New Apostolic Church Uhingen

Multiple commissioning 2019 Execution: 2021 - 2022 Location: Uhingen Client: Neuapostolische Kirche Süddeutschland K.d.ö.R Photography: Marcus Ebener

Declining membership and demographic change concern church communities throughout Germany, including the New Apostolic congregation in Uhingen, Baden-Württemberg, which is also affected by these developments. There, the decision was made to respond to these challenges with a restructuring and an ambitious new church building to make the congregation attractive and vibrant. The three New Apostolic parishes in Ebersbach, Albershausen and Uhingen were merged into the overall church community of “Unteres Filstal”.

To make the merger of the congregations a joyful new beginning, a new church building was created on a meadow plot on the outskirts of Uhingen, which adapts to the dynamic community life thanks to a well thought-out and flexible space utilisation concept. A significant challenge for us was that a public sewer line, which crosses the already very narrow building plot, could not be built over.
A single-storey volume now adapts to the conditions of the meadow plot with a polygonal footprint towards the rear. As the centrepiece of the church, the church hall with its generous ceiling height is clearly visible from the outside and towers above the other building sections by about one storey.

Distinctive shape meets modern material selection
The entrance area on Allemannenstrasse has a protective canopy that gently curves to the right, echoing the polygonal shape of the rear part of the building. Large, floor-to-ceiling glazing frames the heavy double doors made of anthracite-coloured aluminium. Rectangular oiled oak handles add a striking accent and literally invite people to enter the building. A façade band of vertical slats made of the same wood stretches to the right edge of the building and curves around the corner, where it dissolves in front of a window at ever greater spacings.
The entire building is enveloped by a brick facing and joined together to form a cohesive sculpture. The beige-coloured brick facing underscores the stand-alone church and emphasises its special use. The sacred character of the building is emphasised by the window recesses with angled reveals integrated into the brick bond. The window frames are also made of oiled oak. The symbol of the New Apostolic congregation was placed at the height of the topmost of the three windows: a cross made of anthracite-coloured steel that seems to rise from the sea against the rising sun. The same image — supplemented by the inscription “New Apostolic Church” — is mounted on a smooth wooden surface next to the entrance, where it harmoniously blends into the wooden façade band.

Intelligent room concept
Upon entering the barrier-free building, you arrive in the foyer, from where all church areas are accessible. Large windows and a round skylight in the fair-faced concrete ceiling create a bright and friendly atmosphere. From the entrance, the foyer leads directly into the centrepiece of the building, the high church hall with seating for up to 210 people. Next to it are two versatile multi-purpose rooms, which can be connected to the foyer or the church hall as required by means of mobile partitions. To the right of the foyer, a small corridor leads past the toilets to the sacristy. From here, families with small children can take part in the church service through a large window to the church hall.

Architecture for focusing on the essentials
The central space of the church is polygonal and symmetrical and develops axially towards the altar. The defining feature of the room is the roof construction made of glulam beams, which slopes down towards the dark altar wall with oiled black steel cladding, masterfully drawing attention to the altar. This effect is emphasised by the arrangement of the three-part rows of seating, which precisely mirror the wooden ceiling structure: The rows of seats form the crossbars, while the two central aisles run synchronously with the longitudinal beams. The altar with its striking altar wall forms the centre and connects ceiling and floor, heaven and earth. The symmetrical arrangement of the large room exudes tranquillity, allowing people to centre themselves and reflect on the essentials.
Glass panels are stacked in the incised cross of the altar wall, allowing it to glow from within and directing indirect light into the church hall. The altar is just as simple but effective, a plain cube made of natural brown rammed earth with interspersions from soil of the site. The aspect of sustainability is also evident in the pipe organ, which was taken from the assets of the New Apostolic Church and adapted to the spatial conditions of the hall by organ builder Gilbert Paul Scharfe. Integrated into a wall niche, the organ together with the altar on the left and the three vertically arranged windows on the right form a harmonious unit.
The result is a contemporary sacred building with its own identity, which impresses above all with its sculptural design and the reduced colour and material scheme: warm wood on ceilings, walls and furniture, glass, clay, earthy and sandy shades correspond with the floors made of polished exposed screed with river gravel aggregate. On the outside, the reduction is continued in the homogeneous, light-coloured brick façade with wood and glass accents. Without roof overhangs and without frills.