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The Church


Of Perpetual Experimentation




Manifesto For A New Church




Apostolic Rules Of Intent


The Inaugural Address Of Our Most Holy Father


The Story Of The Church


Recollected from the posthumously published memoirs of Cardinal S__ of A__


Analogy, Fiction, Colour, Imagination

- "Relics" a story from "Nostalgia" by Marcel Proust

-"La-Bas" by Joris-Karl Huysmans

-"Wild Ass's Skin" by Honore de Balzac

-"Salammbo" by Gustave Flaubert

-"Zibaldone" by Giacomo Leopardi

-"Lectures On Aesthetics" by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

-"Preface to Mademoiselle de Maupin" by Theophile Gautier

-"The Painter of Modern Life" by Charles Baudelaire

-""The Eloquence of Colour" by Jacqueline Lichtenstein



The Committe For The Architecture Of Ecclesiastical Engagement

-Chapter II Publimartyrium

-Chapter III Recorpistery

-Chapter IV Spectacular Mass

-Chapter V Confessorium

-Chapter VI Holy Auction

-Chapter VII Mausochapeleum

-Chapter VIII Multi-Nave

-Chapter IX Unnaplied Innovations


Technical Documentation

For Diocese Wishing To Follow The Path Of The CPE


Plates Of The Church





Manifesto For A New Church






Assemblage of Spectacular Vault Construction Units

Compound Unit


This project explores the spatial qualities of assemblage on three scales: the construction unit (or the assemblage of construction units), the spatial unit (or the assemblage of spaces) and the compound unit (or the re-assembly of both construction units and spaces). The three scales when linked together in time create a process of formal involution, a process which moves from discrete spatial unit to the juxtaposition of these units in the site, to the indefinite multiplication of their boundaries and ultimately the formulation of a new and compound spatiality. This process, as an ongoing chain can have new units assembled into it at any time, each of which will in turn come apart and serve to enrich the site and its spaces with further formal material.


Process of Formal and Spatial Involution

Contiguous Palimpsests


The exploration of assembly is an attempt to recreate within a rapid and contemporary formal process the manner in which the millennial Palimpsests of our older cities and cathedrals carry the marks of every stage of their history. Spaces layered with their own histories are rarely produced today as buildings and urban areas are rapidly replaced in their entirety by an economy that demands continuous change. Using the contemporary pace of urban change as a positive generator, the project sets up its process of assemblage as a way in which rapid change can not only occur, but be used to build up a formal continuity and architectural richness. The Catholic Church as an institution exemplified the millennial continuity of cities through its timeless liturgies and layered cathedrals, but never quite discovered a way to mark itself in the post-industrial landscape. The project occurs within a fictive context which is initiated through and propelled by the desire of the Church to come to terms with its inability to engage contemporary society. The Church in principle requires continuity, but in practice seeks novelty, and the narrative follows it's haphazard journey towards discovering, through the architectural practice of assembly, the manner in which it can create constant novelty while maintaining formal continuity.




Apostolic Rules of Intent


Architectural Research

Cultural Research


GENERAL How can the Church grapple with the spiritual salvation of Wealthy Man? How can the Church once again connect with a Man whose society sates him so elaborately? How can the Church console a population whose pains are no longer physical but are entirely psychopathological? The Church will step outside of itself, into the contemporary world. It will study both how the human needs it used to fulfil are being satisfied so much more effectively elsewhere; and it will examine what ills and anxieties are besieging the minds of its potential congregations. Then firstly it will reconfigure its sacraments according to the lessons learned, so that it may speak the message and convey salvation in a manner that contemporary man will understand; and secondly it will create new spaces and rituals which will offer release from and consolation for the anxieties of today's world. The Church wishes to re-inject meaning into the contemporary world, and to do that it will learn from that world, but note that it will not become that world; rather it will be an edified reformulation of that world, it will be a re-sanctification of culture. The Church will continue this experiment -unceasingly- until it has managed to attain a blueprint for the re-sanctification and consolation of contemporary man.


Elecro-Baroque Ecclesiology



Neo-Goth Musical Sermon


There is a hierarchy of formal concerns which must govern the language of the new Church:

1. A balance must always be found between recognisable historic form, and novelty. One must never be found without the other. Where the content of the space is a new introduction, the recognisable should dominate; whereas where the content is unchanged novelty should prevail. References may vary according to region but the principle must remain.

2. Although the Church will clearly define how each layer of its space should be expressed as a formal expression of its purpose, and thereby be distinct and recognisable, the different layers should come together at as many points as possible to convey a vigorous, contrasting, combinatory unity.

3. As new liturgical developments are expected to continue for some time, the new Church should be within an open framework which should never be seen as finished lest the possibility of expansion be precluded.




The Inaugural Address Of Our Most Holy Father


The Speech As It Was Being Delivered

Detail from the "Temptation of St Anthony" panel from the Isenheim Altarpiece by Mattias Grunewald


When waking with the sun and then ploughing fields or tending to sheep or sweating in the smithy all day until the sun set was the breadth of man's horizon; When the written word was a mystical cipher of which man knew nothing; When Nature was vast, terrifying, dangerous and inexplicable; When death wasn't only an idea -something one knew would happen one day- but was a smell to be avoided in the streets; When the body was so often a burden of pain to be suffered and from which there was no respite; When life was such a narrow path of tedium peppered with horror and misery, the Church proclaimed the transcendence of every individual beyond his sores and abscesses; the Church placed man's life and his death within an inimitable and beautiful plan of salvation beyond the stink of corpses; the Church extracted man from his narrow and incessant toil to celebrate creation and existence, which, rather than being cursed for its hardship, was glorified and illuminated in ceremony and stone. Man was overwhelmed by the intoxicating mixture of liturgy, icon, statue and story; he was convinced through the mysteries of the Church and their representations that life indeed did have meaning, that indeed there was something magical and profound about existence, about life, and also about pain and suffering.


