China, Beijing  

Christian Church


Competition 2004 - 1st prize
Design Meinhard von Gerkan
Partner Stephan Schütz
Team Stephan Rewolle, Gero Heimann, Katrin Kanus, Ralf Sieber, Xia Lin, Gregor Hoheisel
Client China Zhongguancun Culture Development Co., Ltd. 
Gross floor area 4,000 m²
Building period 2005-2007



Christian Gahl

This design for the largest Christian church in China is characterized by a Chinese type of "triple p", meaning public-private partnership with commercial spaces on the ground floor, and by its striking facade rod system.
With its free, curved shape, the building forms a solitaire in the open space between Zhongguancun Cultural Tower and "city of books". The shape of the church body made it possible to keep open the sightline to the south media facade of the Cultural Tower and to create equally dynamic open spaces through to the surrounding buildings. The overriding aim is to set off the church from the latter's commercial use in aesthetic terms, i.e. by giving it a curving facade in order to emphasize its religious function. A pleasantly proportioned urban square will be laid out to the south, between the church and the department store opposite. This square can be used for café and restaurant terraces; most of the commercial outlets are oriented to it.

The entrance for clergy and church employees is placed on the north-west side and gives access to the west-oriented side chapel as well as to stairways and a lift to all the floors of the church building.
The entrance to the main church hall from the street to the east faces north-east and the Zhongguancun Cultural Tower further away. The symbol of the cross, identifying the building as a Christian church, develops from the facade rod system. Through a large portal-type door, worshippers mount a stairway to enter the main church hall on the first upper floor. Here they turn east towards the altar. With its alternation of openings and massive wall sections, the facade rod system creates a special lighting atmosphere, matching the ecclesiastical function of the space.

The parish offices and community spaces are on the second and third upper floors of the south and west wings so that the design creates a striking stepped overall building mass. Some of the upper-floor spaces open onto a roof terrace - a substitute for the former church yard - that offers parishioners an attractive outdoor space. There is also the option to use the roof of the main church hall as a terrace, should the need for additional outdoor community space arise at some later date.

The rod system forms a unifying building skin which lets in sufficient daylight and at the same time decisively counteracts the impression of a heterogeneous structure.