147_Rafaela Paes: City of Spirits

Rafaela Paes

Instagram: @rafa.paes.93

City of spirits

Entitled City of Spirits: an approach between spiritism and architecture the final graduation work of the student Rafaela Paes de Andrade Arcoverde was developed at the Catholic University of Pernambuco, located in Brazil, under the advisement of the teachers Ana Luisa Oliveira Rolim and Robson Canuto da Silva.

The proposal is motivated by two central aspects. First, the need to adapt the dependencies of the FEP (Pernambucana Spiritualist Federation, in portuguese), located in Brazil, with the growing public, and, secondly, the possibility of a speculative project based on the relationship between the architectural artifact and the divine.

In order to respond to the goal of transposing the divine atmosphere to a temple building, we sought to ground into the phenomenology which, once turned to Architecture, studies the relationship of human experience with the building space designing an atmosphere, the essence of the place. The light seems to reinforce this experience where according Pallasmaa (2011) when we defocus our vision, we can only see the light and the shadow, leaving the mind free for reflection, sharpening the other senses. Thus, analyzing the object of study, we can find a central issue; work the architecture inherent materiality with the immateriality of Spiritualism. For the application of these ideas the dematerialization of the building process was adopted, where the overlap of the floors corresponds to the intellectual and moral development achieved throughout the study and practice of the spiritualism. Following that same evolutionary process light effects were applied ranked by Plummer (2009), from a relationship between light and matter, where the areas vary until it reaches its maximum diaphanous state, located at the top of the building. Lighting effects are expressed internally from bottom to top: crystal veils (diffuse light), luminescence (light and matter merge), atomization (trespass of light through perforated layer), procession (dimly lit corridors x classrooms), channeling (light traverses hollow matter), evanescence (time passing through light projections on surfaces) and finally environmental silence (light completely traverses glazing and inner layer). Sequentially, the top portion, the highest stage of spiritual evolution is fully exposed to natural light. This stage thus finishes the dematerialization process of both man and building, symbolically represented by the destruction of man / old building, materialistic, and the construction of man / new building, spiritualized.

This work is among the 28 architecture projects awarded in 2016 by the North American magazine Faith & Form and the Interfaith Forum on Religion, Art and Architecture (IFRAA), being the only Brazilian proposal awarded.

The panel composed by David Roccosalva, Vernon Mays, Albert Lindeke, Kristen Richardson-Frick and Julio Bermudez, classified the work under this statement:

“This student design is highly provocative and imaginative, investigating new forms of spirituality using contemporary language. It has a surreal touch to its experiential qualities. The project was developed in plan and section, and the images convey the emotional potentials of this project. This award recognizes the importance of probing new territory for sacred space.”

The presentation of the winning proposals will be done together with an exhibition of the projects at the 2017 National Convention of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), in Orlando, Florida, which will take place from 27-29 April 2017.


PALLASMAA, Juhani. Os olhos da pele: a arquitetura e os sentidos / Juhani Pallasmaa; technical translater: Alexandre Salvaterra. – Porto Alegre: Bookman,2011.

PLUMMER, Henry. La arquitectura de la luz natural. London: Blume, 2009.