Genetically Modified Mouse

Rabbits Held For Medical Testing


But now that the rising of the sun has little significance, man wakes as he pleases, where he pleases, and knows that during the coming day his horizons may extend to embrace the globe; Now that knowledge clings to each man as thickly as an odour, as thickly as a smell that emanates from the autopsy table on which lies the dissected, analyzed, categorized and preserved remnants of Nature's mysteries; Now that death and pain have been marginalized to the periphery of vision, to specially quarantined buildings; Now that the body is so often a collection of parts to be perfected or changed at will; Now that magic and representation have hemorrhaged into every corner of the Real, and stand for nothing but distraction; Now that life is such a vast landscape of endless choice peppered with information, opportunity and answers, the Church must proclaim the transcendence of every individual beyond the boredom of perfection; the Church must place man's boundless freedom and his unlimited emptiness back within a plan of salvation beyond the cadaver of mystery.


Michael Jackson aged 13, and 45

CGI Scene from Spiderman III


The Church must rediscover and reclaim the magic of representation and re-inject it with an amazement of existence. The Church must plunge itself into the contemporary world to find the raw material, the techniques with which it can once again convince man that indeed life does have meaning, that indeed there is something magical and profound about existence: that man's great plague -the blight of meaninglessness- is no different today than it was when pain and suffering ruled, only now it is impossible to seduce man into belief with only ceremony and stone. A lot more is needed, man is waiting, and to that effect, on the eve of my election I am announcing the convention of the Third Vatican Council. The Grand Conciglio will no doubt continue to examine our faith in great depth for many years to come, and beyond my time in the pontificate. Taking this into consideration I will be focusing my efforts on the formation of a subcouncil which will endeavor to re-engage the laity through a direct, and possibly radical reconstruction of our tangible presence in their lives.


First Signs of Construction at the site in EUR


In order that the ideas and decisions of this subcouncil do not remain as exciting intention imprisoned on paper, in order that from the first steps of this Grand Council we will lead by concrete example, in order that the laity may engage with us while we are proceeding, in order for these things to happen I have set aside a parcel of land in this very city, the heart of our faith, so that it may become the physical register of our will to change. I hereby convene the Third Vatican Council, convene and chair the First Committee for the Architecture of Ecclesiastical Engagement, and initiate the founding of the Church of Perpetual Experimentation.




The Story Of The Church Recollected from the Posthumously Published Memoirs of Cardinal S______ of A___


CHAPTER I Its been a while now but I can still remember that mute disbelief that met the pope's inaugural address, and his proclamation launching the third Vatican Council. Paying homage to the Church's past as the provider of meaning and security in a world of ever present toil, death and physical suffering; he made the point that we didn't live in a world like that anymore, we had different burdens and expectations. Death and pain had long disappeared into quarantined buildings, people could fly anywhere in the world if they woke up bored one day, bodies had become objects to be changed and perfected at will, and nature was no longer a mystery but just another dissected, analysed, categorised and preserved specimen of science's triumph. The world was full of endless choice, and was busy satisfying people's every whim in boundless ways, and yet the Church was still performing ceremonies crafted for people a thousand years ago. He made the case that the Church had to go out and transform itself as much as the world around it had changed, and that this needed to be done not only in its liturgies, but also in its physical form, in the immediate presence of its architecture so that the lay could tangibly see and experience the Church's will to change. For this to happen he announced that he had set aside a parcel of land in Rome itself, so that construction could begin immediately on the Vatican's newest experiment, on what was to become the Physical register of the Church's will to change, the newly founded Church of Perpetual Experimentation in EUR. Organising this project was the Council’ s first Committee, the Committee for the Architecture of Ecclesiastical Engagement, a panel of priest's whose job it was to travel western Europe both interviewing a broad spectrum of society, from

The Diverting Illusion of Choice

Contemporary Burdens. Primark Blues

The Seductive Allure of Instantaneously Consumable Locations

Contemporary Burdens. The Insatiable Index Of Perfectable Parts


Consultation With Cultural and Economic Movers and Shakers

Routes and Stages For Alter-Floats, and Parades of Spectacular Mass

Production Spaces Under Spectacular Mass Stage-Sanctuaries


media moguls and billionaires, to young athletes and hoodies; and researching the current paradigms governing people's daily lives and its architecture. With this material they hastily set about proposing, discussing and deliberating upon a whole range of liturgical and sacramental transformations, and it was here that the architects were brought in as the link in the chain between the innovations and their imminent construction. For them it was a bit like working on several competitions at the same time, only that the programmes with which they were working were being argued out and typed up almost at the same time as they were throwing themselves onto their computers to design them. This led to the architects influencing some of the liturgical developments, such as the spaces for Spectacular Mass. The committee wanted performances of Mass that would be as varied as the choice of bands on MySpace, but where the priests had just proposed a stage-and-audience set up, the architects developed a participatory landscape of multiple and moving performance parades. Altar-floats were developed to be the centre of the moving events, Spectacular Vaults were designed to provide a suitably vivid backdrop, and underground backstage facilities were arranged for visitors to get involved in the construction of scenography for the productions above.

