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Our Lady of the Assumption Parish Church is a Roman Catholic Church that seats 700 people in its main space and 100 people in its chapel. The main space and chapel can be joined together to form a single larger space for special events. The site is in Port Coquitlam, a suburban city thirty kilometers east of Vancouver. The new church shares its site with an existing church (which will be converted to a parish hall) and a school.

As the budget is modest, the creation of an evocative space and form is dependent upon the direct expression of construction. This began with an investigation of the spatial and structural possibilities of corrugated and folded forms, a precursor to our “Material Operations: Folding” sequence of research projects.

Here, folded weathering steel shear walls are used to construct church identity. Each exterior face of the folded wall is sized to be fabricated from a single 8’ sheet of weathering steel up to 50’ long. Large scale corrugations at the east and west ends of the nave accommodate the deeper structure required by the end conditions. The roof assembly combines triangular steel tubes with the sheet folds to create a highly stable and efficient three-dimensional structure. This single monolithic system affords rapid construction on site and provides a self-finishing, durable and low maintenance exterior.

The church follows a strict liturgical orientation with its main entrance facing west, placing the entrance of the church deep within the site. A landscaped walk leads pedestrians from the street to a plaza at the entrance of the church, a quiet transitional space: a threshold between secular and sacred, quotidian and spiritual. The plaza and landscaped walkway which extend the narthex into the landscape, are commodious and welcoming to the communal assembly and ritual procession characteristic of Roman Catholic worship.

The folded geometry enlivens both exterior and interior, evoking the depth and rhythm of a traditional arcaded and columnar nave. At the main entrance these recesses form a westwork that flanks the entry doors with a shrine and bell tower. Smaller recesses at the east elevation develop into openings that modulate daylight and provide indirect views from the street to chapel.

Interior volumes are low at both church and chapel entrances. In the church, the volume rises slowly, releasing space into light over the sanctuary. In the chapel, the luminous volume above the sanctuary diminishes rapidly, establishing spatial intimacy. The interior is clad simply with drywall painted a luminous warm white. Light, from the skylight located over the sanctuary and secondary sources deep within the folds of the wall, gives way to shadows and dimness as it models the interior to reveal the order, space and form of the church.