Church conversion into a residence in Utrecht by Zecc

published in: Architecture, Interiors By Marcia Argyriades, 13 January 2011

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photo © Frank Hanswijk

As the times are changing, sometimes it is of outmost importance to maintain cultural and religious elements which tell a story about a nation; sometimes it’s not necessary to preserve the rituals, but the buildings that these ceremonies were once held in.  It is very common nowadays, especially in the Northern countries that churches are left abandoned, this is mainly because fewer people go to services these days. 

photo © Frank Hanswijk

Therefore, churches and other historic buildings are asked to be re-used and thus give a new program.  Specifically, in The Netherlands there are hundreds of empty churches which have altered their function and are now given a new program, such is the case with St. Jakobus in Utrecht.  The purpose of the re-use of the church was to re-evaluate this distinguished monument with as little architectural interventions as possible to transform it into a spacious residence.
 

photo © Frank Hanswijk

photo © Frank Hanswijk

St. Jakobus stands unobtrusively as it blends in with the surrounding topography and architectural scene.  The church ceremonies and its general operation stopped in 1991; ever since and until 2007 the church was used as a showroom for antique furniture, as well as a meeting place for small concerts.  According to the former use interior alterations had been made in order to support the program, such was the construction of a large mezzanine floor.  The mezzanine floor was an important factor in the reconstruction process for Zecc Architects as they had to modify this construction in order to enlarge the spatial qualities in the church.  The mezzanine floor was partially removed so to emphasize the interesting sightlines and allow for abundant natural light to enter to the ground floor.

photo © Frank Hanswijk

photo © Frank Hanswijk

photo © Frank Hanswijk

Beneath the altered floor rooms have been created which host the bedrooms, a study room and a bathroom.  Indirect daylight is entered through voids in the floor and in the walls thus allowing for abundant natural light.  The vacant spaces which have been formed act as a kind of an inner patio which forms boundaries for the living areas. 

 

photo © Frank Hanswijk

photo © Frank Hanswijk

The new and modern residential volume has been constructed in such a manner that it is completely detached from the existing church structure. This new detached structure is now regarded as a new ‘temporary’ construction within this historical monument.  This volume can be demolished at any given time if the residential church is to change its function.  The circulation of the residence flows through the temporary volume and connects the open front with the rear of the church where the church alter once stood.  In the back the kitchen is arranged, whereby the kitchen block is standing on its own, the old church pews have been reused by Zecc to create the dining table.  Overall, the volume, as well as the retained fixtures and detailing have allowed for the church features to dominate within the interiors while on the other hand the fact that this church is used as a residence is stated clear.

photo © Frank Hanswijk

photo © Frank Hanswijk

photo © Frank Hanswijk

Zecc Architects modified the church as little as possible; they maintained the existing wooden floor, the stained glass windows and the old doors while they repaired whatever was necessary.  The new white floor construction is kept free from the church walls, columns and arches.  The sleek stucco volume is constructed from steel, wood and sheet material.  Closed parapets guide sightlines and embrace the places of living.  Glass surfaces in the volume constantly offer another insight of fragments in the church. Moreover, they reflect historical elements, which creates a fusion of old and new.

photo © Frank Hanswijk

photo © Frank Hanswijk

photo © Frank Hanswijk

All in all, Zecc Architects have transformed this historical building into a unique single dwelling; it is important that St. Jakobus church was not divided into smaller units which would have eventually destroyed the spaciousness as well as the layout.  Furthermore, the architectural layout of this residence has been treated in such a manner so that future conversions are possible; under any new circumstance the historical St. Jakobuskerk church can easily be converted into a public building, or even be re-used as a church.

photo © Frank Hanswijk

Project:  Church conversion into a residence in Utrecht
Location:  Bemuurde Weerd, Utrecht – The Netherlands
Client:  Private
Project Team: Zecc Architects > Marnix van der Meer, Bart Kellerhuis, René de Korte & Steven Nobel
Contractor:  Rietveld interieurbouw b.v.
Furniture:  Springers wonen
Program:  Residential church XL
Floor area: Ca. 475 m2
Period:  2007 - 2009



sources:

Zecc Architects , Woonkerkxl

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TAGS: Religious
  • friend
    hanlu | 2011-01-13 07:25:09

    beautiful beyond words! didn't believe that such different elements could go so well together.

  • friend
    Jill Klein | 2012-10-25 08:45:39

    Magnificent transformation from a House of Worship to a single dwelling, loved how the architects left so many of the original elements such as the stained glass windows, wood floors and pillars. I would count it a privilege to live in such a beautiful space.I say well done Zecc!!!

  • friend
    Sonja Frick | 2011-01-13 11:23:08

    Great space, great conversion, just a great shame that buildings like this are no longer used for the benefit of the community but only the pleasure of one individual. :-( Our great ME Culture!

  • friend
    Edwin Rozendal | 2011-01-13 12:41:17

    This church is actually for sale, if you search for "woonkerkxl" you will find the website...

  • friend
    David | 2011-01-13 14:00:21

    To be able to really know what you wish for: http://www.funda.nl/koop/utrecht/huis-47866367-bemuurde-weerd-oz-56/

  • friend
    Hans | 2011-01-13 17:42:38

    Spectacular (bold)! All the churches which I have seen switched into livings or apartments the last twenty-five years looked again and again great, original and spacious places to live in, from design perspective (I only wondering what the inside temperature is now in Dutch winter month January or how to make buildings like this energy neutral). Luckily people are interested to investing and conserving the old villages, cities looks and churches: the other solution is unfortunately selling the furniture and demolish the building (which takes place frequently nowadays)

  • friend
    Gresa | 2011-01-15 20:04:01

    This is quite overwhelming, I think I'd rather just convert the top floor or something, but this is outstanding.

  • friend
    iMax | 2011-01-16 20:46:40

    that's one of the best conversions ever. simply astonishing. elegant, sober and well looking. how can i say.. God bless this house!

  • friend
    Ιoanna | 2011-01-18 16:34:47

    what a great idea!Peace and beauty all around..perfect!

  • friend
    Sônia | 2011-01-20 16:57:15

    É divino, gostaria muito de morar nesta igreja, não, casa!

  • friend
    Erwin | 2011-01-29 13:32:00

    Atheism - Religion: 1 - 0! Ik vind dit prachtig. A complete white interior is about as far away from a cage as you can get. Gorgeous! Let's converse some more churches, mosks and tempels...

  • friend
    Gareth | 2011-02-03 22:55:34

    I must admit I am not a fan. Nothing personal but architecturally they have missed the point. Placing modern furniture in a classical space like that with no sympathetic design approach is not the best architectural approach. Please don't take this personally but a sensitive approach to the planning would have been better. It looks like a church that someone tried unsuccessfully to convert to a house. The stark white walls and paintings are interesting and I love the bathroom. If viewed as 2 separate projects I think it would be great.

  • friend
    azarnoush nazari | 2011-02-05 00:59:30

    waooow... Is it possible to visit this building?

  • friend
    Matus | 2011-04-02 16:00:04

    nice piece of architecture, not very home-like, looks more like office or gallery must be strange have sex on such a place

  • friend
    Anne Garcia | 2012-09-24 17:30:35

    Just breath taking. It is a pleasure to see these churches converted into beautiful homes. Loved the article.

  • friend
    John | Estudio de Diseño Sevilla | 2012-10-04 16:42:39

    Impresionante sin duda. Vivir ahí es una pasada!

  • friend
    Anthony | 2012-10-22 17:57:26

    Very nicely done. Contrasts with the two churches in separate towns near me that have become automobile repair shops.

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