CHAPTER II The committees ideas poured out, from Recorporation, a replacement for baptism where the body and soul were reclaimed from an age where people's bodies had been fragmented and turned into a list of impossible goals; to Multi-Naves where the Church sought to create true public spaces where people could escape from the all seeing eyes of the CCTV camera; to Mausochapeleums, combined mausoleums and chapel-towers that would be built and funded by wealthy and famous members of society, bringing money and celebrity glamour back into the church and onto the skyline. It was demanded that each of these be given a durable form, and using the latest in technology and the entire palette of local materials the team developed an approach that could be applied to whatever the committee dreamt up. A range of complex construction units were designed along the themes of the programmes within. The first two of these were for the Recorpistery, and the vaults above Spectacular Mass, and they pleased the committee so much, that they sent a representative to the country's biggest milling-machine company (where the units had been manufactured) and managed to haggle several machines from them gratis. For the priests on the panel these construction units were like revisiting the way that cathedrals used to be built from masonry, and having the machines on-site was like having all the stone masons chipping away at their blocks. For the architects however these machines were like the proverbial candyshop, and they were the kids, for the freedom they afforded in terms of shape led to the excesses of the Multi-Nave area, the over articulation of the Holy Auction route, and the wildly ornate Mausochapeleums screaming out over the city.



5-Axis Machines used at the Site For Milling 

Example of Two Construction Units Fabricated On-Site

Mausochapeleums And Their Respective Sponsors


The Architects’ Formal Playground 

Even while construction pushed ahead on the site, even while new material was being constantly lifted in, even as new vaults rose onto the skyline, even with all this activity visitors came not only from all over the city, but pilgrims began to add the site to their list of places to visit, and the various finished and half finished spaces were alive with praying, celebrating, chanting, muttering and declaiming devotees. Each one came either expecting to be indignant and horrified or thrilled and pleased, but they all came nonetheless because the sheer novelty of the experiment was magnetic.

Plan As The Site Began To Reach Full Capacity 

CHAPTER III Although the novelty of the project attracted visitors in the first place, once they arrived their experience of the contrasting assemblage of architectures and liturgies kept each occupant moving around the spaces, encountering various ceremonies and rituals in an endless proliferation of routes. The site had been rapidly filling-up with programme; worshippers could walk directly out from the gloomy depths and the initiatory rite of their, or someone else's recorporation, and into the glaring display of the Spectacular Vaults and a performance of Mass, look up and see a Publi-Martyr displaying his abstemiousness in a Publimartyrium, and then pass immediately through to join the crowds arriving for HolyAuction, the committees pilgrimage for an age of possession. These navigable juxtapositions in space and ceremony were the way in which the priests made the experiment accessible. In their research they had found that people were used to, and even expected the simultaneous intake of multiple inputs, people were used to the appearance of choice. And it was through the discontinuous assemblage of their Church, through the way that the visitor could always see, hear -and if they wish- experience more than one, and probably three or four ceremonies and spaces at the same time, that the committee created the Church's contemporary transformation of its old, mono-directional hierarchy. The Church was breeding an Ecclesiology of simultaneous difference through assemblage.


CHAPTER IV So within a few years the committee had developed a whole range of doctrines, the architects had evolved a method to rapidly put them into the site, and the priests were precisely choreographing their use of the spaces to embody their experiment of contemporary Ecclesiology; and when the site became full they seized the moment to determine the final nature of the Church. I say nature because it couldn't stay the way it was, its very mandate from the Pope was to be the "physical register of the institution's will to change", it was called the Church of Perpetual Experimentation after all. But they also couldn't wipe away what was before and begin again as the committee, and indeed everyone involved had had everything built from durable construction units with the intention that every stage of this great experiment would last, marking itself in posterity. The choice seemed to be between piling the new innovations on top of the old or requesting a new site from the pope. Seemed to be that is, until the priests fell upon the logic that they could extend the experiment's spatiality of simultaneous difference through assemblage, from just being between the simultaneity of events and spaces occurring at the same time, to a simultaneous difference of all events and spaces that have occurred in the past and are happening in the present. They began to take apart and then re-assemble the construction units from ceremonies that the Committee was replacing, and incorporating them into their replacement spaces. Through this the priests added the history of the experiment to the manner in which the visitors experienced it. Now anyone could not only stand in the Church and experience multiple spaces and events at the same time, but also see and be in the presence

A Recorpistery Corridor Being Dis-and-re-Assembled

An Area Of The Church Being Re-Built. Stage I

An Area Of The Church Being Re-Built. Stage II

An Area Of The Church Being Re-Built. Stage III 

of every space that had come before it.

An Area Of The Church Being Re-Built. Stage IV

An Area Of The Church Being Re-Built. Stage V

An Area Of The Church After Being Re-Built. Remains From Stage I

Working Model Archive 

Pilgrims began to come back time and again; and whilst they were trying out the new liturgies which had been dreamt up, they would all try to outdo each other in spotting the re-assembled fragments embedded in the building around them, viscerally reminding them of past visits when they had enjoyed discarding the sagging breasts that had haunted them for so long, or winning a real Vatican authorised relic at Auction. Through this re-assembling, the committee managed to create continuity in time through an experiment which demanded rapid alteration. In The Church of Perpetual Experimentation, discontinuity in space and form created a spatiality of simultaneous difference. This spatiality of simultaneous difference allowed for the church’ s formal continuity in time, and this was all achieved through the unceasing act of perpetual assembly.


It is perpetual because they are still going at it. The Pope died a long time ago, and generations upon generations of Committee innovations are embedded in the structure of the building; but the priests still keep inventing, the architects still keep designing and most importantly the people still keep coming. It has become the one site in Christendom where people go both to remember the past, and to be surprised by the present. The cranes have never stopped turning above that plot of land in EUR, and many of us who visit so often, hope and believe that they never will.







