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Focus on research

Adaptive Reuse Churches, Hasselt University

In line with Roel De Ridder his PhD thesis on the future of Flanders’ parish churches (2013), the ArcK research group has been conducting research for several municipalities and Catholic church committees. What connects these projects is a strong emphasis on participation. Flanders’ parish churches are mostly underused, as is the case in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, etcetera. What makes them unique however is their mode of management. Parish churches in Flanders are public property and so-called fabric committees (kerkfabrieken in Dutch) – small boards of local volunteers – take care of the maintenance of the buildings and the practical organization of what happens inside (services,…). The Belgian municipalities in turn are obliged to handle the very likely deficits. The fabric committees thus link the Catholic church with both the (local) Civic Society and several official policy levels, as they operate somewhere in between.

Together with the fabric committees, other volunteers, parishioners and nearby residents, quite a few actions are undertaken for the duration of each research project. The goal is not only to involve these people and groups but also to make them the real owners of the processes. After all, when the research group leaves, it is up to the locals to take care of the church building.

Briefing sessions are being organized to literally write the (architectural) briefs, i.e. the assignments the research group receives from the local community to look at the building from another point of view. However sometimes very traditional regarding the role of Faith in contemporary society, parishioners are usually rather open minded with regard to the future of their parish church: as long as a core of religious meaning is maintained, other kinds of utilization are absolutely possible. Apart from briefing workshops, additional participatory moments such as design reviews and focus group sessions take place, as well as lots and lots of meetings with fabric committees, central church boards, municipalities and so on, all in order to further envision new futures.


Hasselt University, Faculty of Architecture and Arts, Research Group ArcK
Agoralaan building E, 3590 Diepenbeek, Belgium
T. + 32 (0)11 292119
roel.deridder@uhasselt.be
www.fac-ark.be/


 



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