a. Free space for spiritual development
The Chapel of Efflorescence did not arise from the need to solve a vacancy problem. With the extinction of its religious function, the old chapel was gradually “re-allocated” into storage space. So the chapel was no longer vacant. But some of the brothers had a dream and, by way of inheritance, they wanted to re-fulfill the essence of their mission in the chapel, if necessary in a completely different way than they used to. They wanted to leave behind a space that helps young people with their “awakening”, a fragile process in which you become yourself among the others.
The Chapel of Efflorescence (2011) was established ten years after Yot Magdalena Church (2002). After Yot, the assignments of tc-plus always departed from the extinction of church use. The client asked to design small weekly chapels in large churches, to guide mergers of parishes or to integrate additional functions in the church. There still was too much focus on the vacancy problem of the churches, so that “filling up” seemed to be the answer. With the Chapel of Efflorescence, the brothers wanted a space featuring as a search engine for many rather than an answering space for a few.
How to re-think a church that provides free space to people in their spiritual development?
b. A search for authenticity
The most important spatial interventions in the Chapel of Efflorescence are : the white space (an empty place to liberate), the shutters (a means of imagination) and the sand (the carpet of fragility).
The first step in the chapel is a step into a white, empty room with a white sand floor, surrounded by white felt shutters and covered with a white stretch ceiling.
The shutters function as a new, soft rug for the bare foot visitor. The silence and the emptiness are overwhelming, sometimes soothing, sometimes challenging, sometimes oppressive. Comfortable or not, it wants to free people from what’s redundant or disturbing to be themselves.
Although the chapel enables a completely new concept of searching for meaning, the old chapel was first completely renovated with respect to the past. In the old chapel a new chapel was built, in which shutters can be opened like a book. Possibly. Because, basically, it is about the new chapel and the zero moment.
Behind the top row of shutters are the old stained glass windows and murals, the stories from the tradition of the brothers. The old chapel as a whole no longer exists, but fragments of it can be re-opened and given a new meaning within that new context. Behind the bottom row of shutters there is free space to add new stories, images and symbols to shape a new future. Between the white panels horizontal and vertical red seams are visible, abstractly bringing rhythm into the void, adding a human touch and encouraging imagination.
Entering the white sand with bare feet means looking for a new balance with every step. A step into the void looking for a place to be, in the middle or against the edge, in the light or just in the shadow. The sand carpet can also function as a kind of slate in which text, drawings or symbols can be written with your finger.
c. On the way: from answer space to search space
Clients and designers initially thought that a new chapel also had to provide all new means of communication. They were afraid that young people would get bored in an empty space. But the projection screen and the projector have hardly been used because they only scatter the experience of here and now.
The shutters were often misunderstood. Some people interpreted the closed shutters as hiding the tradition, as if there was shame or as if they wanted to erase it. This is not the case. Covering the restored stained glass windows with shutters has been done out of respect for the the chapel’s past. Some people look at the shutters as a kind of gadget, a heritage trick of opening and closing. As if the white chapel is just an introduction moment of the full experience when shutters are open. Neither is this the intention.
Nothing needs to be programmed in the chapel. It is based on the confidence that every human being possesses enough dignity to let it come to the surface. It is based on the confidence that if people visit the chapel in a true way, they can come to interesting encounters. And that the intertwining of these encounters result in a wonderful program.