The newly constructed building of the Parish Centre Kirchschlag tries to cater to the needs of a jointly controlled parish without a local pastor.
The parish centre, consisting of two cubic structures, closes at a right angle with the parish church and marks a place, which opens onto an adjacent green area. Many groups who enrich community life find space for their activities in this centre. The development axes and the large windows flood the interior with natural light and indicate openness and transparency. Due to flexible room dividers as well as portable stage and bar elements, the multi-purpose parish hall can be adjusted to fit events of all kinds and sizes.
The concept, which was developed together with the theologian and parish council chairman Ferdinand Kaineder, is the interface between the sanctuary of the church and parish centre. This construction solution deserves special attention: gold-coloured, polished brass plate (‘TECU gold’) and the biblical Emmaus story inscribed on glass areas line the transparent space, all of which direct the light into the mortuary located beneath the parish centre. It presents itself as an architectural metaphor of the Christian idea of salvation that bestows ‘a golden glow in dark hours’ upon the mourners.
On the role of the ‘client’
In the case of a community or organisation being the client, relevant individuals (mayor, managing director…) take on most of the negotiation process, and sometimes even the decision-making role. Though there are assertive individuals within the Parish Community of Kirchschlag, the ultimate responsibility for important decisions cannot be delegated to a single person. Kirchschlag is a parish without a parish priest. Laymen carry and shape the community life and also take on the major parts of the pastoral duties.
Kirchschlag is a truly vibrant parish, in which many people do volunteer work in various fields. The architecture of the new parish centre takes this fact into account and accommodates their respective needs in particular, as well as the layman oriented community and pastoral work in general. It offers space and flexible infrastructure for the various groups and initiatives, such as the Parish Youth Group, various committees of the Parish Pastoral Council, the Theatre Group and the parish library.
During the construction phase, it became obvious how much the individual ‘clients’ identified with ‘their’ community centre. The weekly construction meetings were always held at 6.30 in the morning, in order to allow all working members of the community to participate. After the dedication of the Parish Centre in late June 2008, a total of 70 front door keys were handed over to the different groups.
“Here and there, people have asked me ‘Why do we need a new parish hall if we do not have a pastor?’ The 70 keys are the answer to this question”, explains Ferdinand Kaineder, chairman of the Parish Parochial Council Kirchschlag.