Here at TCH, we’ve been noticing architects around the world transforming church buildings into various types of structures including houses, retail stores, hotels, libraries, and well, cooler churches.
After successfully converting a water tower into a living space, Marnix Van Der Meer and Rolf Bruggink’s Utrecht-based architecture studio, Zecc has done it again – this time perhaps a little more controversial. Here they transformed an old chapel into a spacious house – carefully respecting and enhancing the character of the original building.
The design team chose to keep many of the original features – including the high gothic stained glass windows and the original choir organ. To allow more light to enter the space, they cut a Mondrian-inspired glass window into the front of the house facing the street – perhaps paying homage to Rietveld’s nearby infamous Schroder House. The entire living area has been whitewashed, whilst the private spaces above were painted dark.
And only 150km away in Maastricht an 800 year old Dominican church was transformed into the newest addition to the Selexyz book store chain – the Selexyz Dominicanen – housing an impressive collection of books not only in Dutch, but in English as well.
The challenge for the Amsterdam based architects Merkx + Girod was staying true to the original character and charm of the church, whilst also achieving a desirable amount of commercial space. A multi-storey steel structure that houses the majority of the books was constructed and placed along the central nave of the church under the vaulted ceiling.
Located in Finland in the Ostrobothnia region, near the campus of Helsinki University on the eastern side of the city, JKMM Architects won a national competition to design the Vikkii Urban Centre. The focal point of the Centre is a church clad in aspen shingles that have turned gray since construction was completed in 2005. Throughout Europe new church design is not synonymous with modernity, so when the Parish of Helsinki approached the architects at JKMM, they welcomed the opportunity to contribute to a newly developed urban area housing approximately 13,000 residents.
Many Scandinavian churches serve as civic spaces for the surrounding community to gather. Of course sacral characteristics are still present, and the Viikki Church’s central space and adjoining congregation hall have a light-filled cathedral-like appearance.
The architects chose timber for practically every surface of the interior space as well: oaken doors, spruce ceiling and walls, and aspen furniture allow the congregation to feel as though they are gathering within a forest. Large windows open the space even further onto the surrounding landscape of the countryside. The church does not sit in isolation, however a new market was built to the north and an urban park sits to the south.
Divisive as it may be to alter houses built for God, these architects do not need to preach to the choir about their immaculate conceptions in renovations, we’re sold. By Andrew J Wiener and Brendan McKnight.