Analogy, Fiction, Colour, Imagination.


The analogical fecundity opened up by the indistinct, and by the inexplicable power of Architectural Accumulation  and Decay.

"RELICS" a Story from "NOSTALGIA" by Marcel Proust

From LA-BAS by Joris-Karl Huysmans As far as he was concerned, prose fiction had now been supplanted by history. The novel in its every aspect vexed him; the over-arching plot structure, portioned out chapter by chapter, neatly packaged up by the gross, how could it be otherwise than dull and conventional? Yet history, too, only seemed a stop-gap in light of the fact that he had little belief in its scientific foundations; events, he told himself, are only a springboard for style and ideas, since all facts could be emphasized or played down depending on the temperament and bias of the historian who assembled them.

I have bought up all of her belongings that were put on sale -that woman whose friend I would like to have been, and who did not even condescend to talk to me for a few minutes. I have the little card game that kept her amused every evening, her two marmosets, three novels that bear her coat of arms on their boards, and her bitch. Oh, you delights and dear playthings of her life, you had access -without enjoying them as I would have done, and without even desiring them- to all her freest, most inviolable, and most secret hours; you were unaware of your happiness and you cannot describe it. Cards that she would hold in her fingers every evening with her favourite friend who saw her getting bored or breaking into laughter, who were witnesses to the start of her liaison, and whom she threw down to fling her arms round the man who thereafter came every evening to enjoy a game with her; novels that she would open and close in her bed, as her fancy or her fatigue bade her, chosen by her on impulse or as her dreams dictated, books to which she confided her dreams and combined them with dreams expressed by the books that helped her better to dream for herself -did you retain nothing of her, and can you tell me nothing about her? Novels; she dreamt in turn the lives of your characters and of your authors; and playing cards, for in her own way she enjoyed in your company the tranquillity and sometimes the feverishness of intimate friendships -did you keep nothing of her thoughts, which you distracted or filled, or of her heart, which you wounded or consoled? Cards, novels, you were so often in her hands, or remained for so long on her table; queens, kings or knaves, who were the still guests at her wildest parties; heroes of novels and heroines who, at her bedside, caught in the cross-beam of her lamp and her eyes, dreamt your silent dream, a dream that was nonetheless filled with voices: you cannot have simply let it evaporate -all the perfume with which the air of her bedroom, the fabric of her dresses, and the touch of her hands or her knees imbued you. You have preserved the creases left when her joyful or nervous hand crumpled you; you perhaps still keep prisoner those tears which she shed, on reading of a grief narrated in some book, or experienced in life; the day which made her eyes shine with joy or sorrow left its warm hues on you. When I touch you, I shiver, anxiously awaiting your revelations, disquieted by your silence. Alas! Perhaps, like you, charming and fragile creatures, she was the insensible and unconscious witness of her own grace. Her most real beauty existed perhaps in my desire. She lived her life, but perhaps I was the only one to dream it.

As for the primary documents themselves, it was worse still! None was irreducible and all were liable to revision! Even if they were not apocryphal to begin with, other sources, no less valid, could always be advanced which challenged their authenticity, these new documents themselves being subject to dispute as fresh archival evidence emerged, evidence which in turn could be refuted. Did history itself, given the contemporary predilection for grubbing around in dusty archives, serve any greater purpose than to allow a bunch of amateur annalists to pursue their literary ambitions by constructing Chinese boxes packed with succulent morsels which the institutes could duly reward, salivating as they did so, with medals and diplomas? For Durtal, history was the most grandiloquent of lies, the most childish deception of all. In his opinion, old Clio (the French Muse of History) should by law be represented with a sphinx's head, flapping mutton chop whiskers and a padded bonnet. The truth of the matter was that exactitude was an impossibility.


Desire makes all things blossom, and possession makes them wither away. 

Scene in the Antique Shop from "THE WILD ASS'S SKIN" by Honore De Balzac At first site the showrooms offered him a chaotic medley of human and divine works. Crocodiles, apes and stuffed boas grinned at stainless glass windows, seemed to be about to snap at carved busts, to be running after lacquer-ware or to be clambering up chandeliers. A Sevres vase on which Madame Jaquetot had painted Napoleon was standing next to a sphinx dedicated to Sesostris. The beginnings of creation and the events of yesterday were paired off with grotesque good humour. A roasting-jack was posed on a monstrance, a Republican sabre on a medieval arquebus. Madame du Barry, painted in pastel by Latour, with a star on her head, nude and enveloped in cloud, seemed to be concupiscently contemplating an Indian chibouk and trying to divine some purpose in the spirals of smoke which were drifting towards her. Instruments of death, poniards, quaint pistols, weapons with secret springs were hobnobbing with instruments of life: porcelain soup-tureens, Dresden china plate, translucent porcelain cups from china, antique slat-cellars, comfit-dishes from feudal times. An ivory ship was sailing under full canvas on the back of an immovable tortoise. A pneumatic machine was poking out the eye of the Emperor Augustus, who remained majestic and unmoved. Several portraits of French aldermen and Dutch burgomasters, insensible now as during their lifetime, rose above this chaos of antiques and cast a cold and disapproving glance at them. All the countries on earth seemed to have brought here some remnants of their sciences and a sample of their arts. It was a sort of philosophical midden in which nothing was lacking, neither the Red Indian's calumet nor the green and gold slipper of the seraglio, nor the yatogan of the Moor, nor the brazen image of the Tartar. There was even the soldier's tobacco pouch, the ciborium of the priest and the plumes from a throne. Furthermore, these monstrous tableaux were subjected to a thousand accidents of lighting by the whimsical effects of a multitude of reflected gleams due to the confusion of tints and the abrupt contrasts of light and shade. The ear fancied it heard stifled cries, the mind imagined that it caught the thread of unfinished dramas, and the eye that it perceived half-smothered glimmers. Lastly, persistent dust had cast its thin coating over all these objects, whose multiple angles and numerous sinuosities produced the most picturesque of impressions. To begin with the, the stranger compared these three showrooms, crammed with the relics of civilizations and religions, deities, royalties, masterpieces of art, the products of debauchery, reason and unreason, to a mirror of many facets, each one representing a whole world. After registering this hazy impression, he tried to make a choice of specimens he enjoyed; but, in the process of gazing, pondering, dreaming, he was overcome by a fever which was perhaps due to the hunger which was gnawing at his vitals. His senses ended by being numbed at the sight of so many national and individual existences, their authenticity guaranteed by the human pledges which had survived them.

