GROUP A redesigns churches

by Chris Woltjes on March 20, 2013

Approximately ten thousand churches have been built in The Netherlands of which only six thousand remain. Almost half of these have been earmarked as official monuments but demolition lurks just around the corner for many more. However, lately a countermovement has arisen, church councils and municipalities are being more careful according to the RCE (national trust for cultural heritage). “Redesignation has become more apparent, since demolition is often paired with considerable emotion”, says Albert Reinstra of the RCE.

A monumental church not only possesses great architectural value but also has an important social and cultural role as an object. Redesignation of these important buildings can be the motor behind transformation of a neighbourhood. In this way the churchbuilding can again be a social node as it was always meant to be.

St Anna ter Muiden | Martinuskerk Schellinkhout | Wijcker Swaen Beverwijk | Kapel Predik het Evangelie Doetinchem | OLV Tenhemelopneming Voorburg | Nieuwe Kerk Zierikzee

 

The last couple of years GROUP A has performed feasibility studies for transforming a number of monumental churches for Bouwingebouw, BOEi and SOZK. The examined churches stem from a large range of historical periodes from around 1400 up till the nineteen twenties. Thus every task is unique according to the different architectural styles and the specific situation of each individual church. For the Sint Anna ter Muiden in Zeeuws Vlaanderen (1400) and the Martinuskerk in Schellinkhout (15e eeuw) a study has been done to make the church withstand the future through creating a heritage-hotel, a restaurant, exposition space or create apartments. With every research into redesignation several scenarios are tested to thoroughly investigate all possibilities. For the small church Wijcker Swaen in Beverwijk (1774) four scenarios have been studied where the original building has been adapted in different ways to become a restaurant, work-living space, day-care or space for the performing arts. Onze Lieve Vrouwe Tenhemelopneming in Voorburg (1925) is a Roman-Catholic kerk in traditionalistic style. For the transformation to multifunctional eventspace a box has been designed with all supporting functions. In this way the spatial character of the church has been maintained and is even to be experienced in new ways. The chapel  Predik het Evangelie in Doetinchem (1881) asks for a contemporary extension to renew the impulse of use of the chapel as a prominent spot along the new cultural axis from the centre leading towards the recently completed Amphion.

Nieuwe Kerk Zierikzee with runner Nieuwe Kerk Zierikzee with runner

 

The refurbishment of the Nieuwe Kerk in Zierikzee (1848) has reached building permit stage. The Nieuwe Kerk is located in the city centre of Zierikzee, occupying the site of the burnt down gothic church. At the end of World War II the church was severely damaged and eventually repaired but not properly restored resulting in closure in 1971. The building’s state declined, windows were broken and its interior was exposed to the elements. In 1977 the Foundation of Historic Churches in Zeeland acquired the church and restored it in the nineteen eighties. As a fine example of 19th century church architecture the Nieuwe Kerk plays an important part in the monumental city of Zierikzee. After losing its original function the church has been used as a multifunctional space and has accordingly been restored for a second time in 2011-2012.

Concept with runner Interior Nieuwe Kerk Zierikzee after redesignation

 

The current refurbishment focuses on strengthening the church’s position in Zierikzee and beyond by simple means. A ‘red carpet’ is lain through the church, connecting the square, the interior all the way to the Sint-Lievensmonstertoren. In this wa the ‘carpet’creates a new public place on the square an connects this with what’s happening inside. Its linear character is applied to this binding element, strengthening the church’s attraction. Within the church a simple box is created housing the wardrobe, toilets, bar, kitchen/pantry and storage space. A semi-concealed stairway leads the visitor up towards a balcony with excellent views towards the event space in the middle of the church as well as views through the high windows over Zierikzee. This box is placed on the ‘red carpet’ and is an integral part of it. Two slim and transparent portals are situated next to the box to prevent draft while keeping the monumental wooden doors open at all time. The organ, pulpit and the elegant canopied benches all remain as strong references to the building’s original function. These traditional elements, together with the new additions, form a powerful ensemble of functionality and identity, readying the church for years to come.

In this way GROUP A adds value to the transformation of existing churches and contributes by creating a new identity to strengthen the role of these important cultural objects in the future.

 

 

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