An oasis for the people

Wednesday 07 Dec 2011

Geometric pastoral care centre energises former no-man's-land in Northern Austria

Straddling the River Danube in Northern Austria is the city of Linz, a cosmopolitan community which is home to a bold new religious centre. On a lush, empty plot of land between busy main roads and an industrial estate now stands ‘Voestalpine’ by X Architekten, a central base for liturgical and secular purposes on the edge on a pre-existing woodland.

Settled snugly next to an expanse of verdant foliage the contemporary religious block cuts an abstract silhouette against the sky, punctuated by an elevated cross. X Architekten details it’s inspiration for the project as the woodlands onsite, noting that the trees ‘serve as a conceptual starting point, an “oasis for the people”, and the new built landscape retains this character by being embedded within a hillside’.

Erupting across this open green space is an embankment of dark slag-stone; both poured across the flat plane or processed as pebble dash. Additional plants have been rooted during the landscaping process to provide an aesthetically pleasing outlook from the building and increase in density towards the coniferous forest.

Inside, the volume’s sharp corners and asymmetric lines are echoed in a graphic striped décor, with crystalline geometry creating ‘an important meaning encompassing Saint Barbara as patron saint of both pastoral care and mining’. Social and religious areas are kept separate from the functional portions of the building by a series of sliding doors, which add an element of flexibility to the design.

Internally the volume includes offices, a meeting room, workshops, a cloakroom, bar, event room and chapel. These areas are arranged around a central courtyard space which offers a quiet spot for contemplation, energised only slightly by the presence of a large bell at ground level. The hollow space underneath the bell serves to distribute the sound, rather like the bell in a mining shaft.

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