Zecc Architects, as I’ve mentioned before, are one of my very favourite architect practices. I especially love the church conversions that they have worked on. The Dutch practice prides itself on creating high-quality architecture that is both functional and aesthetic. Their mantra is “Clear and Sparkling”, which means that they aim to design clear building with a sparkling look. As far as I’m concerned their projects definitely shine!
This particular project is a conversion of the old St Jakobus Catholic church in Utrecht into a spacious residential dwelling. The church was taken out of service in 1991 and from that time until 2007 it was used primarily to showcase antique furniture or as a meeting place for musical concerts.
In the 1990’s a mezzanine floor was installed for the purpose of the musical concerts that were held in the church. This floor was an important factor in the designing process. The mezzanine was substantially modified to recover and enlarge the spatial qualities within the church. With the partial removal of the floor, interesting sight lines were created that allowed more light to penetrate through to the ground floor.
The sleek stucco volume was constructed from steel, wood & sheet material and the new white floor sculpture was kept free from the church walls, columns and arches. This means that the modern residential volume is completely detached from the old church building and can be regarded as a temporary ‘resident’ of the historical church. If at any time in the future the residence was to be reconverted back into a building for public use, such as a library, bookstore, museum or even a church, this residential volume could easily be removed restoring the spacious layout of the original building.
In the conversion, Zecc Architects aimed to retain as many of the church’s original features as possible. The original wooden floor, stained glass windows and old doors were maintained and repaired where necessary.
At the rear of the building is a contemporary free-standing white kitchen island.The whole kitchen has a very minimalist feel to it as it lacks any wall cupboards or additional storage and any appliances are kept completely out of sight.
The bedrooms, a study room and a bathroom are located beneath the manipulated mezzanine floor. 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 1990s was transformed from a functional and spatial sculpture into a monument.
The dining area has been positioned in the foyer of the church and old pews have been reused for the dining table. To strengthen the relationship with the backyard and to provide additional daylight in the dining area, three new windows have been created. The sleek glass-facades are distinguished from the other windows in the facades and are sometimes placed oblique in the facade to point out the distinction with the existing windows.
All images by photographer Frank Hanswijk