Re-use and restoration of churches in general
In the last half of the 20th century church visits dwindle, and more and more churches fall into decline as church boards cannot afford the costs for maintenance and renovations. Some churches are torn down in the 60’s and 70’s, but resistance rises, not only from the communities themselves, but particularly from active neighborhood groups, for whom an important meeting place in their neighborhood is disappearing.
In the 80’s and 90’s the restoration and reuse of churches is one of the main activities for our architect office. In this Joop van Stigt is the architect of restoration plans for the Westerkerk and the Oude Kerk, and are Joop and Andre both involved in the reuse of the Olofs Chapel on the Zeedijk. Also in that period Andre is making plans to reuse the Vondelkerk, the Posthoornkerk and the Gerardus Majellakerk.
Respect for the spacial design and construction of churches and the architectural and cultural historical quality of the building is key. Together with the client a fitting function is searched for, continuing the public character of the church, and the role it plays in the urban community as place for meetings and reflection.
To do this, the architect has to ‘read’ the building carefully, analyze the qualities of the original design, and consider the possibilities in construction and in use. The existing structure is respected where possible, while a public function is searched for the large open space, that is common to all churches.
Restoration of the Old Church
In the period between 1996-1998 the church is restored, almost 20 years after the last restoration, with little or no maintenance since.
Joop van Stigt was well known for his work on the Westerkerk, and the board of the Old Church invited him to lead the work. He suggested floor heating, as it would protect the organ from the influences of changing weather, and the church visitors would also be more comfortable. This would also make better exploitation of the church possible. Especially this last argument appealed to the director of that time, Jeroen Beker. Larger parties and events such as the yearly World Press Photo exhibition take place in the church.
Jeroen Beker was impressed by Joop van Stigt’s level of technical knowledge and his ability to come up with unconventional solutions for the problems you come across with restorations. Also his innovative way of working, the cost management and level of
involvement was praised by Beker.
The Old Church, that has parts that date from 1306, will always need attention and maintenance. The hope is that the Board of the Foundation the Old Church takes this task seriously, for now and for the future.