The longing that had caused him to visit the shop was satisfied: he left real life behind him, ascended by degrees to an ideal world, and reached the enchanted palaces of ecstasy where the universe appeared to him in transitory gleams and tongues of fire; just as, long ago, the future of mankind had filed past in flaming visions before the gaze of Saint John of Patmos. A multitude of sorrowing faces, gracious or terrifying, dimly or clearly described, remote or near at hand, rose up before him in masses, in myriads, in generations. Egypt in its mysterious rigidity emerged from the sands, represented by a mummy swathed in black bandages; then came the Pharaohs burying entire peoples in order to build a tomb for themselves; then Moses and the Hebrews and the wilderness: the whole of the ancient world, in all its solemnity, drifted before his eyes. But here, cool and graceful, a marble statue posed on a wreathed column, radiantly white, spoke to him of the voluptuous myths of Greece and Ionia. Oh, who would not have smiled, as he did, to see upon a red background, in the fine clay of an Etruscan vase, the brown girl dancing before the god Priapus and joyously saluting him? Facing her was a Latin queen lovingly fondling her chimaera! The capricious pleasures of imperial Rome were there in every aspect: the bath, the couch, the dressing-table ritual of some indolent, pensive Julia awaiting her Tibullus. Armed with the power of Arabian talismans, the head of Cicero evoked memories of republican Rome and unwound for him the scroll of Livy's histories. The young man gazed on the Senatus pupulusque romanus: the consul, the lectors, the purpleedged togas, the fights in the Forum, the plebs aroused to wrath. All this filed past him like the insubstantial figures of a dream. Then Christian Rome became the dominant theme in these presentations. One painting showed the heavens opened and in it he saw the Virgin Mary bathed in a cloud of gold in the midst of angels, eclipsing the sun in glory, lending an ear to the lamentations of the sufferer on whom this regenerate Eve smiled gently. As he fingered a mosaic made of different lavas from Vesuvius and Etna, in imagination he emerged into sun-drenched Italy: he was an onlooker at the Borgias' feasts, he rode through the Abruzzi, sighed after Italian mistresses, worshipping their pale cheeks and dark, elongated eyes. Espying a medieval dagger with a hilt as cunningly wrought as a piece of lace, with rust patches on it like bloodstains, he thought with a shudder of mighty trysts interrupted by the cold blade of a husband's sword. India and its religions lived again in an idol dressed in gold and silk with conical cap and lozenge-shaped earflaps folded upwards and adorned with bells. Near this grotesque figure a rush mat, as pretty as the Indian dancer who had once rolled herself in it, still exhaled the perfume of sandalwood. The mind was startled into perceptiveness by a monster from China with a twisted gaze, contorted mouth and writhing limbs: the creation of an inventive people weary of unvarying beauty and drawing ineffable pleasure from the luxuriant diversity of ugliness. A salt-cellar from Benvenuto Cellini's workshop brought him back to the bosom of the Renaissance at a period when art and licence flourished together, when sovereign princes found diversion in torture and prelates at Church Councils rested from their labours in the arms of courtesans after decreeing chastity for mere priests. He saw the conquests of Alexander carved on a cameo, the massacres of Pizarro etched on a match-lock arquebus, the wars of religion -frenzied, seething, pitiless- engraved on the base of a helmet. Then the charming pageantry of chivalry sprang up from a Milanese suit of armour, brightly furnished, superbly damascened, beneath whose visor the eyes of a paladin still gleamed. For him this ocean of furnishings, inventions, fashions, works of art and relics made up an endless poem. Forms, colours, concepts of thought came to life again; but nothing complete presented itself to his mind. The poet in him had to finish these sketches by the great painter who had composed the vast palette on to which the innumerable accidents of human life had been thrown in such disdainful profusion. 

From SALAMMBO by Gustave Flaubert

Foam model of the Spectacular Stairacses from the Church of Perpetual Experimentation

