The Recently Converted

16 Aug

I’ve not been hiding under a rock.. I’ven just been consumed by the down side of moving around the world – it takes months to resettle.  Its been quite a journey, but I’m back on the horse and shall carry on with my rant.

I overheard an architect complaining that most church restorations are more pathetic than they are epic. Coincidentally, I did nod in both agreement and disappointment as I discovered that in the case of many recent conversion projects, the interiors are almost an afterthought. DIY shows are among the worst offenders, displaying lacklustre designs that reek of budget blowout and failure to engage professionals to assist with throughtful floorplans, finishes and furnishings.

“And so, I got to thinking about the good, the bad and the downright ugly recently converted”.

What works? Less is best. For me, ecclestical structures that are snapped up for conversion should be reverently restored with interiors that emphasis grand architecture without detract from it’s original story. Among my favourites are minimalist, loft-like church conversions.

The Prayer and Purr worthy…

Utrecht, The Netherlands 

I LOVE this church conversion by Zecc architects – a minimalist’s nirvana. A cool palette with interesting but scarce furnishings allow the magnificent structure and stained glass to create maximum impact. The use of white and steel is a powerful contrast, helping to define pockets of the large space while adding intensity and drama.

© Frank Hanswijk

© Frank Hanswijk

Adelaide, South Australia

A mid 18th Century bluestone church beautifully converted into an eccentric loft-style residence.


Maastricht, The Netherlands

In Maastricht, a 13th Century (allegedly haunted)  Dominican church has been transformed into a thrilling setting for the new bookstore  Selexyz Dominicanen. Dutch architects Merkx + Girod have executed perhaps their finest work with a design that emphasizes the building’s colossal proportions and exceptional architecture.

A communal reading in a long cruciform table layout lit by a lamp suspended sends a powerful message through the space. Blasphemous, cheeky or modern art loaded with a plethora of meanings and a nod to the past?


For a heightened (Hogwarts-esque) sensory experience, visitors can explore the three-storey, walk-in bookcase inserted on the right of the interior while the full height of left side remains powerfully exposed.

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