New Apostolic Church Pliezhausen, Germany
The New Apostolic Church has built a striking new building at a prime location on the edge of the green belt of Pliezhausen, Germany. As a sculptural structure of coloured lightweight concrete, the new building sets itself apart from the adjacent residential neighbourhood.
Out of the hectic pace of everyday life and into the tranquillity of the space. Visitors immediately notice how pleasant the atmosphere of consciously simple, sacred architecture can be. After crossing the yard with its inviting view of the orchard, and entering through the spacious foyer, one senses life’s burdens sliding away to making room for quiet retreat.
This effect was accomplished by Stuttgart-based architects Ackermann+Raff through a design inspired by the topography of the area. The shape of the roof follows the slope of the surrounding hill; towards the road, the voluminous structure forms a striking high point. From the inside, the outer form can be perceived in the steep rise of the ceiling toward the altar. A ribbon of windows high atop the walls and skylights in the colour-graded ceiling create an ethereal lighting atmosphere. East-facing square windows with deep wooden frames project lighting accents throughout the room.
The new building of the New Apostolic Church will offer 250 regular visitors from three congregations space for worship and church work. Various sanitary and multi-purpose rooms are accessible from the central foyer, two of which can be combined to form a larger hall if required. The church is visible from the sacristy through a glass partition, so that families with small children can follow the proceedings in a somewhat secluded acoustic setting.
Another important reason that the church is so inviting lies in the limited selection of materials used in its construction. Builders and architects enhanced the coloured lightweight concrete structure with local, partly untreated Swabian oak, the same wood crafted by a regional carpenter's workshop into the church’s tasteful pews and square windows. The 25-centimeter-thick concrete floor slab and underfloor heating system are covered with smoked oak flooring in the nave, and polished concrete in the vestibule provides a successful contrast to the high, bright exposed concrete walls and the sweeping acoustic ceiling with its delicate colour gradient.
The New Apostolic Church has already constructed many modern Béton brut buildings to replace dilapidated post-war structures. Stephan Pfäffle, representative for the project in Pliezhausen, is himself an architect. He and Johannes Weiß from architects Ackermann+Raff chose lightweight concrete with a delicate, earthy beige tone through an admixture of 1.5 percent pigments. The cement for the selected concrete comes from HeidelbergCement’s Lengfurt plant. Construction company Adolf List from Reutlingen carried out the construction work. Together with seven experienced concrete builders, site manager Klaus Schäfer succeeded in creating the light concrete walls with a formwork measuring 2.40 x 2.70 metres, as well as the surface finish desired by the architect and customer. Achieving quality to match the large sample walls required great efforts given the hot summer of 2015.
“We had to keep the formwork covered against the heat and cool down the mixers,” said Schäfer. Karl-Heinz Baur of nearby ready-mixed concrete company Wenzelburger, which produced the concrete, also recalls that targeted vibration was required for compaction of the walls, which are up to eight meters high. “For such a special project, the cooperation has to be right,” says site manager Schäfer. All those involved in the construction work had nothing but praise for the coordinated effort. And, the Exposed Concrete Team proved just how indispensable it is when facing challenging projects like this one.