St. Josef Parish Centre / Frei + Saarinen Architekten

Courtesy of

Architects: Frei + Saarinen Architekten
Location: Zurich,
Design Team: Barbara Frei, Martin Saarinen; Nicolaj Bechtel, Stefan Wülser, Corina Trunz, David Winzeler, Bastien Turpin
Client: Roman-Catholic Church Zurich
Build Area: 1,200 m2 Usable Area
Finishing Material: Floor / Wall / Ceiling
Floor: Brushed, Coloured and Sealed Parquet (Oak)
Completion: 2010
Photographs: Hannes Henz & Frei + Saarinen Architekten

Frei + Saarinen Architekten shared with us their design to convert a 100-years-old Parish Centre in Zurich and implant a new wooden lobby with a unique atmosphere that is generated by a clash of trendy facetted geometries and an old fashioned way of detailing. The geometry of the new lobby is the consequence of stretching the formerly enclosed space towards the facades and respecting the given bearing structure. As a new rooflight accentuates the entrance to the hall, this vertical element also slows down the dynamic character of the lobby. Aditionally, a new apartment for the priest was designed at the top level.

© Nicolaj Bechtel & Stefan Wülser / lobby

Since a part of the former bigger terrace was covered by a roof-extension, a portion of the tilted roof became a tilted interior wall. Thereby a new pentagonal room with four tilted walls is generated – the priest’s new tilted living room. Only two new elements are seen from outside: The new fully glazed entrance to the lobby (the glass is a custom product weighting 1.5 tons) and the new dormer window leading from the priest’s living room to the terrace that can be partly covered by a James-Bond-Marquee.

© Nicolaj Bechtel & Stefan Wülser / lobby

Why a fully mirroring glazed new entrance? The new entrance makes opens the previously introverted lobby an inviting place fore everyone. The new entrance brings light and by being constructed as abstract as possible it’s not a real façade squeezed between two old buildings but just a plane that connects precisely to the existing buildings.

© Nicolaj Bechtel & Stefan Wülser / lobby

Why such a lobby in an old building? The Parish House dates from 1904 and it was converted several times. In fact, there did not exist any original traces to reconstruct. This absence of historical substance (concerning the shape and the surfaces of the lobby) gave the freedom to invent something new. Main idea is to make the new lobby as generous as possible. One intervention is a new faceted continuous ceiling that connects the two lobby-levels (the two levels always existed but the stair is new).

© Hannes Henz / lobby

Why this kind of treatment of the surfaces in the lobby? The wooden cladding and the details make the “shapy” lobby less trendy and generate a homelike atmosphere. The clash of traditional material and contemporary form is quite special. The stripy surfaces make the walls more precious and lead to a “serious” appearance of the space. We think a Perish House should not be too funky but serious.

YouTube Preview Image
Cite: "St. Josef Parish Centre / Frei + Saarinen Architekten" 25 Sep 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 20 Oct 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=274296>
  • Jess

    I love ArchDaily–definitely one of the top, if not THE top, architecture sites out there. But the spelling mistakes are just completely unnecessary. Parish not perish and apartment not appartment. My sincere apologies if either of these is the result of some international language differences, but it seems to happen a lot on this site. Just wanted to point them out, so they could be fixed.