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Dissolving Church Plays on Sight Lines

Friday, August 11, 2017

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A church made of steel dissolves from sight, and the secret lies in its construction.

From a distance, the structure looks like a traditional church, with a high steeple and sharply pitched roof. But from up close, the church is anything but traditional—the structure seems to disappear.

Designed by the duo Gijs Van Vaerenbergh (architects Pieterjan Gijs and Arnout Van Vaerenbergh), the installation, known as “Reading Between the Lines,” is located in the rural Belgian landscape, based on the design of a local church.

The Disappearing Church

The building itself was constructed from 30 tons of steel and 2,000 columns, built on a concrete foundation. What makes the structure seem to disappear is the use of horizontal steel plates, which can either appear as a massive building or something that dissolves along the viewer’s sight line.

When considering materials for the project, the duo said they had originally considered fabric and concrete, but ultimately settled on Cor-Ten steel. The oxidized metal could weather the elements, and allow for the structure’s volume to be reduced so that what remained was only what was essential.

“We wanted to refer to the most psychological form of a church,” Van Vaerenbergh said in an interview. A laser scan recorded the dimensions of the building, the data of which was used by architects in creating digital and physical models of the project.

“We started with the full form of the church and then started cutting it,” Van Vaerenbergh went on to note. This resulted in a ratio of 1 centimeter of metal to 9 centimeters of opening, which allows for the structure to appear as if it’s dissolving.

"Reading Between the Lines” stands at 33 feet tall, and was constructed by local companies Cravero B.V.B.A. for the steel components, with MEG working on the foundation.

Editor's note: This story was one of our most popular of 2017 and appeared in our Readers' Choice issue on Dec. 29.


Tagged categories: Churches; Color + Design; Design build

Comment from john lienert, (8/11/2017, 8:29 AM)

a "spade" is a "spade"........but a metal sculpture is NOT a building

Comment from Jesse Melton, (8/14/2017, 7:31 AM)

They built this in 2011. I honestly didn't think it was still in place.

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