Behind extended the city, its tall, cubed shaped houses rising in tiers like an amphitheatre. They were made of stone, planks, pebbles, rushes, seashells, trodden earth. The temple groves stood out like lakes of greenery in this mountain of multi-coloured blocks. Public squares levelled it out at regular intervals; countless intersecting alleys cut it up from top to bottom. The walls of the three old quarters, now mixed together, were still distinguishable; they rose here and there like great reefs, or extended huge sections -half covered with flowers, blackened, widely streaked where rubbish had been thrown down, and streets passed through their gaping apertures like rivers under bridges. The Acropolis hill, in the centre of Byrsa, was covered over with a litter of monuments. There were temples with twisted pillars, bronze capitals, and metal chains, cones of dry stone with azure stripes, copper cupolas, marble architraves, Babylonian buttresses, obelisks balancing on their points like upturned torches. Peristyles reached to pediments; scrolls unfolded between colonnades; granite walls supported tile partitions; in all this one thing was piled on another, half-hiding it, in a marvellous and unintelligible way. There was a feeling of successive ages and, as it were, memories of forgotten lands.Behind extended the city, its tall, cubed shaped houses rising in tiers like an amphitheatre. They were made of stone, planks, pebbles, rushes, seashells, trodden earth. The temple groves stood out like lakes of greenery in this mountain of multi-coloured blocks. Public squares levelled it out at regular intervals; countless intersecting alleys cut it up from top to bottom. The walls of the three old quarters, now mixed together, were still distinguishable; they rose here and there like great reefs, or extended huge sections -half covered with flowers, blackened, widely streaked where rubbish had been thrown down, and streets passed through their gaping apertures like rivers under bridges. 

From Giacomo Leopardi's ZIBALDONE



When something is experienced in reality, the spirit is saddened and deadened. Yet when it is experienced in imitation or in some other mode in the works of genius (as for example in the lyric, which is not properly imitation), the heart is touched an revived.

The sensation of the intellect is imagination. Therefore the object of the intellect is imagining (not truth, as I will show). Man desires an infinite pleasure in everything but cannot experience such an infinity except in the imagination, because all material is limited.

So it is with the author who feels and describes the vanity of illusions so well, and yet retains a great store of illusions and gives them noble expression by demonstrating their vanity so clearly. In the same way the reader, however disillusioned about himself and literature, is drawn by the author into that same deception and illusion that was hidden in the deepest recesses of his mind. And the very knowledge of the irreparable vanity and falsity of everything beautiful and great becomes a thing of beauty and greatness itself that fills the mind when it is found in the works of genius.

Therefore man feels pleasure in the greatest possible extension of his imagination, or in the act of the intellect. This is independent from truth. Man does not desire to know but to endlessly feel. He is unable to feel endlessly except with his mental faculties in some way, but principally with his imagination, not with his science or knowledge which circumscribe the objects, thereby excluding the infinite. Extract3 ...Children find everything in nothing. Men nothing in everything Extract4 The longest lasting and most pleasing thing is the varity of things, if only for the reason that nothing is long lasting and truly pleasing.


From Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel's LECTURE'S ON AESTHETICS

Extract1 The beauty of art presents itself to sense, to feeling, to perception, to imagination; its sphere is not that of thought, and the apprehension of its activity and its productions demand another organ than that of scientific intelligence. Moreover, what we enjoy in the beauty of art is precisely the freedom of its productive and plastic enegrgies. In the origination, as in the contemplation, of its creations we appear to escape wholly from the fetters and rules of regularity. Extract2 We would exchange the shadowland of the idea for cheerful vigorous reality. And lastly, the source of artistic creations is the free activity of fancy, which in her imagination is more free than nature's self. Not only has art at command the whole wealth of natural forms in the brilliant variety of their appearance, but also the creative imagination has power to expatiate inexhaustibly beyond their limit in products of its own. Extract3 And on the other hand seeing that art is what cheers and animates the dull and withered dryness of the idea, reconciles with reality its abstraction and its dissociation therefrom, and supplies out of the real world what is lacking to the notion, it follows, we may think, that a purely intellectual treatment of art destroys this very means of supplementation, annihilates it, and reduces the idea once more to its simplicity devoid of reality, and to its shadowy abstractness.

Mausochapeleum and Inverted Vault Under Construction in theChurch of Perpetual Experimentation


From the Preface to Theophile Gautier's "MADEMOISELLE DE MAUPIN"

there is only one utilitarian in the world capable of tearing out a bed of tulips to plant cabbages. What use is the beauty of women? Provided a woman is medically fit and capable of bearing children, she will always be good enough for the economists. What is the good of music? What is the good of painting? Who would be mad enough to prefer Mozart to M.Carrel, and Michelangelo to the inventor of white mustard? The only things that are really beautiful are those which have no use; everything that is useful is ugly, for it is the expression of some need, and the needs of men are ignoble and disgusting, like his poor and infirm nature. The most useful place in the house is the lavatory. Whether these gentlemen like it or not, I belong to those for whom the superfluous is necessary. And I prefer things and people in inverse proportion to the services they render me. Instead of a certain useful pot, I prefer a Chinese one decorated with dragons and mandarins, which is no use to me whatsoever. I should be quite happy to renounce my rights as a Frenchman and a Citizen to see and authentic picture by Raphael, or a beautiful naked woman.

Extract1 I should like to know first of all the precise meaning of the great gangling fellow of a noun they pepper their vacuous columns with every day, and which they use as a shibboleth or a sacred word. Utility. What does it mean and what is its application? There are two sorts of utility and the meaning of this word is only ever relative. What is useful to one person is no use to another. You are a cobbler, I am a poet. It is useful for me that my first line rhymes with my second. A rhyming dictionary is very useful to me; but you don't need one to mend a pair of old boots; and it is fair to say that a shoe-maker's knife would be no good to me for writing odes. Then you will object that a cobbler is far superior to a poet, and that you can more easily do without the one than the other. Without wishing to disparage the noble profession of cobbler, which I esteem equal to that of constitutional monarch, I humbly submit that I should prefer to leave my shoes unstitched than my verses badly rhymed, and that I should rather do without boots than poems. As I almost never go out and since I make better progress with my head than my feet, I get through fewer pairs of shoes than a virtuous republican who does nothing but run from one ministry to the next, in the hope of landing a job somewhere. I know some prefer windmills to churches, and the bread of the body to that of the soul. I have nothing to say to them. They deserve to be economists in this world, and in the next. Does anything exist on this earth of ours, in this life of ours, which is absolutely useful? In the first place there is very little use in our being on earth and alive.

