Converting unused church buildings into public and private spaces with creative new functions is trending across Western Europe. Museums, bookshops, concert halls, theaters and even skate parks can now be found in old churches.
With the decrease of secularization in Western Europe, churches being used less and less for their traditional purpose. A lot of them are left empty and some are slowly falling apart, but the future is looking bright. As churches are usually very spacious and bright, numerous designers and architects take the initiative to convert them into a variety of public services as well as private residences.
Here are five of the most interesting converted church buildings in the UK, the Netherlands and Spain.
1. Imagine Imagine
In the protected monumental art-deco (former) church in Amstelhoek, the Netherlands, a non-profit foundation hosts co-creation residencies for artist and innovators. The residencies are based on specific projects by artists or innovators who contribute to an ever-changing and unique. The space is also a community hub, aiming to involve the locals in discussions, workshops, and other open events.
2. The Quarry Theatre at St. Luke’s
A heritage-listed church in Bedford, England, has been converted into a theater by Foster Wilson Architects. The aim of the projects was to transform the historic building into a facility that could be used by schools, touring theatre groups and members of the community. The old parts of the church were refurbished and an extension was added to it in order to open the building to the original church garden.
3. Auditorium in the Church of Saint Francis’ Convent
David Closes converted an 18th century church in Santpedor, Catalonia into a modern auditorium. The building was the only remain of the Franciscan covent that spent over 150 years in ruin in the small town in Spain. The project maintained the dimensions of the church’s interior and unusual natural light sources from partial roof collapses. The new design has strengthened the old church with clearly distinguishable new elements. For example, an irregular, geometric glass stairwell can be seen from outside climbing the stone walls of the church.
4. Boekhandel Selexyz Dominicanen
Inside an old Dominican church in Maastricht, the Netherlands, you can now find a bookstore, designed by the award-winning Merkx + Girod architects. This design preserves the character of the old church while creating a commercial space. It makes use of a two-storey structure in black steel on one side of the interior, where the books are found. On the other side, the building has been restored and left bare, preserving the landmark’s unique look. The lightning plan of the interior is beautiful, as all the stained-glass windows have been kept, making the bookstore a truly magical place.
5. Kaos Skate Temple
The church of Santa Barbara in Llanera in (Spain) was abandoned for years and crumbling down. With the help of online fundraising and Red Bull, the building was turned into a public skate park. Artist Okuda San Miguel was commissioned to cover the walls and vaulted ceilings of the church with his geometric colorful paintings. Now, the mesmerizing rainbow interior illuminated by tall windows, remainders of the original church, attract skaters and art lovers from all over the world.
These designs show how new life can be brought into old, crumbling buildings in order to provide new unique experiences. In our ever densifying cities, large churches can offer architects uniquely large spaces to develop creative spaces.