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Saturday, November 08, 2008

Dornbusch Church, Frankfurt, Germany

Meixner Schlüter Wendt Architekten's post-war church
The Dornbusch church is situated in a residential area in the north of Frankfurt. Due to the poor condition of this 60 year old church and due to the extreme decline in attendance at church services, a complete demolition and the new construction of a small "prayer room" as a replacement were under discussion. Planning studies were able to show, however, that the best choice is only a partial demolition.

From a town planning point of view, a spatially and functionally intact ensemble remains – consisting of a community centre, "residual church" and tower: a new churchyard, with an attractive potential for public use, is created. The spacious area round the altar and the choir remains as the old / new church. Reconstruction/ New construction The open side of the building, caused by the demolition work, is closed with a new wall or façade.

The special nature of this location and the reduction process is made evident in that this new wall is marked with outlines and moulds of the “old” church, i.e. the structures which have been removed - such as the old entrance façade, altar and gallery – now form a sculpted structure out of the flat wall surface. Further factors contributing to the final form are room light exposure, completing construction features, the remaining building and the access to it. The association for this forming process are everyday moulds. The perception of surface and space is activated. The impression of a form is a reference to something which is apparently absent and which in this sense is coherent with transcendental contents. 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 (asphalt) - a ground plan to stimulate the imagination of pedestrians. Further comparisons with everyday situations such as playing-fields and motor vehicle practice sites are consciously contrasted with the sacred atmosphere. The new wall is a mixed construction (reinforced concrete, masonry) – the plasterwork surface corresponds with the plasticity of the concept. Inside, there is a central activity area (floor/ ceiling/ short façades) which is united as a dark, warm-coloured band in order to integrate the original stained glass windows – of which the congregation are particularly fond. The new wall / entrance façade and the tranquil north wall as a counterpart are contrasted in light colours. Furniture such as altar, 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.
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