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Medieval cathedral converted into a book shop


Utrecht-based architectural practice, BK. Architecten, have designed the Waanders In de Broeren project. Completed in 2013, the 15th-century cathedral has been converted into a modern book store and can be found in Zwolle, The Netherlands.

This radical concept in a 15th-century Broerenkerk cathedral spans over three floors and includes a shop in the former church building.

The architect radically changed the interior design of the 547-year-old Gothic building, but had to ensure they left the original features, such as the pipe organ, stained glass windows and decor intact.


According to the architects: “The architectural concept of this shop in church is based on two, sometimes conflicting, elements. The first time we entered this church we immediately felt the historical value of this building. The space, height, long axis, high arches, stained glass windows, ceiling paintings and the pipe organ: this 15th-century building really earned its place in the city of Zwolle.

“For the Waanders in de Broeren project we were asked to add about 700 square meter shopping floor to this Dominican church. Our first goal was to keep that first time historical feeling alive even with all those asked extra floor meters. So we wanted all the additions made to the church to be sober, in respect to the church, modest. Therefore the three added floors are placed in the side wing of the church between the original pillars, outside the central ship. The construction of these floors isn’t connected to the church, so therefore in the future the build in floors could be removed without demolishing the building.


“With keeping the central axis free you still can feel the size of the church. Having main eye-catchers on both sides of the axis -with the organ and a modern stained glass window (designed by Norwegian artist Kjell Nupen) will stimulate customers to overlook the entire length of the Broerenkerk. The materials we used for our additions are all very pure and sober. We only used wood in three colours and white painted plastering work. The main colour pallet in the store will come from the warm tints of the church and off course the colours of the books and other products.


“Our main design for the shop was to create an optimal store concept, with logical routings and attractive product presentation. In a multilevel store one of the most important things is to get customers on your top floor. Once you have your customers there they will have to get back down and with going down they will have to pass all of your floors and see all of the products you’re selling. With this in mind we created an attractive central staircase. On these stairs you rise only half a level a time and by climbing the stairs you walk around an 11m bookcase. So you don’t really feel like climbing a stair, it’s more an experience that ends straight under the renovated church arches. The bookcases are part of the main construction.


“Our client in this project, mister Waanders, told us in our first conversation about a Dutch architect called Dom Hans van der Laan. This architect was a monk and made designs for several monasteries. The furniture in these designs is often made of wood and always very sober and well detailed. For the furniture here in the church we found inspiration in his work and we tried to translate his way of designing to designs well fitted for retail objectives.”

If you are are a bibliophile the you will also love the Selexyz Dominicanen and God’s Loftstory projects featured on Adelto.

Images courtesy of Joop van Putten and Hans Westerink

Love Interior Design & Exotic Travel? Follow us..

November 16, 2013 | Property | View comments

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