Architecture MondayApril 6, 2015
There’s something ethereal about the St Bartholomäus Church in Cologne, Germany. It’s a straightforward box, but it’s been recently converted into a mausoleum slash sacred space in a way that shows how space can be manipulated without solid walls, or a cap on it, and the great role light and transparency can play in defining space. The tall space of solid brut concrete, with a cube of bronze mesh in the middle – a square within a square – play off each other splendidly. Interestingly, as burial within a church is forbidden except for a select few in the Catholic faith, the building is mostly de-sanctified with the exception of the space within bronze mesh where funeral services are held, providing a beautiful case where form follows function, and vice versa. The darkened urn shelves and the simple concrete and brick walls make the space quiet, and while much more luminous, the bronze mesh is equally quiet in feel, lending a contemplative air. It also allows the colourful stained glass windows read true and special, especially as their light is caught by or seen through the bronze mesh.
The whole affair is simple, but not simplistic, and still yields a rich spatial quality.