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How Kit Steel Principles Constructed A Grand Cathedral

There are a lot of reasons why businesses opt for affordable prefabricated kit steel buildings, but a big consideration is that it provides a robust, effective, temporary space for businesses to work in when they need extra capacity that can either be kept or easily taken down as necessary.

This is not always the reason, of course, and many companies keep their temporary structures due to their quality and the scope for adaptation, but the assumption is often that a kit steel building is a prefabricated, modular, relatively uniform working space.

However, this is not always the case, and sometimes prefabricated steel buildings can be grand, beautiful, longstanding monuments in their own right, and for one of the greatest examples of this in the world, one needs to take a trip to Manila in the Philippines.

The Steel Basilica

The Roman Catholic church of San Sebastian was first consecrated as a Minor Basilica in 1891, but to understand its beautiful pale spires of steel, it is important to understand the reasons why a steel building was seen as essential in the first place.

The first San Sebastian Church was founded in 1621, after a patron of the saint of the same name, Bernardino Castillo, donated the land, upon which a wooden church was built.

This lasted exactly three decades before an uprising burned the church to the ground, leading to a new building made of brick being constructed on the ashes of the old church.

On no less than three separate occasions, the brick churches were shaken to the ground by earthquakes or once again were the victims of fires, a consequence of their existence on Manilla Bay.

Sick to death of the constant destruction of his parish church, Esteban Martínez, the parish priest, commissioned Genaro Palacios, a Spanish architect, to build a building that would at least survive the earthquakes.

Mr Palacios’ plan, allegedly working with Gustave Eiffel, designer of the world’s first all-metal building in the form of his eponymous Parisian Tower, was to create a grand, steel basilica worthy of the area but also capable of withstanding the earthquakes and firestorms that took out everything that stood there before.

The steel sections were prefabricated in Belgium, with 52 tonnes of steel shipped across to the Philippines in an operation that would only be matched by the transportation of the Statue of Liberty.

The first metal column was erected in September 1890, and it would take just a year for it to be completed and consecrated, highlighting just how quickly prefabrication can be used to put a beautiful building together.

Styled in a Neo-Gothic Earthquake Baroque style, the frame of the church was in some parts designed to work like the hull of a boat and thus would take some of the forces during an earthquake.

Whilst the prefabricated altar planned to be fitted in the church ultimately ended up at the bottom of the ocean, the San Sebastian Church has survived to this day, periodically restored and galvanised to protect the steel from Manila Bay’s sea breezes.


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