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Autobahn Church Siegerland

Autobahn Church Siegerland by Frankfurt-based architects – Schneider + Schumacher, The bright white, polygonal façade of the Siegerland Motorway Church catches the eye even from afar. A pictorial wooden structure, it defies the noisy surroundings of hotel, fast food restaurant and petrol station. Its interior welcomes visitors with a quiet room combining artificial light with daylight to create a warm and contemplative atmosphere.

Autobahn-Church-Siegerland-By-Schneider-Schumacher-05-Jorg-Hempel-759x327 Autobahn Church Siegerland / Schneider + Schumacher

© Jorg Hempel

The dome’s interior of a delicate wooden structure opens up to the altar area, into which natural light falls only from above through the two spires. Since May 2013 the 40th German motorway church has been open around the clock. An exciting architecture that introduces new trends to the design of highway churches.

Autobahn-Church-Siegerland-By-Schneider-Schumacher-13-flickr-Cord-Richert-801x1200 Autobahn Church Siegerland / Schneider + Schumacher

© flickr-Cord Richert

Design Features:

  • Once inside the design of the interior comes as a surprise. The inner dome opens up to the naturally lit area around the altar, illuminated only from above through the two church spires.
  • The plan of the new Autobahn church consists of a square nave with two corner towers and an access bridge from the southwest. All the outer walls are formed in timber-framed construction, with laminated timber elements used for the roof structure and the towers.
Autobahn-Church-Siegerland-By-Schneider-Schumacher-16-Schneider-Schumacher-759x721 Autobahn Church Siegerland / Schneider + Schumacher

© Schneider + Schumacher

  • The entire façade of the church and the connecting bridge was sprayed with white polyurethane damp-proofing material. This protects the outer surfaces of the wood from both the ingress of damp and wear and tear, and gives the church a homogenous appearance.
  • Once inside the vaulted entrance, the inner dome opens up to the altar. This area is naturally illuminated only via the church tower above. Within the predominantly square ground plan, semi-circular areas created by the inner dome at the edges allow the areas that lie outside the visitor’s line of vision to be used as a sacristy and as supplementary spaces e.g. for chair storage.
Autobahn-Church-Siegerland-By-Schneider-Schumacher-18-Helen-Schiffer-848x1200 Autobahn Church Siegerland / Schneider + Schumacher

© Helen Schiffer

  • The majority of the building components were constructed off site, allowing an optimised and shortened on-site assembly period. The timber roof and wall elements are cavity-insulated. The inner and outer faces of the timber members are clad with panels of OSB. The walls of the bridge are half-timbered and the access bridge floor construction is clad on both sides with double-faced OSB.
  • Using parametric design techniques based on complex computer programs, schneider+schumacher’s Parametrik GbR designed a wooden ribbed structure that optimized both the material and the construction.
  • Motorway churches are increasingly common in Germany and, partly thanks to its eye-catching design, Autobahn Church Siegerland has already had more than 70,000 visitors in its first year. “People don’t go to churches — we have to bring the church to the people,” says Schumacher. “And the people are here.”
Autobahn-Church-Siegerland-By-Schneider-Schumacher-23-Helen-Schiffer-759x536 Autobahn Church Siegerland / Schneider + Schumacher

© Helen Schiffer

Schneider + Schumacher:

In March 2009 schneider+schumacher won a competition run by the Förderverein Autobahnkirche Siegerland e.V, which was founded for the specific purpose of establishing an Autobahn church. The initiative for this project came from Hanneliese and Hartmut Hering, after they had visited an Autobahn church in south Germany. Just one glance at the map revealed that a place like this was lacking in the entire Siegerland area, and consequently also along the very busy A 45 motorway.

The architects took on the project with the same empathy. Under the guidance of Michael Schumacher, it was designed in parallel with schneider+schumacher’s extension to the Städel Museum. The Christian-ecumenical church was realised thanks to numerous donations. Building work began in March 2011, starting with the archaic sculptural concrete foundation slab, which forms the base for the timber-framed church above. The consecration and opening of this building, Germany’s 40th motorway church took place on 26 May 2013.

