digitalCHURCH a church in Aachen is reborn as a coworking space

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The St. Elisabeth Church in the northern district of Aachen was built between 1904 and 1907 based on a project created by the architect Edward Endler in neo-Gothic style with three naves, with an elaborate ashlar facade made of sandstone and Ettringen tuff blocks. In its formal language, the church is reminiscent of the late Gothic style of the mid-15th century and is a protected building as its openwork windows, partially shaped columns and splendid net vaulting are considered exemplary for the time. The high bell tower is connected to the church on the northeast side, where the main door is also located, accentuated by a large openwork window with colored glass that illuminates the floor of the gallery inside. To the south-east, the Sainte-Elisabeth church ends in a semicircular choir.
Since the beginning of the new millennium, in 2002, attempts have been made to implement other uses in the space of the church, considered too large. Horst Fischer, an architect from Aachen, proposed new uses under the gallery and in the old chapel hall on the ground floor of the tower, without the need to significantly modify the structure of the building origin and spatial effect. Thanks to the addition of large bay windows in the existing semicircular and pointed arch openings, a separation of the newly created rooms from the interior of the church was achieved, without interrupting the visual dialogue between the spaces. A meeting room is built occupying the width of the nave, while the addition of a block of services completes the intervention.
A solid foundation for the future of the church was thus established: in 2012, the parish decided to sell the church building. No buyer was found until 2016, the Aachen-based investor and board member of Landmarken SANorbert Hermans.
From 2014 to 2015, Sainte-Elisabeth was temporarily used as an exhibition and research space for children and young people for a local initiative. In April 2016, on the other hand, the church was deconsecrated and served for three months as an urban cultural hotel “Hotel Total”, a federally funded project that involved long-term unemployed people and refugees first in the renovation and then in the management. hotel guests.
In 2017, the new life of the deconsecrated church began as the so-called “digital church”: the new headquarters of the digitalHUB Aachen eVassociation committed to the digitization of the economy and the public sector in the region of Aachen, which now has a co-working space available for start-ups, SMEs and industryto advance digitization.
This new use of the church guided the design of interior spaces, with reversible installations that form closed work spaces between the load-bearing columns of the nave. Two long, narrow desks cross the nave and can be used on either side. Smaller individual desks with dividers on three sides are installed as additional mobile workspaces between equipment and longitudinally aligned tables. The key aspect is the absolute flexibility of the interventions. Additional workspaces or quiet zones can thus be added to the two side corridors as required. Balanced lighting creates a pleasant working atmosphere, and a kind of lounge with comfortable seating and a bar with a counter, instead of the altar, were also included in the design. The space under the gallery, which had already been fitted out in 2007, has been preserved and is used, among other things, as a foyer.
Thanks to this collaboration between studio Landmarken AG and digitalHUB, an association that focuses on the multifunctional use of the church building as a shared space, the original sense of a place for meetings and eventsopen to all and now experiencing a second life as the core of the emerging district and digital ecosystem in northern Aachen, has been fully honoured.

Christiane Burklein

Project: Landmarken AG with digitalHUB
Location: Aachen, Germany
Year: 2017
Images: digitalHUB Aachen eV
Learn more: https://aachen.digital/digital-church/

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