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Cathédrale Saint-Paul, Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire is one of the largest Cathedrals in the world and the second largest in Africa. The cathedral is one of the few examples of structuralist churches in Africa. The building sits between the Boulevard de Gaulle and the Boulevard Angoulvant, two large roads near the city centre of Abidjan, the second city of Côte d’Ivoire.
The building is significant for a number of reasons, the sheer size of the building and its architectural design being two of the most important. The building was constructed between 1980 and 1985. The groundbreaking ceremony was attended and the first stone of construction was laid by Pope John Paul II during his visit to the country.
The architect Aldo Spirito was an Italian architect who was asked by then President Felix Houphouet Boigny in the 1950’s to design a cathedral for the city. Some of his sketches can be found here. At the time of its construction, it was the largest cathedral in Africa.
The building was designed as an artistic expression of faith and belief. One can see that Aldo Spirito was strongly influenced by the Futurist movement of the early 20th century. The sketches of architects like Antonio Sant’Elia spring to mind.
The building is triangle shaped when viewed from above, with at one end the massive cross like, an almost animal shaped tower that seems to pull up the building. The buildings can hold almost 5,000 people and have more than 3,000 m2 of space inside.
The building’s internal structure, its concrete beams, are bare and the whole building seems to be pulling itself apart with great strength. Being held together by these huge beams. The walls are covered in stained glass windows. These let in plentiful light and give contrast with the concrete brutal structure.
The roof’s structure has large beams going across its length with a rhombus, hatched structure connecting these beams together.
The building is full of smooth curves, from the entrances to the windows to the whole form of the roof. This building is full of contrast and uses these well to create and sense of the divine. The building is moving, breathing, living. The whole building could stand up and walk away at any moment. It is a grand and intricate structure, the more one looks the more complex it becomes.
The building’s structure is concrete and the facades are clad in natural stone, these give the building it’s faint brown-yellow colour. The tower in contrast to this is white and carries the roof via 7 large steel beams.
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