The city of Diksmuide and Lampernisse invited us to design a number of renovations in and around the Church of the Exaltation of the Cross in Lampernisse: a new columbarium with the necessary resting places in the church, a multipurpose room for intimate ceremonies and temporary exhibitions, the necessary facilities (kitchen, sanitary facilities, technical room, etc.), and the landscaping of the immediate vicinity of the church: a scenic rest area, an urn garden and adaptation of the existing cemetery. The church, like most others, is hardly used for local worship anymore. Its operation is rather supra-local, since, for example, marriages are performed by people from outside, so attracted by the strength and scenic value of the place.
Surgical interventions are performed in the existing church and garden in various ways to achieve a harmonious and flexible whole. Great importance is attached to the appropriate atmosphere associated with each program component. The experiential value of each space, acoustics, tactility, peace and serenity are paramount. The abbey of Le Thoronet in France is associatively looked at, a place where interventions have been done in subtle ways over time by contemporary architects (John Pawson and Alvaro Siza). In the specified specifications it is proposed to close off part of the church for the columbarium on the one hand and an intimate ceremony space on the other. This literally splits the church in two, whereby the spatial integrity is partly lost. Questions also arise regarding acoustics, intimacy, building physics problems, sustainability aspects, maintenance, etc. Dhooge & Meganck's proposal is very clear and preserves the spatial whole of the church. By introducing a new volume (the house of silence), the existing church becomes a fully covered outdoor space, and not partly as foreseen in the specifications, so that explicitly different 'atmospheres' are obtained.
‘In a small room one does not say one would do in a large room' (Louis Kahn)
Lampernisse is known far beyond its borders for the physical silence that is characteristic of the place. Tourists come from near and far on a pilgrimage to Lampernisse to taste the silence. The design by Dhooge & Meganck enhances the particularity of the place and of Lampernisse itself by taking its most characteristic feature as the point of departure for the design: the silence, genius loci (spirit of the place).
The House of silence
The point of departure immediately raises a pertinent question: how can we bring silence and intimacy into the (hall) church? After all, the existing space is too enormous, too immense to provide (acoustic) intimacy. Secondly, the question arises of how we deal sustainably with such valuable heritage in the context of a reconversion? The proposal is twofold: the church itself becomes an outdoor space, in direct relationship with the surrounding garden and the introduction of a new volume. This house of silence is a highly intimate space whose perforated shell leaves the relationship with the church filtered and intact. Distance yourself to be mindful. The new volume is clearly delineated, structurally sustainable (construction and maintenance), is perfectly insulated and has a strong acoustic performance. This makes it also suitable for other purposes (intimate farewell ceremony, lectures, small performances, etc.).
The space outside (the church) becomes a place with a semi-outdoor climate. By providing surgical openings in the side wall a more direct relationship with the surrounding garden is obtained from the existing hall church. Questions also arise regarding acoustics, intimacy, building physics problems, sustainability aspects, maintenance, etc. our proposal is very clear and preserves the spatial whole of the church. By introducing a new volume (the house of silence), the existing church becomes a fully covered outdoor space, and not partly as foreseen in the specifications, so that explicitly different 'atmospheres' are obtained.
The columbarium: ‘where trees carry people’
The church will be a fully-fledged urn church (columbarium), many examples of which have already been realized abroad. Columbaria are often gloomy, closed places in which it is unpleasant to be, like sterile bank vaults in which there is little room.
Is tailor-made for humanity. To safeguard the integrity of the church and the use of 'the house of silence', an object is designed that is placed on a grid and distributed in the church. A wooden column, constructed from a stack of a three-dimensional cross-shaped element, is the carrier of urns. These columns refer to the surrounding landscape in which the same repetitive, vertical sequence of trees is recognized. The approach to the columbarium is mainly landscape, as a spatial whole in which the visitor can walk freely. At regular intervals there is room for a simple sofa in the same materiality (cf. John Pawson in Abbey du Thoronet). The columbarium is therefore a walk between trees that occur naturally around the church. A sequence of wooden columns.
Trees as columns - columns as trees
The master plan provides for a strong connection of the existing, closed church with the surrounding garden by means of a number of new openings in the side wall that refer to the typical architectural detailing that is characteristic of the church. As a result, the inside-outside walk is continuously reinforced and the landscape extends through the church. New paths are drawn throughout the garden, as loose, informal lines through a natural landscape garden. There is room for art in strategic places, giving the garden a supralocal and rather secular character. In addition to this sculpture garden, a scattering meadow and an urn field will be provided. The latter is an abstraction of the house of silence inside the church, placed between the trees. The axes and symmetry of the existing church are answered outside in the garden. That way the story is complete: the trees outside are the wooden/stone columns inside, between which the silence reigns.
A place for intimacy, reflection and serenity.