Church - Sonnenbühl (D)

A modern church

A church in Germany rejects the architectural conventions of places of worship. Lacking a steeple and other architectural elements, it stands out for its use of neutral colour tones and natural light
Benedetto Marzullo
Mario P. Rodrigues
Thomas Bamberg, Bamberg Architektur BDA
Wohlfahrt & Wohlfahrt
Year of completion

A pure volume, or rather two. This, in a nutshell, is the design principle behind the hyper-modern church created by German architect Thomas Bamberg in Sonnenbühl, a small town with a population of 7,000 people in the district of Tübingen, Germany. The town consists of small houses immersed in a bucolic green landscape that contrasts sharply with the outline of the church. The church itself is a pure geometric solid that is completely white apart from a few surfaces clad with hewn stone blocks, a concession to vernacular architecture that nonetheless maintains an utterly contemporary look. It is clear, purposeful architecture that fits into the natural setting with elegance and sensibility as well as great self-assurance. With its rigour and formal purity, the building emerges powerfully while at the same time creating a harmonious counterpoint with the landscape. The elevation on the longest side leading to the central nave has a low parallelepiped shape that rises towards the internal section containing the altar. Here the profile takes on the shape of a triangle, perhaps in an allusion to the divine. The building lacks a steeple and other superfluous architectural element. The openings also have a very clear design. There are no windows on the side of the building, only openings in the volume that invite the faithful to enter from the end and from the side doors. There are just two almost full-height windows located in the corners of the taller section, which appear larger from inside the church. A long slit-like opening in the roof allows light to flood into the nave from above.
The chromatic and textural continuity between the interior and exterior is achieved using ceramic floor tiles in the common areas in front of the entrance and in the space used for the religious services. Spatial balance is achieved through the powerful but discreet presence of porcelain tiles laid in a precise installation pattern. A different layout is used in the central aisle between the two rows of pews as though to invite the congregation to the altar to take communion. Tiles chosen in a 30×60 cm size and in the Mineral Chrom, Grigio Egeo and Mineral Beige colours from the Marte collection by Casalgrande Padana are used in combination with natural stone blocks and pale wood. The consistent choice of materials and colours — based on neutral tones combined with the white colour of the walls — plays a vital role as a distinctive compositional element contributing to environmental quality. The entire project is distinguished by a quest for harmony and simplicity, concepts that are inextricably bound up with the building’s function as a place of worship.

Casalgrande Padana, Marte, Mineral Chrom
porcelain stoneware
30x60 cm
Grigio Egeo, Mineral Beige
Technical characteristics
Water absorpion (ISO 10545-3): < 0,1%
Chemical resistance (ISO 10545-13): compliant
Resistance to deep abrasion (ISO 10545-6): compliant
Stain resistance (ISO 10545-14): compliant
Frost resistance (ISO 10545-12): compliant
Modulus of rupture and breaking strength (ISO 10545-4): 50÷60 N/mm2
Slip resistance (DIN 51130): > 0,7 in matt
Thermal shock resistance (ISO 10545-9): compliant
Crazing resistance (ISO 10545-11): compliant
Linear thermal expansion (ISO 10545-8): compliant
Certifications and awards
ISO 14001
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