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The Blessed Sacrament Church in Berchem makes way for new construction

The Blessed Sacrament Church in Berchem makes way for new construction

The current parish church of the Blessed Sacrament was built in 1960, when the church and the surrounding Groenenhoek area were in full prosperity. Although it is not highly regarded in terms of architectural and artistic history, the historical cultural value of the community function performed by the church is enormous. For this reason the church council and the city of Antwerp decided to redevelop the site.

Mixed general programme

Architectural firms POLYGOON and ROOILIJN worked with Cluster Landscape to put together a mixed public program that can revitalize the private social role of the place. The project will include a day care center, a ritual space, a food distribution area, in addition to 16 social housing units.

Sense of belonging to the community

The design of the competition draws on the broader context with the aim of generating openness. On the one hand, the interaction between different functions and parts can provide great added value to the sense of community, and on the other hand, designers call for easy communication with the public space.

Wide green area

Within the social goal of this repurposed project and due to the apparent lack of green spaces in the neighborhood, the architects chose to create as much open space as possible for the building and make it accessible to the public. Implementing a large-scale green area within a densely populated suburban environment seems to be an appropriate gesture towards the neighborhood. At the back, outdoor spaces are provided exclusively for the liturgical part, daycare center and single-family house.

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Dorzona Apartments

The main entrances to the food distribution area, liturgical area and day care center are located in the square. The ground floor base housing the daycare center is openly designed to enhance liveliness and interaction between indoors and outdoors. This entire base is built in a different building bond from that of the apartments above it in order to differentiate between public/collective and private. All apartments are of the sunny type or have two-way living areas. The associated terraces are located at the quiet rear and oriented towards the south. The apartments' terraces on the square side face the green area.

Liturgical space as a vertical volume

The liturgical space is connected to the houses, but otherwise develops independently with pitched roofs and a prominent vertical volume, providing a signaling function to the square and referring to the original bell tower in terms of proportions. The part relating to the Church Council will be given a more expressive explanation expressing the peculiarity of this general programme. At the intersection with the residential building, there is a canopy that defines the entrance to the prayer room and the food distribution area. The entrance portal and vertical glass concrete windows in this entrance area were salvaged from a church building scheduled for demolition.

Recovery materials

From a historical and environmental perspective, the new vestry building will make the most of materials recovered from the demolition of the old church building. In this way the continuity of history is preserved. Recycled materials are complemented by timeless, eco-friendly materials, such as visible timber frames and clay plaster for the walls. In this way, the vestry areas, and the prayer room in particular, acquire a historical sensitivity associated with a comfortable, warm and homely atmosphere with a pleasant and healthy indoor climate.

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