo. Inspired by Italian paleo-Christian and medieval religious architecture, the Church with its belfry and baptistery, all built in exposed bricks, exhibit forms dictated by the effort to achieve greater robustness with limited resistant sections and use of material.

The property is an emblematic example of the application of a new building technique, reinforced ceramic, which Dieste developed by drawing on a thousand-year long tradition of brick construction, while applying modern scientific and technological knowledge, and thus opening up new structural and expressive possibilities for architecture.

Designed from the outset to be built with local materials by local people, the Church of Atlántida, located in a lower middle-class semi-rural community, has its roots in long-established building traditions, while embodying the scientific and technical achievements of modernity. The Church of Atlántida reflects efforts to optimise the use of resources and ensure sustainability. The property is imbued with the humanistic principles that constantly guide the spatial and material concepts of engineer Dieste.

Criterion (iv): The Church of Atlántida of engineer Eladio Dieste represents the highest spatial and aesthetic expression of a construction and technological innovation – the reinforced brickwork coupled with the mobile formwork – that draws from tradition, whilst reinterpreting and innovating it, and opens up structural and formal opportunities in architecture impossible to conceive and achieve up to that date with traditional masonry. The property embodies the post-war search for a renewed architectural language, expressing a modernity rooted in tradition and in the vernacular in Latin America and worldwide. It also reflects the locale and its people who built it. The church illustrates the confluence of geometry, of the static conception of the building, of the form expressed by the chosen building material.

Integrity

The Church of Atlántida includes all the elements linked to the history of the location and the period over which the building has been functioning. Its dimensions are sufficient to provide a comprehensive representation of the characteristics and processes that embody its Outstanding Universal Value. The church, which is in constant use, is currently in a good state of conservation. Thanks to a recent conservation programme, the building does not face any risks, and the pathologies affecting it can be treated.

Authenticity

The property is authentic in terms of location, time, construction materials, surroundings, and the substance of its creation and liturgical use.

Protection and management requirements

Requirements for the protection of the property are linked to its designation as a National Historic Monument by virtue of Heritage Law no. 10.040 of August 1971, amended in 2008 and 2015, and of Regulatory Decree 536/72. Conservation is the responsibility of the Heritage Commission, under the Ministry of Education and Culture. The Partial Land Use Plan for the commune of Atlántida and Estación Atlántida, which constitutes the legal land use instrument, recognises the heritage property status of the Church of Atlántida. Ownership is currently shared by the Bishopric of Canelones and the Congregation of the Rosarian Nuns, two institutions of the Catholic Church; however, steps have been undertaken to gather all elements of the property into the Bishopric’s ownership.

The Church is administered by the Management Unit, which incorporates an Executive Committee, and a Deliberative Committee consisting of a set of institutional and social stakeholders who ensure the participation of citizens in the management of the heritage property. The Executive Committee, which takes decisions relating to intervention of all types on the property, is composed of the Ministry of Education and Culture, the Heritage Commission and the Bishopric of Canelones. The Deliberative Committee provides direct support to the Executive Committee; it consists of stakeholders involved in the routine management of the church as regards operational and material matters and its surroundings. The technical, administrative and economic resources are provided by State institutions and by the Catholic Church.

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