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Light and colour: Church and hall in Cologne
Photograph: Annette Kisling
With a light hand and a sleek stylistic idiom, Sauerbruch Hutton have created a transcendental aura for their renewal, surrounded by a majestic stand of trees, of the Immanuelkirche in Cologne’s Stammheim district.
Architect: Sauerbruch Hutton, Berlin
Location: Bonhoefferstr. 8, 51061 Cologne, Germany
The new structure, owing to cost factors, is not made of reinforced concrete as described in the competition submission. Rather, it was developed in wood. The campanile at the edge of the street acts as an unmistakable guidepost. Like the church and its prayer chapel, it is clad in a diagonal casing of Siberian larch. A grey glaze unifies the overall image of the façades.
Visitors enter the church via the low vestibule under the gallery. Once they have entered, they can experience the full eleven-metre height of the nave. The prefabricated wooden panelling and supports are unclad; their brushed, white-waxed surfaces allow the grain of the wood to show through. The floor has been finished with a light-coloured coating. The vaulting, whose ribs measure 7.5 X 30 cm, form a rigid supporting lattice framework of roof and wall panels. The escalier-shaped joists above the vestibule serve as benches up in the gallery.
The architects have interrupted their minimalist design with a floor-to-ceiling screen of 3,800 wooden slats in 27 different colours, which ascends behind the altar and hangs like a curtain in front of the organ. Above the altar, the »window to heaven« opens up. This skylight reinforces the effect of the colours, which become progressively lighter towards the ceiling. All in all, these features evoke a feeling of transcendence.
The spaces here can be used according to the congregations’ needs. An aperture incorporated into the screen facilitates tidying away the liturgical furnishings, and the altar space can be transformed into a stage. To the sides of the altar, other areas can be created using folding walls. Free-standing seating can be arranged as desired.
Natural light penetrates the nave in two places: while a skylight illuminates the altar area and the coloured relief, a matte window lets light into the area above the gallery and plays with the shadows of the trees outside. A gridwork of hanging lamps made expressly for this church provide a warm atmosphere in the evenings, giving the church an intimate, almost homey ambience.