Dezeen Magazine

Colab-19 builds church in Bogota

Colab-19 builds open-sided church in Bogotá for worship during the pandemic

Colab-19 has built a temporary cross-shaped church from used construction components to allow a local congregation to worship safely during the coronavirus pandemic in Bogotá, Colombia.

Called Alhambra Cross, the pop-up church is made from steel formwork used for casting concrete slabs.

Alhambra Cross church by Colab-19
The temporary church is made of old construction systems

The steel structure, consisting of adjustable props supporting a roof of corrugated panels, has been painted white and hung with mosquito nets to allow airflow while creating a more spiritual atmosphere for worshipers despite the car-park setting.

"The mosquito net helps with blocking the outdoor activity, helps with social distance, keeps the ventilation going and protects individuals from horizontal rain showers," explained Colab-19.

Inside a pop up church in Colombia
White mosquito nets hang like veils in the church

From above, the temporary church is shaped like a Greek cross, a plus-sign shape with four arms of equal length, in reference to Christian iconography.

Seating is arranged around all four arms, with an altar at the centre under a transparent roof panel that acts as a skylight.

Colab-19 decided to build an outdoor church after Bogotá's mayor Claudia López imposed safety restrictions over Semana Santa, or Holy Week, which is one of the most important dates for Roman Catholics.

Pop up church in Bogota designed for the pandemic
A central skylight sits over the altar

The studio contacted the city's archdiocese who put them in touch with a church named Parroquia Santa Maria de la Alhambra.

"When we talked to them, they told us how much they have suffered since the beginning of the pandemic," said Colab-19

"They don't have an existing temple, they just bought a house in 2019 to celebrate the masses there until 2020 when the pandemic arrived. They have struggled since then and saw us as the key to recover the engagement with the neighbourhood community."

Alhambra Cross by Colab-19 in Bogota
The church gives people a space to worship together in a ventilated space

Having experimented with scaffolding for La Concordia: Amphitheatre, a multi-storey structure that is helping Bogotá businesses operate in the open air under coronavirus restrictions, Colab-19 wanted to expand its reuse of construction materials.

Instead of the obsolete systems ending up as scrap metal, the project could demonstrate how they could be reused to make temporary structures

Alhambra Cross in Bogota
Restrictions were imposed in the city across Holy Week

Colab-19 reached out to the Colombian Society of Architects for advice and were put in touch with construction materials company Equinorte, which provided the formwork.

Student collective CESCA brought together students from the city's architecture schools to help assemble the church in time for Easter celebrations.

Mosquito nets and construction materials form temporary church
The roof and netting protect worshippers from the rain

Architects German Bahamon and Alejandro Saldarriaga founded Colab-19 to mobilise a design response to coronavirus in Colombia.

More outdoor design for the pandemic includes street urinals made from hemp in Amsterdam and permanent outdoor dining setups in New York City.

Drone images by David Carretero other photography by Alberto Roa.

Project credits:

Design: Colab-19
Collaborators: Arquidiocesis de Bogotá, Colombian Society of Architects, Equinorte, CESCA