Dornbuch Church by Meixner Schlüter Wendt Architekten, Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Architecture & Interiors
The Dornbusch church is located in a residential area in the north of Frankfurt. As this 60 year-old church building was fast deteriorating along with the attendance of its church services, city and church officials were talking about its complete demolition and construction of a small „prayer room“ as a replacement. After some planning studies, it was decided that the best choice would be a partial demolition. And the Frankfurt architectural practice of Meixner Schlüter Wendt Architekten were the ones to get the go-ahead for the project.
From an urban planning point of view, a spatially and functionally intact ensemble remained – consisting of a community centre, a „residual church“ as the architects called it and a tower. Also a new churchyard with a great potential for public use, was created. What remained of the old church? The spacious area around the altar and the choir helped form the new one. The open side of the existing building, caused by the demolition work, was closed with a new façade. This new wall is marked with the outlines and moulds of the “old” church, so that the structures which were removed – such as the old entrance, altar and gallery – now form a sculpted structure out of the flat wall surface.
Further factors contributing to the final form are light, modern construction features, and the access to the remaining building. The perception of surface and space is very intense in the inside of the church. The impression of a form as a reference to something which is apparently absent is sensed everywhere and is coherent with the transcendental nature of religion. The identity of the location is transformed. The history of the site remains alive in the memory of the congregation – for everybody else, an impression and thus a picture of a church is communicated which is in a transient state between substantiality and abstraction. An enigmatic lack of dimensions results. The outlines of the demolished church are painted on the churchyard, like a ground plan to stimulate the imagination of pedestrians. It also reminded me of the way foundations of old historic churches are marked in many Northenr European countries.
Further comparisons with everyday situations such as playing fields and motor vehicle practice sites are consciously contrasted with the sacred atmosphere of the church. The new façade is a mixed construction (reinforced concrete and masonry): the plasterwork surface corresponds with the plasticity of the concept. Inside, there is a central activity area which is united as a dark, warm-coloured band in order to integrate the original stained glass windows – of which the congregation is particularly fond.
The new entrance façade contrasts the the north wall with its light colours. Furniture such as the altar, the pulpit, storage boxes, and seating are integrated into this colour concept. In contrast to their heavy appearance, all elements are moveable, and, in connection with the different walls (serene, colourful, sculptured), completely different church service atmospheres can be presented to the congregation, much like a stage setting for a theatre play. The whole project was so impressive that it was awarded the First Prize in the World Architecture Festival in the category of Religion and Contemplation.