Autobahn-Church-Siegerland-By-Schneider-Schumacher-25-Jorg-Hempel-759x531 Autobahn Church Siegerland / Schneider + Schumacher

© Jorg Hempel

Concept:

“Motorway service areas are places with an unmistakably direct message. Huge signs point to what goes on here: filling-up, eating, sleeping and maybe also, for a bit of distraction, a visit to a gaming mall. They are little cities, but without the subtle layers – no spaces for quiet contemplation or prayer, no beautiful spaces.

The small Autobahn church offers an opportunity to fulfil these fundamental needs, and provides these in a place where they are arguably most lacking. For a building to make an impact in such surroundings, it needs to talk the same unmistakably direct language (at least on the exterior). Whether approached from afar from the Dortmund direction, or from the motorway service area, the church represents a built version of the motorway church signage. Even though its exterior form is abstract, it still signals in an immediate and direct way: ‘I am a church!’ ”

Autobahn-Church-Siegerland-By-Schneider-Schumacher-28-public-domain-759x505 Autobahn Church Siegerland / Schneider + Schumacher

© public domain

Design:

The three-dimensional translation of the church pictogram – a stylized white silhouette of a traditional village church – can be seen from both the motorway and the service station. Once inside the design of the interior comes as a surprise. The inner dome opens up to the naturally lit area around the altar, illuminated only from above through two church spires. The filigree wooden vaulting also displays a finely worked cross-ribbed structure.

Autobahn-Church-Siegerland-By-Schneider-Schumacher-30-public-domain-759x505 Autobahn Church Siegerland / Schneider + Schumacher

© public domain

Construction:

The plan of the new motorway church consists of a square nave (church) with two corner towers and an access bridge from the southwest. All the outer walls are formed in timber-framed construction, with laminated timber elements used for the roof structure and the towers.

The majority of the building components were constructed off site, allowing an optimised and shortened on-site assembly period, since the pre-constructed building elements had already been assembled off-site using a special connection system. The timber roof and wall elements are cavity-insulated. The inner and outer faces of the timber members are clad with panels of OSB. The walls of the bridge are half-timbered and the access bridge floor construction is clad on both sides with double-faced OSB.

The entire façade of the church and the connecting bridge was sprayed with white polyurethane damp-proofing material. This protects the outer surfaces of the wood from both the ingress of damp and wear and tear, and gives the church a homogenous appearance.

Autobahn-Church-Siegerland-By-Schneider-Schumacher-44-flickr-Cord-Richert-801x1200 Autobahn Church Siegerland / Schneider + Schumacher

© flickr-Cord Richert

Timber Inner Dome:

It all started with a two-dimensional plan, and from there it developed into a highly complex three-dimensional structure.Using parametric design techniques based on complex computer programs (Rhino, Grasshopper), schneider+schumacher’sParametrik GmbH & Co.KG team designed a finely detailed wooden ribbed structure that optimised both the material and the construction down to the last detail.

Once inside the vaulted entrance, the inner dome opens up to the altar. This area is naturally illuminated only via the church tower above. Within the predominantly square ground plan, semi-circular areas created by the inner dome at the edges allow the areas that lie outside the visitor’s line of vision to be used as a sacristy and as supplementary spaces e.g. for chair storage.

Autobahn-Church-Siegerland-By-Schneider-Schumacher-50-flickr-Cord-Richert-801x1200 Autobahn Church Siegerland / Schneider + Schumacher

© flickr-Cord Richert

Interior furnishings:

All relevant decisions regarding the interior furnishings of the church have been developed in close collaboration with the client. They consist of the same material as the timber inner dome. Arranged in this manner, seating, lectern, kneelers and the candlestick form a conceptional unit. Solemnly in the presbytery, podium, altar and the backlit cross are painted in a pure white to reflect sunlight and therewith seem dematerialised.

