CHIESA DI SAN CLEMENTE
Via Gramsci (fraz. Baruccana) - 20030 SEVESO (MI)
   
   
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Source of photograph: www.colombo-costruzioni.it
TYPE:
• Religion
• Church

PLAN AND CONSTRUCTION 1991 - 2003
• Gregotti Associati International

Baruccana di Seveso is a small town in Brianza, north of Milan, which possesses the typical features of the “outskirts” of a town, with single-family houses mixed with low-budget buildings and patches of countryside. In this fragmented building fabric with large empty spaces, the church stands out with unexpected authority.

The new San Clemente church in Baruccana di Seveso is the focus of a wider project of a true “parish hamlet”, including a small auditorium, a gym and a building for catechism activities.

The overall design stage started in 1991 and has been implemented in steps (similarly to what happened when churches were built in the past centuries) according to the economic means of the parishioners, who were asked to pay for most expenses.

In the countryside, which has now become distant northern outskirts of Milan, this work by Vittorio Gregotti stands out for its strong, essential look. According to the tenets of Vittorio Gregotti’s design approach, the design does not seek a connection with the local tradition; after all, the designer was working on a place with an uncertain identity, contended between the countryside and new urbanization, and was trying to recover a concept of center, of reference place.

The wide forecourt emphasizes the double volume of the church, characterized by the vertical “blade”. The bell-tower is separated from the vertical “blade”. This idea was to build not just a church, but an articulated parish center, formed by several buildings - a small village within the village. However, of these additional project elements, which include the service buildings (gym, church recreation center, meeting hall and parish house), only the parish house has been built.

The church volume stands out powerfully. The shape of the façade looks like an upside down “tau”.

The wide square before the entrance is crisscrossed by orthogonal stripes and a wider angled stripe. It is as if the church space extended all around, as if it were looking for roots in the site and ideally reconnecting to the place. The cross stands out in the parvis: it is very close, as if to get closer to the believer who is arriving. This element recalls the image of the bell-tower, by which it seems generated. As a matter-of-fact, the bell-tower is located on its prolongation, separated by a short division only. Apart from this echoing of the bell-tower, the “blade” is like in architectural gesture made in the attempt to capture light from above, from the sky.

The building, including the houses for the parish priest and his assistants, is located in the courtyard next to the church. On this side, at its corner, the church has a cylindrical volume. It is the visible sign of the presence of the baptistery, which this way remains inside and outside of the praying hall at the same time. Being visible from outside, the baptistery dialogues with the cross, which stands on the side of the main entrance. The parish house stands around a courtyard and is as high as the lower part of the church volume: 8 meters. Together with the other buildings to be erected, the vicarage was to form a small hamlet. Seen from its side, the profile of the church looks like a machine. And the separate volume of the bell-tower becomes like a guide: the castle of the bells tolling freely in the air looks like the gears of a clock, uncovered and exposed.

The interior of the church is subdivided into three sections. The first one includes the entrance system, the baptismal font, the confessional boxes and the staircase to the women’s gallery (which also gives access to the roof); the second area is occupied by the church hall; the third houses the weekday chapel topped by the bell-tower and the sacristy. However, the presence of the longitudinal light tower is perceived inside, perhaps even more than outside, because it enhances the bright wooden structure, while the light coming in from the eight large side windows reflects and blends on its walls, until it spreads along the central axis of the church hall. Different materials (bright wood for the ceiling, stone for the wall facing) also mark a contrast between lightness and gravity: lightness on top and gravity along the walls. However, this mixture of materials is changed again by the presence of low light sources: two cuts running along the side walls and literally lifting them from the ground, making them float, and denying their evident gravity. So, their impermeability is overcome in a dialectical play of opacity and clearness, gravity and lightness, which provides the square hall with some variety. This contrast of light is also present on the rear wall, where crystal elements are placed between ashlars. The function of these crystals is reflecting light, making the wall surface vibrate.

All perspective lines of the architectural space focus on the altar. Standing high up, on the level of the gray-stone presbytery, it looks like a single block of Carrara white marble, although it is made of several slabs.

The baptismal font, on the left side of the church hall, stands inside the cylindrical volume, well visible inside and outside of the hall. Its floor is made of round stone ashlars and the walls are covered with bleached wood. In the middle of the cylinder, the baptismal font is a half sphere of Carrara white marble, with a diameter of 1.6 meters. Its horizontal plane lies straight under the zenithal light source. A hole dug in the surface holds the water.

The ambo is a white marble volume, an isolated prism of a large size for the presbytery space, set in grey stone steps. It is like a turret that surrounds the reader on four sides. The walls are decorated with some evangelical texts on Resurrection: they are written in engraved and gilded Roman fonts.

The weekday chapel is behind the back wall. The hall is surrounded by the stone of the outer walls and is oriented by its middle cut (source http://www.colombo-costruzioni.it).

How to get there:
State road SS35

Public opening hours:
Saturday afternoon; Sunday (call for other hours)

Useful information:
Telephone: 0362.506737
Web site: http://www.chiesadimilano.it

Sources:

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