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Jubilee Church

Tor Tre Teste, Rome, Italy

Richard Meier
1996 - 2003

Dukyoung Lee
General Information
• The Jubilee Church, formerly known as
Church Dio Padre Misericordioso, sits on a
flat, triangular site. The building features
concrete, stucco, travertine and glass.
Three dramatic concrete shells arc in
graduated heights ranging from 56 to 88
feet that elicits gliding white sails. Glass
ceilings and skylights span the entire length
of the building filling the space with natural
light. At night, light radiates from within
creating an ethereal presence. As Meier
describes it:
“… Light is a means by which we are
able to experience what we call
sacred… In the Jubilee Church, the
three concrete shells define an
enveloping atmosphere in which the
light from the skylights above creates
a luminous spatial experience, and
the rays of sunlight serve as a mystical
metaphor of the presence of god…”1
The Main Structure
• The Jubilee Church’s 9,000-square-foot
massing is defined by three concrete shells,
ranging from 56 to 88 feet in height. The
shells, which are segments of a sphere,
demarcate three distinct spaces -- the
main sanctuary, the weekday chapel, and
the baptistery, each with its own entrance.
Separated by vertical expanses of glass
and skylights that span throughout the
entire building, the shells in appearance
seem to be freestanding and to be
reaching over towards the “spine” wall, but
in reality, they are cantilevered onto the

Structural Plan of the Jubilee Church

The Curved Walls and the
Cantilever Effect
• The three large white shells on the south
perimeter of the church curve up and over
the main body or the “spine” of the church
and are partial concentric spheres that are
seemingly filled with an easterly wind.
• Meier remarks, “Each shell is literally free
standing and cantilevered from the
ground.” The shells are tied down to the
ground to resist seismic wind loads. Thus,
the shells act as vertical cantilevers, and
the ground as the fixed end accordingly.”2
• As mentioned above, wind load resistance
is developed through a vertical cantilever
effect, acting across the full depth of the
cross section. These walls are composed of
inner and outer shells that are connected
by a diaphragm.

The loading of a concrete panel

The Concrete Clad Shells
• To cope with the height of the sails -- the
tallest of which is 88 feet or 26 meters high --
and their double curvature, Richard Meier
turned to Italcementi, one of the largest
producers and distributors of cement in
• For the construction of the shells,which are
spherical, curing horizontally as well as
vertically, 256 double-curved,
prefabricated elements were utilized. The
joint between one block and another,
which is considered the most distinctive
and unique feature of the entire structure,
was designed and carried out to allow
connection between the pre-tensioning
bars and to ensure stable continuity to the
• Each pre-cast block had to be lifted and
set in place adjacent to others with the
greatest accuracy according to the sail’s
geometry to permit interconnection of the
bars. The pre-cast concrete segments were Pre-cast blocks with pre-tensioning bars

then post-tensioned in situ.

The Steel Bars
• According to John Eisler, project manager
of construction of Jubilee Church,
“Think of a globe turned 90 degrees. The
parallels run vertically [in this scenario], and
the meridians run horizontally. As a result, a
single stainless-steel form, adjustable on the
ends only, can be used for every block.”3
• Both pre-tensioning bars and post-
tensioned steel was used as reinforcement
for the concrete-clad shells.
• Meier placed a narrow slot at floor level on
on of the shells to emphasize the non-load-
bearing aspect of the concrete panels
immediately above it, versus the steel
skeleton frame hidden within the shell.
Steel bars in between the pre-cast concrete panels
The Narrow Slot at floor level
The Joints
• Going along with the construction system
of the post-tensioned pre-cast concrete
clad shells, Meier decided not only to
expose the concrete, but also to articulate
the joints. According to Meier, “We wanted
to express each panel, yet minimize the
joints and keep them tight for
weatherproofing and for the expression of
the shells.”4
• The joining pattern combines two distinct
geometries: Horizontal radial lines from the
three concentric spheres intersect the
parallel vertical lines derived from minor
• Joints at skylights, glass ceilings and window
walls accommodate the independent
movement of the stiff shells, which are
mainly due to temperature effects on their
southern exposures and also by wind and
seismic loads. An arched steel truss, held
back with a series of horizontal rods,
supports the center of the glass roof over Structural Plan of the Jubilee Church
the main nave.
Detail at skylight and wall over nave
The Construction Process
• As mentioned before, the pre-cast
concrete blocks had to be maneuvered
with extreme precision within a limited area
of action. Italcementi, or rather Gennaro
Guala in particular, came up with a
solution, by developing a special, 32-m
high curving gantry crane. This machine
allowed each precast block to move
toward the exact X-Y-Z axes.
• Interesting Fact: Italcementi actually
developed and patented a new type of
cement -- Bianco TX Millenium -- in response
to Meier’s requested aesthetic quaality.
Other than having great strength and more
efficient workability, Bianco TX Millenium
provides an extra quality: when exposed to
light, the photocalyst particles in the
cement stimulate a self-cleaning process
on the surface so that the brightness and
color will not degrade over time.

The curving gantry crane

The Construction Process

Close-up of the Openings of the first and second shells

The Construction Process

The curving gantry crane and the three shells before the pouring of concrete
The Construction Process

The three shells after the pouring of concrete and post-tensioning

The Construction Process

The three concrete-clad shells and glass curtain walls

1Via F. Tovaglieri, Church Dio Padre Misericordioso, Rome, 1998-2006,

buildings/jubilee/index.htm (May, 2006)
2Paul Bennett, “When in Rome”, Architecture (December, 2003): 94-101

3Sara Hart, “Dynamic Concrete in the 21st Century”, Architectural Record (October, 2001): 180

4Paul Bennett , “When in Rome”, Architecture (December, 2003): 94-101