Extract 3 Pleasure seems to me to be the aim of life and the only useful thing in the world. God has designed it thus. He who created women, perfumes, light, beautiful flowers, good wine, thoroughbred horses, greyhounds and angora cats; Who did not say to his angels "Be virtuous", but: "Be loving"; and who has given us a mouth more sensitive than the rest of our skin for kissing women; eyes which can look up to see the light; a subtle sense of smell to breathe in the souls of flowers; strong thighs to grip the flanks of stallions and fly as fast as thought without railway or steam engine; delicate hands to stroke the long heads of greyhounds, the velvety backs of cats, and the satin shoulders of creatures with very little virtue; God who, in short, who has given to us alone the threefold glorious privilege of drinking without being thirsty, of striking a light, and of making love all year round, which distinguishes us from the animals much more than does the custom of reading journals and making charters.

Extract2 Nothing that is beautiful is indispensable to life. If you did away with flowers, the world would not suffer in any material way. And yet who would wish there not to be flowers? I could do without potatoes more easily than roses and I think 


Extract4 The whole visible universe is but a storehouse of images and signs to which the imagination will give a relative place and value; it is a sort of pasture which the imagination must digest and transform. All the faculties of the human soul must be subordinated to the imagination, which puts them in requisition all at once.

Extract1 In contrast to the academic theory of an unique and absolute beauty; to show that beauty is always and inevitably of a double composition, although the impression that it produces is single -for the fact that it is difficult to discern the variable elements of beauty within the unity of the impression invalidates in no way the necessity of variety in its composition. Beauty is made up of an eternal, invariable element, whose quantity it is excessively difficult to determine, and of a relative, circumstantial element, which will be, if you like, whether severally or all at once, the age, its fashions, its morals, its emotions. Without this second element, which might be described as the amusing, enticing, appetizing icing on the divine cake, the first element would be beyond our powers of digestion or appreciation, neither adapted nor suitable to human nature. I defy anyone to point to a single scrap of beauty which does not contain these two elements.

Extract5 I spoke a moment ago of the remarks of certain bricklayers. By this word I wish to categorize that class of heavy and boorish spirits (their number is legion) who appraise objects solely by their contour, or worse still, by their three dimensions, length, breadth and height -for all the world like savages and rustics. I have often heard people of that kind laying down a hierarchy of qualities which to me was unintelligible; I have heard them declare, for example, that the faculty that enables one man to produce an exact contour, or another a contour of supernatural beauty, is superior to the faculty whose skill it is to make an enchanting assemblage of colours. According to those people, colour has no power to dream, to think or to speak. It would seem that when I contemplate the works of one of those men who are specifically called "colourists", I am giving myself up to a pleasure whose nature is far from a noble one; they would be delighted to call me "materialistic", reserving for themselves the aristocratic title of "spiritual".

Extract2 Evil happens without effort, naturally, fatally; Good is always the product of some art. All that I am saying about Nature as a bad counsellor in moral matters, and about Reason as true redeemer and reformer, can be applied to the realm of Beauty. I am thus led to regard external finery as one of the signs of the primitive nobility of the human soul.

Extract6 As far as art is concerned I admit that I am no enemy of extravagance; moderation has never seemed to me to be a sign of a robust artistic nature.

Extract3 Fashion should thus be considered as a symptom of the taste for the ideal which floats on the surface of all the crude, terrestrial and loathsome bric-a-brac that the natural life accumulates in the human brain: as a sublime deformation of Nature, or rather a permanent and repeated attempt at her reformation. And so it has been sensibly pointed out (though the reason has not been discovered) that every fashion is charming, relatively speaking, each one being a new and more or less happy effort in the direction of Beauty, some kind of approximation to an ideal for which the restless human mind feels a constant, titillating hunger.

Extract7 Laughter is satanic: it is thus profoundly human. It is the consequence in man of the idea of his own superiority. And since laughter is essentially human, it is, in fact, essentially contradictory; that is to say that it is at once a token of an infinite grandeur and an infinite misery -the latter in relation to the absolute Being of whom man has an inkling, the former in relation to the beasts. It is from the perpetual collision of these two infinities that laughter is struck. As humanity uplifts itself, it wins for evil, and for the understanding of evil, a power proportionate to that which it has won for good. 

Detail of a Study For “The Judgement of Paris” Peter Paul Rubens and Workshop 

From "THE ELOQUENCE OF COLOUR" by Jacqueline Lichtenstein Extract1 The true fine wit praised by Ariste: judicious and delicate reasoning. And this delicacy of wit is expressed in a very particular kind of knowledge that spans knowing, sensing and seeing. Neither a concept nor an affect, not a perception, and yet all of these at once, it is a certainty felt but not demonstrable, an obviousness accompanied by no proof. It is a knowledge that depends on eyesight and manifests as a feeling, that senses the vantage point for accurate perception. This delicacy of wit that infallibly places an individual at the right distance from the object of contemplation -neither too close nor too far away- has all the characteristics of visual judgment. Intuition is the capacity to discern the infinitesimal differences existing between things that are apparently confused in nature, realities indiscernible to mathematical minds seeking clear, obvious and palpable principles. Extract2 Moral puritanism and aesthetic austerity, along with resentment and old, stubborn, and underhanded desire to equate drabness with beauty, thus make their righteous alliance and take delight in a constantly reiterated certainty: only what is insipid, odorless, and colourless may be said to be true, beautiful and good. Extract3 [Painting] does not present us with an illusory appearance but with the illusion of an appearance whose very substance is cosmetic. Unlike other forms of adornment, this one does not exceed reality by adding ornaments that mask its nature: it takes its place by offering an image whose nature is entirely exhausted in its appearance, a universe that is the pure illusory effect of an artifice. In denaturalizing appearance, painting thus realizes the essence of ornament that consists in being without essence. It is like an adornment from which nature is absent, makeup whose colouring does not merely correct the faults of a face but invents its features and gives it a form, a garment that cannot be taken off without pulling off the skin, an originative metaphor. Extract4 If the charms of enunciation are the marks of the rhetorical and thus deceptive character of an individual's words,

