Work requires skill. With skill and experience come the notion of craftsmanship; work done very well. When the work lifts the spirit, moves the heart and opens the mind to avenues of thought; that is art.
The new church for Mater Dei Catholic Parish in Chula Vista has a wonderful symbiosis of art and architecture. The themes for the project are based in its titular; Mater Dei, which means Mary the Mother of God. Architecturally, the arced seating around a centralized altar, as well as the asymmetrical curving ceilings are meant to symbolize the warm embrace of Mary nurturing the congregation. The art on the main door to the church, which is liturgically significant as a “Welcome to All” in the Catholic tradition, has a carved depiction of Mary with a representation of all of the world’s people being embraced in her tunic. The models for the faces of the world’s people in this piece are actual members of the congregation.
The original campus was completed in 2010. The church building is the final portion of the master plan. It is located so that it frames a courtyard and connections with the other existing structures on the site. The hilltop site offered opportunities to be both a beacon in the community and for the worship space to open to the distant ocean and sunset views. These large expanses of glass are protected by deep overhangs, soffits and other active shading devices. The southwest view also has a unique curved chapel space that serves as a focal point of this public side of the structure. This chapel is for private, daily devotion and adoration. There is a tower on the campus side with a large cross and reconditioned bell that calls the community to mass. The bell was reconditioned from a demolished church in Unionville Connecticut in built in 1886.
The composition of the building is made up of cascading horizontal rooflines. Between the rooflines, there are clerestory windows to allow discrete, controlled light. The strongest of these elements is over the center aisle of the church, allowing natural light to penetrate deep into the space, articulating the main axis and offering a detail of backlighting of the perforated celling.
The artwork was prepared by Artesanos Don Bosco from Peru. Their liturgical art is inspired by the new testament and uses rich and elegant materials. The reredos, the wall behind the altar, is a mosaic of stone, glass and gold that symbolized the power of the Holy Spirit wrapping the tabernacle, wherein the sanctified eucharist is held. The baptismal font is a single 5,000 pound carved Peruvian Huancayo travertine. The water flowing from the upper vessel symbolizes the living waters of Christ, and the mosaic in the bottom too symbolizes the vortex of energy from the Holy Spirit blessing those who are immersed into the church through baptism.
The art and architecture were both developed in concert under the direction of the parish’s pastor and building committee. The goals for designing a place of worship should always be to remove ones perception out of the secular world and lift the spirit in preparation for Christ’s message. The art and architecture work together to create this transformation of experience, lifting of the spirit.