Designing sacred spaces that heal and protect


AS the Guild of Liturgical Designers (Gold) and the United Architects of the Philippines Committee on Liturgical Architecture and Sacred Spaces (UAP-Class) celebrate their 5th Founding Anniversary, these affiliated groups have banded together to present the 3rd Liturgical Architecture Conference entitled “Designing Sacred Spaces that Heal and Protect” with its founding chairman, yours truly, as the conference convenor and head of its organizing committee.

It is co-hosted by the United Architects of the Philippines Bohol Chapter and the UAP Commission on Professional Practice, in collaboration with persons affiliated with the following entities: Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Commission on Liturgy and Church Cultural Heritage, the Tagbilaran Diocesan Commissions, the National Museum and other partner institutions, both academic and professional, with special participation of international speakers from the University College London, La Coruña University and Universidad de Paraná, Brazil.

The dates of the Bohol Conference were set to October 17 through 19 to commemorate the Great Bohol Earthquake that happened on Oct. 15, 2013, in view of its 10th anniversary next year, valuing churches as Sacred Spaces that Heal, even being used as evacuation shelters in times of disasters. To make it more accessible to the widest range of participants, it is being offered on a hybrid set-up, both on-site/in-person and online. Live stream media will be available for a real-time monitoring of the rich lectures for both Day 1 and 2, while QR codes for the registered attendees will enable them to access the Videos-On-Demand for asynchronous participation.

Historically, Gold/UAP-Class Conferences (2018 and 2020) have gathered both local and foreign participants consisting of practitioners in the field of liturgical design, consisting of bishops, parish priests, seminarians, chaplains, artists, architecture students and liturgical architects involved in designing and building sacred spaces. The registration fees cover only less than half of the actual cost of the conference to make it more affordable to on-site participants, relying on the generosity of sponsors who value the contribution of Liturgical Designers toward uplifting the standards and quality of our sacred spaces.

Days 1 and 2 will consist of lectures and workshops. The venue will be in Modala Resort, Panglao, Bohol with a rich lineup of illustrious speakers comprised of architects, engineers, professors, bishops, parish priests and liturgists, much like the wide variety of attendees expected to participate on the very first face-to -face Liturgical Conference after the pandemic.

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Among the speakers are foreign architects such as Arch. Dina D’Ayala, a professor at University College London and Unesco chairman on Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience Engineering, who will share her expertise with a master class on the topic “Determining Seismic Vulnerability of Masonry Structures (FaMIVE)/Retrofitting Architectural Heritage”; Arch. Esteban Fernández Cobián, PhD, professor at Coruña University in Spain on his topic “A Century of Sacred Architecture in the Philippines, 1921-2021”; and Arch. Tobias Bonk Machado, professor at Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná, Brazil, will share his expertise through his topic entitled “Vernacular Design of Sacred Architecture for Indigenous Communities in Brazil.”

Rev. fr. Pablo Virgilio David, DD, president of the CBCP, will talk about the experience in the Philippines on “The Importance of Resilient Sacred Spaces and their Roles in Healing and Protecting the Church.” Rev. fr. Milan Ted Torralba, the executive secretary of the CBCP and head of the Tagbilaran Diocesan Commission on Church Heritage, is first in the lineup of speakers with his topic entitled “Rising from the Ruins of the Great Bohol Earthquake: Lessons Learned,” followed by Rev . fr. Brian Brigoli, head of the Cebu Archdiocesan Commission on the Church with his lecture on “The Theology of Ecclesiastical Design, Architecture and Iconography.” Rev. fr. Alvin Nicolasora, professor at St. John the Evangelist School of Theology and the parish priest of the Miraculous Medal Church, Archdiocese of Palo, will share in his lecture on “Rebuilding the Churches in Tacloban post-Yolanda Super Typhoon Devastation.” Arch. Mary Rajelyn Busmente, who teaches heritage conservation and history of architecture at the University of Santo Tomas, will introduce us to “The Principles of Conservation in Spanish Colonial Churches.” Last, but not the least, on the roster of distinguished conference speakers is Engr. Karlo Cirilo Quiobe, a structural design consultant for National Museum Projects, who will present the “Restoration and Structural Retrofitting of Churches Devastated by the Great Bohol Earthquake.”

On Day 3, a guided tour of four Bohol churches reconstructed after the great earthquake under the auspices of the National Museum, will be conducted by Prof. Marianito Luspo, a historian who teaches at the Holy Name University. This is open to non-conference participants, as their families may also join. The tour includes a buffet lunch at the Loboc River Cruise and the final stop is at Nuestra Señora de la Luz, Our Lady of Light in Loon Church, which was reconstructed after almost total devastation by seismic forces nine years ago.

An early dinner for the guests will be held at the school premises, sponsored by the Loon Parish, which culminates in the oath-taking and induction of officers and members of UAP-Class, with the in-person presence of UAP National President Richard Garcia , National Executive Vice President Jason Ang, the Executive Committee members and the Organizing Committee of the National Conference of Architects 2022. Together, we hope for the uplifting of standards of liturgical design and sacred spaces, particularly in the realm of conservation, preservation and retrofitting of heritage churches. Interested participants may join online via Zoom by registering at https://bit.ly/3dpBS9T.

Arch. Marie Stephanie N. Gilles, as the founding chairman of the Guild of Liturgical Designers (Gold) and of the United Architects of the Philippines Committee on Liturgical Architecture and Sacred Spaces (UAP-Class), is the convenor and head of the Organizing Committee of the 3rd Liturgical Architecture Conference 2022. She is the principal architect of SNG Design Enterprise, a corporation that specializes in the design of liturgical spaces, among others. She is also the executive director of the UAP Commission on Professional Practice, which has seven committees under its helm.


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