Parish Church in Lecce
by Conrad Thake
The city of Lecce, located in the southern heel of the Italian peninsula, is associated with highly ornate baroque palaces and churches, their facades overlaid with elaborate decorative carvings in the local limestone.
In stark contrast, the new parish complex dedicated to San Giovanni Battista, or St. John the Baptist, is the antithesis of all the excesses of the baroque. It stands out as a pure modern architectural statement, its assemblage of white forms and masses clearly delineated and devoid of any superfluous elements.
The architects Franco Purini and Laura Thermes created an iconic building according to a rigorous Rationalist credo that is historically indebted to the pioneers of Italian modernism, Giuseppe Terragni and Adalberto Libera. The spirit of Le Corbusier permeates the design, as do the ideas articulated in his seminal book Quand les cathédrales étaient blanches (When the Cathedrals Were White).
The parish complex was built on the outskirts of Lecce, in close proximity to the stadium quarter, an area characterized by nondescript, low-cost public housing and vast expanses of alienating open spaces. The new complex has an important urban role to fulfill in creating a new point of public reference or genius loci for the local community.
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