In order to accommodate a growing community of monks, this existing Cistercian monastery in southern Uganda requires a doubling in size. Our design proposes a total of four new buildings – Church, Noviciate, Guesthouse and Gatehouse. All are intricately detailed clay brick buildings arranged around three courtyards.
The church is proposed as a 12m tall barrel vault structure, made of reinforced brickwork with inserted 'light arches' made of glass bottles. A light-weight tropical roof hovers above the church, shading and protecting the building, collecting rainwater and providing space for photovoltaic panels. The church design is based on the long Cistercian building tradition; as a long, narrow and tall vaulted volume, it is embedded in strict reference to the monastic church. As traditional as the space is, its structure has been subtly inverted; instead of solid masonry columns with windows in-between, ‘columns of light’ seem to carry this church, connected by arches made of strips of brickwork interspersed with glass bottles.
The other three buildings are modest courtyard blocks. Towards the outside, an inclined plinth made of stacked clay tile strips elevates the buildings above the swampy surrounds. Above, there is a play between solid and perforated brick walls, blurring the lines between walls and openings. Towards the courtyard, the walkway roofs are supported by load-bearing perforated brick screens of varying width.