Conceived according to the liturgical and historical symbolism of the religion it shelters, the Church of Our Lady of the Ark of the Covenant is designed as a perfect cube protected by a three-dimensional grid unfolding around the essential structural elements of the sanctuary.
In the 1970s, the district of Alleray in the 15th arrondissement of Paris witnessed a profound transformation of its urban layout, in particular around Place Falguière. A motley architectural assortment intermingled a few Haussmannian pieces into an outdated environment from the modern period consisting of disparate, unrelated blocks of concrete, crisscrossed by an interstitial public space.
The building, designed to accommodate 450 congregants, the presbytery and other significant parish facilities, is located on a very small plot of land, a short walk from Place Falguière. In this tiny plot, Our Lady of the Ark of the Covenant reinterprets the symbolism of the scriptural and structural tradition in a contemporary narrative. The Church pervades the context in the shape of a perfect cube, supported on twelve pillars that portray the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve apostles. “With its six even sides, the cube is a perfect challenge of idol-worship: the first side is the forecourt, four sides reveal the church to the city around it, while the last side, high up, is a cloister, open to the sky”. The church plan outlines a Greek cross with four equal branches, recalling the most ancient Eastern church.
Historically, the Ark of the Covenant contained the two stone Tablets of the Law given by God at Sinai, in a gold-plated acacia wooden chest. Thus, the building is seen as a box inside a three-dimensional square-patterned metal grid, which defines the three masses of the building: the bell tower, the portal and the church. The free movement of the air and the transparency that it creates confer an immaterial and liturgical presence to the whole. “Here, the space creates a silent relationship between our private solitude and the call to join the cohesiveness of shapes that makes us equal” (F. Boyer). On the right, the stained glass windows portraying David dancing in front of the Ark of the Covenant, and on the left, the scene of the Visitation of Mary to Elisabeth, are the work of Martial Raysse and were crafted by Master Glassmaker, Jean Dominique Fleury.