Autobahn-Church-Siegerland-By-Schneider-Schumacher-58-Helen-Schiffer-848x1200 Autobahn Church Siegerland / Schneider + Schumacher

© Helen Schiffer

Optimising the construction:

The inner dome consists of 66 vertical and horizontal semi-circular timber structural ribs,made up of 650 individual parts. The timber ribs are slotted into each other and secured in the slits cut into the panels, so the structure has not only rigidity but is also self-supporting.

The floor needs anchoring with steel angles only at intermittent intervals. The CAD program was developed beyond its usual planning function into a 3D-printer software program. The program was used to transform the dimension data first calculated for the inner dome to provide a cutting pattern for all the dome parts. Taking account of standard dimensions of OSB boards, the 650 parts of the structural ribs were positioned so as to minimise wastage.

Autobahn-Church-Siegerland-By-Schneider-Schumacher-74-public-domain-759x404 Autobahn Church Siegerland / Schneider + Schumacher

© public domain

Project Data:

Project name: Autobahn Church Siegerland
Location: Elkersberg, 57234 Wilnsdorf, Germany
Coordinates: 50.817606, 8.086933
Type: Church
Building Use: Motorway Church
Site area: approx. 500 sqm
Gross floor area: 240 sqm
Building volume: 2,000 m³
Project Year: March 2011-2013
Status: Built
Cost: donated budget of €1.3 million (£1.04 million)
Completion Year: 05.2013
Visit Autobahn Church Siegerland’s website: here

Awards:

  • 2015 – Mies van der Rohe Awards – Nominee
  • 2014 – WAN Awards – Category: Wood in Architecture – Shortlist
  • 2013 – Iconic Awards – Category: Architecture > Public – Best of Best
  • 2013 – DAM Award for Architecture in Germany – Shortlist

The people:

Client / Owner / Developer: Autobahnkirche Siegerland e.V., Burbach, Germany
Architects: Schneider + Schumacher – Poststraße 20a, 60329 Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Project Team:

  • Michael Schumacher, Hans Eschmann (PL), Kerstin Högel (BL), Jana Heidacker, Raghunath Vasudevan, Alexander Volz, Elmar Lorey, Baha Odaibat

Architects In Charge: Michael Schumacher, Hans Eschmann
Project architect: Michael Schumacher
Project manager: Jana Heidacker
Construction management: schneider+schumacher Bau- und Projektmanagement GmbH
Structural Engineering: B+G Ingenieure Bollinger und Grohmann GmbH
Home Automation: rpb ingenieure GmbH
Lighting design: Studio Dinnebier, Berlin
Survey: Dipl.-Ing. Jürgen Seelbach, Siegen
Manufacturers:

  • Lighting: ERCO GmbH
  • Reinforced concrete shell: W. Hundshausen Bauunternehmung GmbH, Siegen
  • Wooden shell: Holzbau Amann GmbH, Weilheim-Bannholz
  • Windows: Metal Weinmann, Friedrichsdorf
  • Facade coating: Elacoat GmbH, Schaan (FL)
  • Steel stairs: Ernst steel and staircase GmbH, Burgwald Bottendorf
  • Flooring: Obering. Kaspar König & Sons, Siegen,
  • Hartmut Thielmann construction business, Breitscheid
  • Wood dome / furniture: carpentry Hein GmbH, Waldbüttelbrunn
  • Ventilation / underfloor heating: Robin Sohn GmbH, Neunkirchen
  • Electrical work: Michael Pitthan GmbH, Church Wehbach
  • Doors: Metal Weinmann, Friedrichsdorf

Text Description: © Courtesy of Schneider + Schumacher, ERCO, Mies van der Rohe Awards, WAN Awards
Images: © Schneider + Schumacher, Helen Schiffer, Kirsten Bucher, ERCO, Jorg Hempel, flickr-Cord Richert, flickr-Werner Schnell, flickr-Miraculix63

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Autobahn Church Siegerland / Schneider + Schumacher
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