Meeting of the Consultative Architectural Committee, May 2001
The Consultative Architectural Committee to supervise the restoration of the church is composed of 20 architects from inside and outside Fuheis. The committee includes several members of the engineering profession, mainly civil engineers and architects. A number of architectural meetings were held earlier but this is the first to have included all of them in an expanded meeting to discuss the restoration plan.
The first meeting was held at the Latin parish in Fuheis, taking advantage of the presence of Father Joseph Makhlouf who was visiting the church to learn about the restoration project. Father Makhlouf is a Lebanese Maronite priest and an architect, having studied architecture and internal design in Lebanon. He was later ordained as a priest but pursued his architectural studies after that, specializing in church architecture in Lyons, France. Currently, Fr. Makhlouf is the parish priest in his hometown Bikfayya, Lebanon. Fr. Makhlouf supervised the building and restoration of several churches in Lebanon. His visit to us was coordinated with Fr. George Shihan, head of the Maronite community in Amman.
The first meeting was attended by the following architects and engineers: Karim Bawab, Salih al-Nabir, Ghassan Sartawi, Jamal Hattar,Atif al-Dawud, Muqaddar Akroush , Sameer Nimat, Nabil al-Nabir, Riyad Qawar, Usamah al-Tuwal, Wasim al-Zumut, Faiq Qammoh, Mayce Abu-Dayyah, and Mayce Hattar.
The committee has been formed to give expert advice on the churchs restoration, study the available plans, and make useful proposals in terms of art and architecture. The idea was to make the restoration a collective effort in which experts and architects could take part.
The participants in the meeting were briefed on blueprints prepared by consultative engineer Samir Saad, who is supervising the project on behalf of the Latin Patriarchate. These include the maps of the current building as well as the blueprints that the Italian company Nogap Progetti has prepared, which includes new proposals. Fr. Makhlouf presented his proposals and concepts on the shape of the main apse, the side apses, and the restoration plans that had already been presented.. The engineers and architects then toured the church and saw the available maps. They exchanged opinions and expertise on the restoration, in terms of engineering and architecture, and the available local materials that could be used in the ceiling, walls, and lighting. The participants made recommendation that can be summed up as follows:
1-In the field of construction:
--The participants stressed the need to implement the old proposal of removing the ceiling, which is made of asbestos, and constructing a tile-covered concrete ceiling. The idea was adopted unanimously because concrete is more durable than wood and does not require expensive maintenance. Nogap Progetti proposed a wooden ceiling covered with tiles. Such a ceiling might develop problems requiring periodic maintenance. At first sight, the walls and columns seem to be capable of supporting the concrete ceiling. However, tests must be carried out to confirm this.
--The current layer of plaster must be removed and replaced with cement plaster, using insulating materials to eliminate echoes. This decision was taken unanimously. The idea of exposing the plaster-covered stone blocks of the walls and polishing them was rejected, especially because the internal side of the walls must differ from the external side, which is made of blocks of stone. Problems might also result from exposing the stone blocks. These are related to insulation, echoes, and heating problems, as well as the cost of treating and maintaining the stones.
---Building a new sacristy. Recommendation unanimous.
2-Electric power and the heating system.
--New electric network and a new sound system will be created. The chandeliers will be removed from the churchs center above the center aisle. Only side chandeliers will remain. Later on, an electrical engineer and other specialists will be consulted on the distribution of lighting. Recommendation unanimous.
--The current heating system will be upgraded. The new system will provide for circulating the hot air in the corners of the church to reduce the current noise. Recommendation unanimous.
--Approved the Nogap Progetti proposal to expand the altar but with shorter dimensions and not exactly as depicted in the blueprints. Recommendation unanimous.
--Approved the Nogap Progetti proposals to raise the ceiling of the altar, creating a large space above and around the altar. Recommendation unanimous.
--The baptismal font will be removed and placed to the left of the entrance. Recommendation unanimous.
--Keeping the confessionals at their current position to the right of the entrance and not to the right of the center of the church as the Italian maps show. Recommendation unanimous.
--Enlarging the side windows and changing colored glass. Recommendation was not unanimous. Limited support.
--The proposal to carry out internal ceiling decoration will be postponed pending further discussion. Recommendation unanimous.
--A unanimous recommendation was made to remove the aluminum at the church entrance and replace it with wooden doors with colored glass.
--Expanding the church gallery above the entrance in order to enlarge the churchs capacity. Recommendation was not unanimous. Fr. Makhlouf proposed removing the wooden railings and the stairs. This means that the gallery will not be used and its floor could be used as a ceiling for the entrance. The idea is to highlight the arches at the entrance and the colored glass at the top of the entrance.
--Details pertaining to the main apse and the two side apses were left to Fr. Makhlouf to make the appropriate decisions. The most important proposals were: Bringing the front altar closer to the worshippers; rejecting the idea of opening additional windows above the alter, as Nogap Progetti proposes; expanding lengthwise the two windows at the altar area and decorating them with new colored glass; restoring the picture of the Virgin Mary to the main altar, as was the case when the church was built in 1932; and drawing up new designs for the two side apses and leaving it to Fr. Makhlouf because of his expertise in the church architecture.
In the name of the Fuheis congregation, we thank Fr. Makhlouf for taking the trouble to come from Lebanon for this purpose and offer his unique knowledge in the art of church-building to restore our church. We also thank the architects who participated in the meeting and made useful contributions to the proposed project.
Fuheis: May 6. 2001