Places of worship

Padre Pio Church

San Giovanni Rotondo, Foggia | Italy

PROJECT DETAILS

City
San Giovanni Rotondo, Foggia
Country
Italy
Customer
Order of Capuchin Friars Minor of the Province of Foggia
Architectural design
RPBW Renzo Piano Building Workshop
Period
1996 - 2004
Amount of works
36.000.000 €
Services Provided
Structure design
Sector
Places of worship
Dimensions
Capacity: 7,000 worshippers
Total area: 9,200 m2
Construction technique
Pre-stressed ashlars made of Apricena stone

Like a fossil rising from the ground

The church dedicated to St. Pio of Pietralcina was commissioned by the Capuchin Friars Minor to arch. Renzo Piano in 1990. From the idea of the shape of Nautilus, a fossil rising from the stone ground, arch. Piano thought it could be built with local Apricena stone. A double series of arches arranged in a ragged pattern defined the liturgical space. These are many stone ashlars glued together, then prestressed with harmonic steel cables. A light wooden covering made an extraordinary structure possible and safe.

Padre Pio Church represents a major breakthrough in the construction of sacred architecture. Made with an unusual combination of different materials, it is the result of research and experimental work that make it an example of great innovation. The roof of the Liturgical Hall was made with arched construction elements formed from natural stone ashlars.

Padre Pio Nautilus Church
Padre Pio of Pietralcina Church building site in San Giovanni Rotondo - Foggia
Interior Construction Site Church of Padre Pio of Pietralcina in San Giovanni Rotondo - Foggia
haloed arches Church of Padre Pio of Pietralcina in San Giovanni Rotondo - Foggia

Building with stone

A complex work, made of an ancient material, a milestone in architectural history: the structure for the new Liturgical Hall dedicated to St. Pio of Pietralcina defies gravity, rising from the ground with slender arches made of natural stone ashlars. The church can hold about 7,000 worshippers and, despite its apparent architectural simplicity, is highly articulated. A series of arched construction elements, made up of equal modules in natural Apricena stone, characterizes the supporting structure of the upper hall, which opens onto the wide space of the outer churchyard and overlooks the lower crypt.
An original use of materials-stone, wood, steel, copper-and tireless teamwork make this space the obvious result of the union of different knowledge and skills.

Interior of the Church of Padre Pio of Pietralcina in San Giovanni Rotondo - Foggia

Defying gravity

Structural design work began in 1996, after the passing of the brilliant British structural engineer Peter Rice, Renzo Piano's friend and consultant, who bequeathed an idea, a concept, that was difficult to transform into a completed work.
Making this undertaking even more challenging was the seismicity of the site, which imposed higher safety conditions than a normal design.

Through initial computer analyses of three-dimensional models simulating structural behavior under all loading conditions, including the effect of high intensity earthquakes, it was possible to ensure that the work was truly executable.
From the initial stages, the design included a double order of stone arches arranged every ten degrees, according to radial lines converging at a fixed point. This design choice, in addition to characterizing the construction geometry of the entire complex, inevitably pushed to cross new frontiers in the use of the material deputed to the construction of the arches. In fact, the almost parabolic shape and the variable section of the arches are not the result of aesthetic choices, but are necessary expedients to better distribute the load of the roof over the arches and ensure their safety.
The arches, which support the roof, reach spans of 45 m and heights of up to 16 m.
They are made of Apricena, a very compact limestone quarried at great depths in nearby quarries in the town of the same name. The stone ashlars, in series of five or six pieces, have been assembled into maxi ashlars, mounted with interposition of mortar reinforced by stainless steel fibers and connected internally with powerful prestressing cables, capable of counteracting any energy of seismic events.

Nautilus Project Church of Padre Pio of Pietralcina in San Giovanni Rotondo - Foggia
Padre Pio of Pietralcina Church building site in San Giovanni Rotondo - Foggia
Padre Pio of Pietralcina Church building site in San Giovanni Rotondo - Foggia
Conci di pietra Cantiere Church of Padre Pio of Pietralcina in San Giovanni Rotondo - Foggia
The arch is made by bonding stone ashlars, in series of five or six, to form larger elements, called maxi ashlars, later transported and laid on a supporting metal rib.

A layer of mortar reinforced with stainless steel fibers capable of dissipating the energy produced by possible seismic events was placed between each pair of maxi ashlars.
Within this energy-dissipating mortar, where the stainless steel supports of the roof depart, stainless steel plates were inserted.
Conci di pietra Cantiere Church of Padre Pio of Pietralcina in San Giovanni Rotondo - Foggia
Laying of stone ashlars on site Church of Padre Pio of Pietralcina in San Giovanni Rotondo - Foggia
Realization of arches with stone ashlars Church of Padre Pio of Pietralcina in San Giovanni Rotondo - Foggia
Archway detail in stone ashlars Church of Padre Pio of Pietralcina in San Giovanni Rotondo - Foggia
The glulam roof is fully supported by the arches by means of stainless steel struts that receive the roof loads and transmit them onto the arches and then to the ground.

The struts, 165 stainless steel bipod elements with variable triangular and hollow cross-section, are attached, at the bottom, to the steel plates arranged between the maxi-quoins of the arches and, at the top, to the nodes of the glulam beams.
Glulam roof supported by stainless steel struts
Stainless steel struts Church of Padre Pio of Pietralcina in San Giovanni Rotondo - Foggia
Roofing detail Church of Padre Pio of Pietralcina in San Giovanni Rotondo - Foggia
The roof is a lattice of glulam main and secondary beams attached to the rafters by means of stainless steel spherical hinges, stabilized and braced by the wooden planking and steel tie rods; the waterproofing membrane was made of pre-oxidized copper sheet.
Padre Pio of Pietralcina Church roofing site in San Giovanni Rotondo - Foggia
Padre Pio of Pietralcina Church roofing site in San Giovanni Rotondo - Foggia

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