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Stylised Silhouette: Motorway Church Siegerland

An abstract exterior that clearly signalises: I am a church! The construction costs amounting to EUR 1.3 million were entirely financed by donations. Designed by schneider + schumacher, this is Germany's 40th motorway church.

Architects: schneider + schumacher Architekten, Frankfurt/Main
Location: Motorway Service Area Wilnsdorf, A45 (Exit 23) Elkersberg, 57234 Wilnsdorf, Germany

With regard to the design concept, Prof. Michael Schumacher explains that service stations are places of unmistakable directness: available facilities, such as for eating, sleeping or refuelling, are indicated by large signs. Small towns in a way, the stations however lack spaces of quietness, spaces of beauty. The small "autobahn" church offers to meet these existential needs. In order to be noticed in this environment, the structure adopts just such an unmistakable directness. From far away as well as from the service station itself, the Siegerland Church is perceived as an image that is identical to the motorway church symbol.

Back in 2009, schneider + schumacher won the competition advertised by a friends' association specially formed for the project, the Förderverein Autobahnkirche Siegerland e.V. On German motorways, churches are indicated by a white stylised silhouette of a traditional village church on a blue background. The design by the architects is a three-dimensional interpretation of the church pictogram, which as seen from the motorway or the service station, presents itself as the same white stylised silhouette of a traditional village church.

The new construction consists of a square main structure (church) with two corner spires and an access bridge from the south-west. One enters the church, which appears to grow out of the mountain on closer inspection, via a crossing that turns into a covered entrance. The space inside is completely different to what one might expect from the exterior: an inner dome opens to form an altar area exclusively illuminated from above by natural light entering through the two spires.

The filigree wooden vault construction is reminiscent of a fine rib vault structure. A total of 66 semi-circular wooden frames – each composed of approximately 650 individual components – running vertically and horizontally to each other, make up the inner dome. The interlocking wooden ribs are fitted together through slots in the panels. This imparts the self-supporting construction with an inherent rigidity, making anchorage to the floor with steel brackets only necessary at some points.

All the outer walls of the church were built as wood stud constructions, while the roof and spires were fabricated as wood beam structures. Most of the components were prefabricated in the factory, which led to a shorter and optimised assembly period. The inner and outer sides of the wooden structure were covered with oriented strand boards. The walls of the bridge were built as a timber frame construction, while the base was made of steel girders clad with oriented strand boards on either side.

A white façade was specified to the church its homogeneous appearance. This required the exterior wooden surfaces to be coated with a polyurethane spray sealant that also protects the building against moisture and wear.

Project dataClient: Autobahnkirche Siegerland e.V.Structural engineering/Building physics: B+G Ingenieure Bollinger und Grohmann GmbHAllocation procedure: Competition 03/2009Building period: March 2011 – May 2013Building costs: approx. EUR 1.3 millionPlot size: approx. 500 m²GFA: approx. 240 m² Gross volume, above ground: approx. 2,050 m3 Dimensions: approx. 14.00 x 14.00 m plus access bridge

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