Launch Slideshow

Image

Detail: Reading Between the Lines for a Church Made of Metal

Detail: Reading Between the Lines for a Church Made of Metal

  • Reading between the Lines, an installation by Belgian architecture firm Gijs Van Vaerenbergh

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp3E9F%2Etmp_tcm20-1573269.jpg

    Reading between the Lines, an installation by Belgian architecture firm Gijs Van Vaerenbergh

    600

    Kristof Vrancken / Z33 PIT

    Reading between the Lines, an installation by Belgian architecture firm Gijs Van Vaerenbergh

  • The installation consists of 100 layers of metal plates spaced apart with short columns.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp3EA0%2Etmp_tcm20-1573280.jpg

    The installation consists of 100 layers of metal plates spaced apart with short columns.

    600

    Kristof Vrancken / Z33 PIT

    The installation consists of 100 layers of metal plates spaced apart with short columns.

  • Isometric drawing

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp3EA1%2Etmp_tcm20-1573291.jpg

    Isometric drawing

    600

    Gijs Van Vaerenbergh

    Isometric drawing

  • Section detail showing the church divided into sections for crane lifts.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp3EA2%2Etmp_tcm20-1573297.jpg

    Section detail showing the church divided into sections for crane lifts.

    600

    Gijs Van Vaerenbergh

    Section detail showing the church divided into sections for crane lifts.

  • A team of two to three people needed one week to organize the 33 tons of Cor-Ten steel pieces by their layer number.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp3EA3%2Etmp_tcm20-1573307.jpg

    A team of two to three people needed one week to organize the 33 tons of Cor-Ten steel pieces by their layer number.

    600

    Gijs Van Vaerenbergh

    A team of two to three people needed one week to organize the 33 tons of Cor-Ten steel pieces by their layer number.

  • The installation contains 2,000 columns, or spacers, between the layers.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp3EA4%2Etmp_tcm20-1573312.jpg

    The installation contains 2,000 columns, or spacers, between the layers.

    600

    Gijs Van Vaerenbergh

    The installation contains 2,000 columns, or spacers, between the layers.

  • The team welded the layers and columns into groups that the crane could lift into place on site.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp3EA5%2Etmp_tcm20-1573324.jpg

    The team welded the layers and columns into groups that the crane could lift into place on site.

    600

    Gijs Van Vaerenbergh

    The team welded the layers and columns into groups that the crane could lift into place on site.

  • Workers bolted the base layer of metal to the installation's concrete foundation.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp3EA6%2Etmp_tcm20-1573327.jpg

    Workers bolted the base layer of metal to the installation's concrete foundation.

    600

    Kristof Vrancken / Z33 PIT

    Workers bolted the base layer of metal to the installation's concrete foundation.

  • Assembling the shop-welded sections into place took just one day.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp3EA7%2Etmp_tcm20-1573339.jpg

    Assembling the shop-welded sections into place took just one day.

    600

    Kristof Vrancken / Z33 PIT

    Assembling the shop-welded sections into place took just one day.

  • The completed installation in its pastoral landscape

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp3EA8%2Etmp_tcm20-1573347.jpg

    The completed installation in its pastoral landscape

    600

    Kristof Vrancken / Z33 PIT

    The completed installation in its pastoral landscape

  • Gijs Van Vaerenbergh located the spacers with a tolerance of plus-or-minus 15 centimeters to avoid creating a pattern.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp3EA9%2Etmp_tcm20-1573355.jpg

    Gijs Van Vaerenbergh located the spacers with a tolerance of plus-or-minus 15 centimeters to avoid creating a pattern.

    600

    Kristof Vrancken / Z33 PIT

    Gijs Van Vaerenbergh located the spacers approximately 30 to 90 centimeters apart with a tolerance of plus-or-minus 15 to 30 centimeters to avoid creating a pattern.

  • Inside the installation

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp3EAA%2Etmp_tcm20-1573361.jpg

    Inside the installation

    600

    Kristof Vrancken / Z33 PIT

    Inside the installation

A church can be the crux of one’s life, or simply a physical structure that blends into its surroundings. This range in meaning serves as the basis for Reading between the Lines, an art installation by design firm Gijs Van Vaerenbergh.

Architects Pieterjan Gijs and Arnout Van Vaerenbergh won a competition, held by Belgian art museum Z33, to create a public space in Borgloon, Belgium, that addressed the town’s relationship with its churches.

Though only half of the town’s 24 churches are still in use, Van Vaerenbergh says, “every­body recognizes them and sees them as the center of the community. They are landmarks in the landscape.” The duo experimented with transparency by crossing the church experience with the landscape experience.

Nestled in a picturesque valley along a popular walking trail, the site allows visitors to see the installation from different elevations and scales as they move closer or farther away.

After considering fabric and concrete, the firm decided to use Cor-Ten steel. “It was quite logical in a way,” Van Vaerenbergh says. Not only could the oxidized metal weather the elements, but it also allowed the pair “to reduce the volume of our sculpture to a minimum such that only the essential part of it was left.”

A nearby church provided the base shape and proportions. “We wanted to refer to the most psychological form of a church,” Van Vaerenbergh says. A laser scan captured the building’s dimensions, from which the archi­tects created digital and physical models. “We started with the full form of the church and then started cutting it,” Van Vaerenbergh says. The ratio of 1 centimeter metal to 9 centi­meters of opening maintained the typological form while allowing the landscape to show through.

The 10-meter-tall (33-feet-tall) sculpture could easily divide into 100 10-centimeter-tall layers. It also meant that the team had to create 100 plan drawings for Belgian metal fabricator Cravero. Each plan was marked with the locations of the approximately 2,000 spacers, or columns, that hold the metal layers afloat. The team directed its software programs—Rhino and Grasshopper—to space the columns differently for every layer using the general formula of x plus or minus y, where x ranged from 30 to 90 centimeters and y from 15 to 30 centimeters.

Seven weeks after submitting its drawings to Cravero, the team received the 33 tons of laser-cut metal pieces. Though each piece was numbered, organizing the layers—which could comprise multiple pieces if the layer included the piers between windows—took one week. Shop-welding the layers and spacers together into groups that a crane could then hoist into place on site required another three weeks.

The team’s extensive planning efforts paid off. On installation day, Sept. 24, 2011, “We started early in the morning, and the pieces were already there,” Van Vaerenbergh says. “We ended before dinner.”

Visitors have brought their own preconceptions to analyzing the installation’s meaning. “Some people say, ‘Ah, finally, a transparent church!’ ” Van Vaerenbergh says. But the piece, he says, isn’t intended to make any religious statement. Instead, the “space in between the form is [meant] to leave room for interpretation.”

Note: This article has been updated since first publication to correct the algorithm used for the column spacing between layers. Reading between the Lines was one installation in Z33's Pit project, which comprises a series of art installations that encourage visitors to see the landscape of the Borgloon-Heers region of Belgium in a different light.