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Kindergarten Südhafen - Former St. Sebastian Church

Bolles+Wilson

Kindergarten Südhafen - Former St. Sebastian Church
By Caterina Testa -

The economic slowdown has negatively affected urban development everywhere, making investment much harder to come by. At the same time, heightened environmental awareness has forced us to accept that the urban growth model can no longer be based exclusively on occupying new land. The regeneration and re-use of the existing building stock has become a viable means not only of achieving urban densification without consuming new resources but also an alternative to costly demolition of large swathes of our urban heritage.
Built in 1962, the unlisted church of St. Sebastian in Münster, Germany, was earmarked for demolition after deconsecration in 2008 to make way for a neighbourhood kindergarten and new residential units. But the idea behind the winning entry by Bolles+Wilson in the competition calling for projects for the site was rather to preserve the structure of the church and convert it to comply with the new specifications. As well as a rational and economically sound option avoiding costly demolition and re-construction, it is also a laudable approach from an instinctive and emotional point of view since it gives a new lease of life to a much-loved community landmark.
Bolles+Wilson’s project writes a new chapter in the history of the church and its community, re-designing spaces and completely re-configuring the wide nave for its new use.
The elliptical void of the nave has been filled with a two-level structure to accommodate the new functions. The kindergarten now occupies the whole of the ground floor of the nave and some of the newly created first floor. The roofs of these have been turned into all-weather play decks - an unusual hybrid space protected from the elements by the church roof yet climatically an outside place ventilated by air passing through the small openings in the façade. Although now filled to meet its new function, the existing structure imposed its own conditions, which often came to light during...

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