the absence of charm becomes the indubitable sign of truth. To the sophists’ seductive persons and sparkling words, philosophers must then oppose an expression whose dreary pride and tedium present themselves as signs of the highest wisdom, and speeches whose repellent form lays claim to unfathomable depth. Defined differentially, rhetoricians and philosophers are compelled to take on the negative attributes that each assigns to the other. The characterization strips rhetoric of all legitimacy and abandons it to the reprehensible pleasure of a seduction, condemning its effectiveness while recognizing its force. As for philosophy, the definition affords it an indisputable eminence and at the same time deprives it of any power, drawing truth as the unpleasant and unseductive image of a pale and dull negation of pleasure. Placed by Plato within a single frame in a scene where they respond to each other as complementary figures, rhetoric and philosophy take up their positions at the poles of ever-deceptive pleasure and necessarily bleak knowledge. Extract5 The choice and frequent use of such metaphors and comparisons, which define beauty essentially from the viewpoint of health, show the extent to which most aesthetic judgments are determined by moral evaluations, that is, based on criteria borrowed from nature, not art. The most striking evidence of this overlap of moral and aesthetic values comes from the way in which the various figures of femininity -chaste or indecent, virtuous or corrupt- constantly offer up metaphors for the faults and qualities of eloquence.

Extract6 Forced to balance precariously between pleasure and reason, rhetoric has always found itself trapped between an ornamentation whose brilliance is suspected of lending discourse a purely sophistic seductiveness and an austere philosophy whose somber gleam threatens to deprive rhetoric of the means necessary to assure its effectiveness. The courtesan and the prostitute always appear as emblematic figures of the culpable temptation of a pure pleasure to which art, when unable to save itself from the dangers of its own power, succumbs.

Extract7 The traditional place of the image necessarily affects our perception of its power. Its legitimacy is still in doubt though its importance is not. To rid ourselves of such a contradiction we would need to abandon traditional hierarchies and reach a complete reevaluation that allowed a relation between the visible and discourse in terms of complementarity and not subordination. All these relations weave into the weft of their history image and language as complementary figures that an archaic gesture has torn apart. More than rival sisters, they resemble separated lovers haunted by a desire for the unity of an origin perhaps forever lost, each seeking in the figure of the other the missing part of the self. As if this other's absence were the heart of all representation. 



The Committee For The Architecture Of Ecclesiastical Engagement

Its Findings In IX CHAPTERS















































































































Technical Documentation


For Diocese Wishing To Follow the Path

Of the CPE







































Plates of the Church of Perpetual Experimentation






Spectacular Staircases (the hills of which are sanctuaries, and the valleys of which are spectacular mass parade routes)



View of interior after 25 years of innovation and recombination



Process of formal and spatial involution



Sections through three areas on the site



Site History and timeline over the period of the Church's development



Automonument produced by the Committee to comemorate the filling of the site



A Recorporation Room just after the conclusion of a ceremony



fabrication of voussoirs



Technical and structural Breakdown



Staircase summit sanctuary, Altar-Float coming back to rest, and vaults under re-combination






We would like to thank the following people, without whom the church may have never extended further than the borders of the piece of A4 paper on which the pope's inaugural was printed.

Natasha Sandmeier, for kicking sense and reality into the heads of the Cardinals whenever they were lost in the nightmares of their own delusions, and making them see that their ideas were instead dreams, and exciting ones at that. Monia De Marchi, for always steadying the shaking hands of so many of our architects when they couldn't face up to the mad schedules imposed on them by the pace of the project; without her constant clarifications I fear we would have lost the whole team. Marie Isabel De Monseignat, for being an inspiration, role model, and constant support, both by cheering up those chastity-sworn male members of our team with her rather gracious profile, and by showing all of us how to compete with only love for each other in our hearts. Marco Ginex, for building and maintaining all that scaffolding which we used to go on up to the high vaults everyday, and that we stopped noticing after a while, but without which our entire edifice would have come immediately crashing down.


Mike Weinstock, for putting the substance into our structure, and for reading the future (even though that is black-magic, and not condoned by us, it was indeed helpful). Paul Davies, for letting us know that we do not need to feel guilty about not being Puritans. Oliver Domeisen, for his luminous penumbra of belief that shone occasionaly in dull corridors, and sad juries. Emily and Horacio Furman, for their robust support of the endeavour, both in terms of the solid financial commitment they lavished on the team, and for all the meals, drinks, and love they kept delivering to our offices, in entirely unnecessary, overly copious, but ultimately reassuring and entirely appreciated quantities.


The Church of Perpetual Experimentation  

A sprawling new church in the southern Roman suburb of EUR, set within the fictitious context of a new pontificate that is devoted to the ma...

The Church of Perpetual Experimentation  

A sprawling new church in the southern Roman suburb of EUR, set within the fictitious context of a new pontificate that is devoted to the ma...