The residential Church XL was completed by Zecc Architects and is located in Utrecht, The Netherlands. The 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.
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.
In the Netherlands there are hundreds of empty churches. Since 1970 more than 1000 churches are closed by church communities. More than 1/3 was demolished and half of the Catholic churches were thrown down. The coming years another 1000 churches will lose their original function. Fewer people go to church and the costs for conservation are no longer affordable. Fortunately, demolition is less common nowadays, partly because churches are often on the monuments list. Re-use is the only way to prevent long-lasting vacancy or demolition. The purpose of the re-use of the St-Jakobuskerk was to revalue the dignified monument with little interventions as possible - Zecc Architects
The old Catholic St. Jakobus Church is transformed into a spacious house. The church stands inconspicuously in a street facade at the Bemuurde Weerd in Utrecht city. Since 1991 there were no longer divine services in the church and until 2007 the church was used as a showroom for antique furniture.
Also, the church was let out as meeting-place or used for small concerts. For these functions, in the ‘90 there was made large mezzanine floor. This floor was an important factor in the designing process. The mezzanine floor has been substantially modified to recover and enlarge de spatial qualities again in the church.
With the partially removal of the floor, interesting sight lines are underlined and light can penetrate more to the ground floor. Underneath the manipulated floor bedrooms, a study room and a bathroom are located. Indirect daylight enters through vacant spaces in the floor and openings in walls.
The vacant spaces are a kind of inner patios, which also divide the living space on the first floor into different places. The ugly mezzanine floor from the 90s is transformed from a functional and spatial sculpture into a monument. The modern residential volume is completely detached from the old church building and can be regarded as a temporary ‘resident’ of the historical church.
The circulation space meanders through the volume and connects the open front whith the rear of the church where the altar once stood. Sometimes, the experience of a monumental church is dominant and on other moments the new ‘look’ of the living church predominate. In the rear the living kitchen is housed, whereby the kitchen block is standing on its own. Old pews have been reused for the dining table.
The residential Church XL
Designed by: Zecc Architects
Where: Bemuurde Weerd, Utrecht – The Netherlands
Photographs: Frank Hanswijk