An interview with Renzo D’Anselmi, Designer at Laudate Sacred Art
Interviewer: Why do you spend time measuring before you begin your sketches?
In order to redesign or renovate a church, we need to understand the hand and the mind that made the building. What is the geometry of this church? What are the mathematics of it? It is like learning the secret of the building, but a secret in plain sight. We have to measure in order to find it out.
Interviewer: But aren’t you looking to make changes and do something creative with the space?
It is vitally important to respect the reality of the existing structure and to seek as much as possible to preserve what is already good in it. The only way to do this is to measure what is already there, both the original design and the changes that have accrued over time, some good and some not-so-good. When I measure, I discover what already is, and understand it well, before making more changes.
Interviewer: What practical advantage does a knowledge of the geometry or mathematics of a church give the designer?
It allows me to understand the proportions of the building, both the individual parts to the whole, and the relationships between the parts. As a result, I will not impose disproportionate forms, which would lead to a hodgepodge or “pastiche.” I discover what needs to be added or subtracted. Measuring on site also allows me to time to ponder important liturgical aspects of the design, since it is where the sacred liturgy actually takes place.
Interviewer: When everyone is excited about new ideas, renditions, drawings, and improvements to an existing church, could you briefly summarize why is it so important to spend time measuring?
Measuring allows the liturgical designer to make an integrated, thoughtful, and beautiful design for the renovation or restoration.
Interviewer: In some ways you sound like the mysterious figure in Ezekiel, “with a linen cord and a measuring reed in his hand” (Ezekiel 40). Are there any other historical precedents for measuring?
There is the Renaissance architect Bramante, who measured all the ancient buildings of Rome, Naples and Tivoli, before starting his own masterpieces. And of course, there is the favorite proverb of tailors and carpenters: “Measure twice, cut once!”
June 2019 Posted by Karen D’Anselmi