Works Appreciate
Works Appreciate


IAI Best Design Award- Public Architecture

Project Name:HARMONIOUS EVOLUTION - Huaxiang Church Community Centre

Winner name:

Dirk U. Moench (Switzerland)

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Religious Architecture, Heritage Preservation



Fuzhou, China, 2015 - 2018

A Memory from the Past, a Hope for the Future:

When Fuzhou’s Huaxiang Church was built in 1938, its steeple was the only vertical structure emerging from an ocean of traditional Ming-style residences. During the last three decades, however, the city centre of Fuzhou has undergone a dramatic process of urbanization, and the picturesque skyline with its characteristic roofs has almost entirely vanished. Today, the little church finds itself at the bottom of a veritable maze of shopping malls and office blocks. In dire need for additional spaces the congregation of Huaxiang decided to build a supporting community centre on a plot of land adjacent to the historical building.

In the Eye of The Storm:

The challenges imposed on the project were extraordinary: Firstly, the functional and spatial requirements were conflicting with height and area restrictions imposed by the heritage authority onto the historically protected area. Secondly, surrounded by obstacles on all sides, the building would hardly be visible from the public streets. Thirdly, the adjacency to the old church and an uncommunicative environment of buildings high and low, modern and traditional, Eastern and Western, demanded a clear attitude regarding the relationship of old and new architecture.

HARMONIOUS EVOLUTION - Rethinking tradition and giving it new meaning:

Our design convinced client and government authorities alike as it harmonizes such imbalances by adopting the role of an urban mediator: Subtly folding its contours and modulating its vertical development in a continuous up-and-down movement, the volume is visually scaled down into fragments, allowing this seven-times larger structure to relate in proportion and silhouette to the tiny church at its side. The fragments decrease in height the closer they are to the historic building, showcasing its bell tower and evoking the impression of an organically grown skyline.

The community centre’s fa?ade is finished in red granite similar to the old church – tumbled down to smooth pebbles and applied to the walls using a pebble dash technique once typical for the local architecture and now almost entirely forgotten. In a religious sense, this infinitude of pebbles translates into matter the dual nature of the word “Church”, which refers not only to the single building itself, but also to the sum of all individual Christians which compose it.  On a human level, it gives the Community Centre a haptic quality, warm and comforting to the human hand and always provoking a smile on the faces of adults and children who touch it.

Functionally, the organization of the building corresponds to the client’s needs by providing a range of multifunctional spaces. As a central piece of this strategy, the roof top areas are conceived as publicly accessible open-air amphitheatres allowing the community to hold outdoor assemblies or enjoy being elevated from the worries of the world below. Seen from the neighbouring buildings, however, it constitutes a dramatic stage of urban proportions, upon which the community shares its joy with the city. The new community centre therefore embodies a change in the congregation’s attitude: from an isolated venue in an urban backstreet situation, to a community that now wants to open its heart to the world, reach out and make a positive contribution to the city!

Only a few months after completion the roofscape has already become a popular hang- out place for the youth and serves as viewing platform from which locals and tourists enjoy an unobstructed view onto the city’s historic district.