A New Baptism: Reclaiming public space through Light, and Bathing Ritual for an abandoned church in Montréal
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Québec’s historical attachment to Roman Catholicism is visible: there is still a great amount of church buildings throughout the province. However, changing attitudes in Québec (as in other regions around the world) are leading to a chronic desertion of spaces of worship. Conceived as the heart of a community, churches constitute imposing presences in the built and social fabrics of the neighbourhoods they serve. In today’s context, this status is shifting, and communities are now striving to somehow re-engage with the churches they have abandoned. However, the sacred nature of these buildings often frames a specific way of looking at them, which can limit a potentially innovative reuse. Given this situation, how can a church be granted anew its status as a public space in a plural environment, thus preserving some of the exceptional qualities of its architecture? Looking at the case of the abandoned Roman Catholic church Très Saint-Nom-de-Jésus in Montréal, this thesis challenges the current approaches to church preservation by converting the building into a bathing space. Characteristic elements of church typology, such as the quality of light and the ritual, are preserved and revised in a contemporary manner, opening the building to a more diverse society. This strategy of valuing intangible elements of church architecture leads to a proposal that demonstrates the responsiveness of this typology and offers ways in which it can regain its role as a space for the public in an increasingly multicultural community, thus challenging the traditional look, both conservationist and the larger public, at a church.