Usually, when we think about what a church looks like, the first thing that comes to mind is something structured, full of statues of different martyrs and paintings, a rather complex environment. Well, get this image out of your head and welcome a new one, the Chiesa del Buon Ladrone, a church that combines modern design with spirituality located around Bologna. This was designed by a group of local architectural firms including INOUTarchitettura, LAMBER + LAMBER and LADO Architetti.
The project, guided by the community, wants to be a sacred, recognizable and inclusive space without renouncing symbolism of course. The building takes its cue from the archetypal image of a church, faithfully reflecting its essence and seeking an architecture devoid of pity. The facades of the church are white and evoke the marble of classical architecture without taking anything away from the modest geometry of the building. The perimeter consists of walls that bend and detach one from the other, evolving into large openings that allow two access points to the main hall, in addition to the primary entrance.
Throughout the Chiesa del Buon Ladrone there are niches embedded in the walls which house the baptistery, the weekday chapel, and the choir area. The benches are arranged in the space forming a semicircle around the altar, evoking an embrace. All the elements of worship, such as the altar and the baptismal facade, are made of selenite stone, a local material from the Bolognese hills.
The floors are made of wood and complete the palette of natural materials. Outside the Chiesa del Buon Ladrone there are two other parish buildings that are arranged inside a tree-lined courtyard that serves as a filter to and from the urban environment. There is also a sloping roof that connects the church to one of the buildings and acts as a community roof garden, further underlining the church’s link with the urban context.
The concept of liberation and redemption is a cornerstone of this structure and is further reinforced by the direct involvement of the prisoners in the construction phase of the La Dozza prison in Bologna, who, at the end of their sentence and after a period of training, contributed to the development of the project.