Herzog & de Meuron Basel Ltd.
4056 Basel, Switzerland
Phone: +41 61 385 5757
Ciudad Juárez, Mexico
Facing each other across the Rio Grande, at a place where the river winds its way from east to west through the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, lie the Mexican city of Ciudad Juárez (Juarez City) and the US city of El Paso. The two border cities straddle one of the continent’s key north-south traffic routes, whose origins lie in the Camino Real (Royal Road) established in the early seventeenth century by the Spanish conquistadors. The US-bound migration flows from South and Central America via Mexico are largely channelled along this route – with Juarez City as the last stop before the coveted destination. In the context of these now highly topical social problems, the Iglesia project represents an important step out of hopelessness towards a new identity for the whole region.
The site of the Iglesia lies at the intersection between the Rio Grande or Mexican-US border and the Camino Real, as north-south axis. This geographical setting is the inspiration behind the cruciform architectural plan. At the same time, the cross evokes the Christian belief that has prompted the community to support this initiative. The planned accommodation is shared between the four arms of the cross. The facilities comprise a clearing house for homeless migrants, a clergy house, seminar rooms and other ecclesiastical spaces, a music academy and workshops for the young people of Juarez City.
In keeping with the tradition of the medieval builders’ lodges, these workshops will already play a pivotal role in the construction of the Iglesia. Individual spatial units are stacked on top of each other like oversized stones to create a vaulted church space in the middle – suggestive of the manner in which the community is formed by the gathering-together of its individual members. While the side sections of the dome act as a corbel vault, the upper stones are additionally supported by columns. At the centre, a cruciform assembly results from the connection of a column to a cross-beam spanning the rooflight. Structural requirements are thus coupled with an invocation, through the cross, of the Christian belief.
The church volume, which is slightly sunken and thereby firmly rooted in the ground, can be reached from a spacious garden from all four directions via steps and ramps. Lined with sales stalls belonging to the workshops, these access routes add something of the flavour of a bazaar. The main entrance is at the plaza fronting the church to the east. Here, two panels open out like giant altarpieces in an embracing gesture of welcome. At the Iglesia de Ciudad Juárez, space, structure, symbolism and facilities form an indivisible unity.
Herzog & de Meuron, 2016
Stages 1 and 2