Table of Contents
Significance of heritage
First of all, a definition of the overall term ‘her
itage’ will be formed in order to zoom in on re
ligious heritage. As Wessel de Jong stated in the
first lecture of Methodologies of Architectural Re
use, heritage has the following meaning. Herit
age consists of all the qualities, traditions and
features that have been maintained over several
years and is preserved from one generation to
another. Heritage refers especially to objects that
are of historical importance or that have had a
strong influence on society (de Jonge, 2017).
The way I perceive heritage can be formulated in
a broader way. Heritage is all the elements that
surround us. For example tangible heritage: the
landscape, the built environment, but as well the
intangible things. It contains all the matter that
our ancestors left for us.
Heritage is not just old objects left behind, but
everything that was present before. The historical
importance leaves us a certain value. We have to
deal with this value in everything we do.
Vacancy is a structural problem in our coun
try, and therewithal all over the world. That’s
why adaptive reuse of buildings which have lost
their function is a priority for most governments
(Meurs, 2016). Churches, monasteries, office
buildings, farms, etc. are on that list of adaptive
reuse. As Wessel says in his lecture: “a monas
tery every month, a church every week, a farmers
estate every day and office blocks at even higher
rates.” (de Jonge, 2017).
Buildings need to evolve over time in order to
fulfil the contemporary function, which is need
ed. This essay is going to take a position into
adaptive reuse of the first two types of heritage,
Adaptive reuse of religious heritage
Adaptive reuse is about the matters of conserva
tion and heritage policies. Throughout the time
the built environment will diminish in use and
function due to faster technical, economical or
political development (Joachim, 2002). The func
tion requirement of specific building envelopes
won’t fit the contemporary anymore. Especially
community buildings such as churches have lost
their former function.
Adaptive reuse can be seen as a key factor in land
conservation and to reduce the urban sprawl.
In controversy adaptive reuse can be seen as an
vague boundary between renovation, facadism
and adaptive reuse. There has to be an accord
between historic conservation and demolition.
Precedents of adaptive reuse of religious
Examples of adaptive reuse of churches will be
discussed, thereby an opinion will be described in
each case of religious adaptive reuse. In the next
paragraph a position will be taken in adaptive re
use of religious heritage.
Dominican Church Maastricht
A great first example of adaptive church reuse is
the Dominican Church in Maastricht. The church
was built in the 13th century, since the invasion
of Napoleon in 1794 the church lost its function.
It was used as a parish, after that a warehouse,
then as an archive and the last function before
the adaptive reuse was a huge bicycle shed. This
church is finally transformed into a giant book
The bookstore consists of a three storey black steel
book framework stretched up to the stone vaults
(see fig. 2.2 – 2.4). At the back of the church vis
itors can admire the beautifully renovated ceiling
frescoes originally made in the 14th century.
The new function of this church is a great suc
cess. It works perfectly, there is a combination of
bookstore and reading cafe, where customers can
enjoy a cup of coffee and a chat (see fig. 2.5). It
attracts a lot of people all over the world. I think
such a success is a design goal, the church is in
great use again. With a great restoration and con
servation of the typical religious elements, plus
relative small interventions this church thrives
Holy Trinity German Catholic Church Bos
The next example is a more rigorous approach of
redevelopment. The Holy Trinity Church in Bos
ton, will be redeveloped to a huge apartment
block. An eight storey glass-and-steel building
surges out the 1877 church’s roof (see fig. 2.6).
The whole interior of the church will be demol
ished and transformed into apartments and corre
sponding functions. Is this still adaptive reuse?
This example tends towards facadism. The whole
inner structure will be replaced, only the facade
is going to be restored. This was necessary be
cause of the economic advantage of more square
metres of apartments.
My opinion on this case of reuse is ambiguous.
The designers (Finegold Alexander Architects)
had the choice to either demolish the church and
build new apartments, or integrate old and new
in a rigorous way (facadism) in order to partly
behold the historical entity of the church. In this
case I would prefer the facadism option, to re
develop it to economically profitable apartments
and keep the historic importance.
Fig. 2.3: Dominican Church Maastricht Bookstore (Photo: Perry van
Fig. 2.2: Dominican Church Maastricht Bookstore (Photo: Diane
Fig. 2.4: Dominican Church Maastricht Bookstore (Photo: Diane
Fig. 2.5: Dominican Church Maastricht Coffeelovers (Photo: Coffee
Fig. 2.6: Holy Trinity German Catholic Church Boston (Rendering:
Finegold Alexander Architects)
Milan Church to divine office
Architect Massimiliano Locatelli converted an
16th century church into his own architects office.
A four storey steel structure, built in the rear of
the church, accommodates offices and planning
areas (see fig. 2.7). This intervention doesn’t af
fect the original structure in any case. The steel
structure is open at every side, in order to let the
employees and visitors admire the original fres
coes at the ceiling and walls on different levels
(see fig. 2.8). The last level consists of meeting
rooms and offices which protrudes over the fornt
part, this results in an intriguing view over the
entire space (see fig. 2.9). In the vaulted crypt are
various functions accompanied such as the kitch
en, the model lab and a library.
In relation with the first example, this relative
small intervention gives a great new function to
the before unused religious heritage. The new
structure collaborates with the existing and is
Fig. 2.7: Milan 16th century church transformed to divine office
(Photo: François Halard)
Fig. 2.8: Milan 16th century church transformed to divine office
(Photo: François Halard)
Fig. 2.9: Milan 16th century church transformed to divine office
(Photo: François Halard)
Before the goal and use of analysis will be ex
plained, first a definition from Oxford Advanced
American Dictionary: Analysis – noun
1. the detailed study or examination of
something in order to understand more about it;
the result of the study
2. a careful examination of a substance in
order to find out what it consists of
In order to specify analysis to our domain, the
term architectural analysis will be defined by
utilizing the Masters thesis by Shandiz Shahram.
The first approach can be to peel of a building’s
skin in order to reveal the underlaying ideas. Sec
ond to compare and realize relationships in a de
sign. Last but not least to copy and paste compo
nents to create new links. Architectural analysis
appeared in the period of modern architecture. It
is used by designers as a methodology that pro
vides a vision or concept (Shahram, 2014).
Martin Fowler gives us the reason why analysis
is used. It helps understand the conceptual lan
guage and the underlaying ideas (Fowler, 1996).
As Marten de Jong says in his lecture, to ana
lyze is to understand what is (already) there (de
In relation with this essay it is important to un
derstand what is already there, because heritage
is all about what is present. In order to design
adaptive reuse, I think it is very important to val
ue the existing in its historical importance. With
this knowledge and values, the designer is able
to design a coherent, new function of (religious)
Thereby analysis is an important aspect for com
munication towards a third party, as Fowler told
us before: to understand the conceptual language.
Another point of communication is that analy
sis gives the designer comprehensible starting
points, that evolves into a clear concept.
Fig. 3.1: Analysis to former prison functions in order to understand
the building’s structure and circularity (Own work)
The conclusion of this essay is the position how
I look upon the adaptive reuse of different given
examples of religious heritage and the methodol
ogy a designer should use in order to design this
reuse of heritage in a proper way.