The spires of Cathédrale Saint-Maurice, each over 250 feet tall, have marked the medieval center of Angers, a small city 160 miles southwest of Paris, France, for nearly half a millennium. Though previous cathedrals have stood in its place, the Cathédrale Saint-Maurice functions as a time capsule for the city by bearing the traces of each preceding stylistic era, from its Romanesque entryway to its Gothic spires that flank the Renaissance crown at its center.
The recent need to protect the cathedral’s western portal and its detailed stone sculptural works from environmental damage became an opportunity to add yet another architecture style to the hybrid structure. Kengo Kuma and Associates (KKAA), the world-renowned Japanese architecture firm, was commissioned to add an entryway structure that would be sympathetic to the cathedral’s architectural history without imitating any one of its styles.
“Our challenge was to create a harmonious dialogue between a contemporary creation whilst preserving Middle-Age architectural heritage,” reads the firm’s description of the project. “We wanted to put ourselves in the shoes of the builders of the Middle Ages and to create a regulatory framework, using compasses, thus generating the proportions which lead to unity. All this is achieved using the finest stone processes possible which then frees itself from the thick walls of the cathedral built in stereotomy.”
Working with heritage architects Vincent Brunelle and Martin Brunelle, the result is a stone structure named La Galilée (meaning ‘narthex’ in French) that is equal parts modest and dazzling; a pavilion-like entryway whose simplified archways echo the geometry of its pious surroundings within a simple rectangular volume. The historic entryway, meanwhile, is safely protected from the elements by the awning-like form. The motif of repeating or extruded arches is continued on the opposite side, creating portals that seem to face outward no matter how the new entry is approached.
According to KKAA, La Galilée de Saint-Maurice d’Angers is expected to be completed in 2024.