Double Church for Two Faiths / Kister Scheithauer Gross Architects And Urban Planners

© Christian Richters

Architects: Kister Scheithauer Gross Architects And Urban Planners
Location: Freiburg im Breisgau,
Architect In Charge: Susanne Gross
Project Leader: Sándor Forgó
Photographs: Christian Richters

Design Team: Adrian Betz, Jim Cassidy, Etienne Fuchs, Bastian Giese, Jörn Knop, Eric Mertens, Maren Meyer, Barbara Schaeffer, Nadeshda Sokolova, Dagmar von Strantz, Anja Strumpf, Nathan Ward, Nadine Willkomm, Klaus Zeller
Structure: Dr. Wolfgang Naumann & Partner
Ha Technology: Planerwerkstatt Hölken Berghoff
Lighting Concept: Planungsgruppe Burgert
Client: Protestant Maria-Magdalena-Community

Two churches, one Protestant and one Catholic, have been erected in one building on the central square of a new district of the city of Freiburg, Germany. The building is designed in fair-faced concrete both on the inside and out. The design of the multi-aisle structure makes it possible to move the limiting inner walls of both churches to the side and then use the resulting area as an ecumenical church space.

© Christian Richters

The building, with an overall height of 13 metres, is partly a single-storey structure, progressing to four storeys at times. The length of the building is limited by two 40-metre long walls in a free geometrical form: the walls are slightly “folded“ at irregular intervals and are inclined inwards and outwards. In this geometry, the west wall is double-walled with a wall thickness of two metres. Together with the inclined embrasures, the thickness of the wall creates a marked light for the church area.

© Christian Richters

All the walls, including the interior walls which can be moved on rails, are made from fair-faced concrete. The moveable walls are approx. eight metres high and are moved by electric motors. Each wall weighs approx. twenty-two tons. These four walls were first constructed outside the actual building. With the aid of heavy-duty armatures, they were then hoisted by crane over the outer walls and set on the rails.

© Christian Richters

All the outer walls are made monolithically from lightweight aggregate concrete to avoid any necessary thermal insulating layer. The walls are approx. 40 centimetres thick to achieve the heat insulation values required.

© Christian Richters

The construction firm contracted had the task of creating an almost non-porous surface homogenous in colour despite the high viscosity of the lightweight aggregate concrete and the inclined form panels. Another requirement was to design the breaks in the walls in a single, continuous line over the overall height of the building.

© Christian Richters

Building Construction
In conjunction with the company responsible for statics, a hybrid building shell construction was developed, in other words a complex, static system made from B25 lightweight aggregate concrete for thermally insulating the exterior fair-faced concrete walls and from B25 normal concrete for the remaining supporting constructions.

© Christian Richters

A statics 3-D model was developed from the two-dimensional architectural plans. The floor plans were represented by finite elements, each comprising the shape and quality of the walls. The rigid structure distributes the load onto the lower foundation soil while making optimum use of the permitted foundation pressure. The overall system makes it possible to accurately  determine the carry-over forces to the construction joints of the walls. Further development on the 3-D model based on statics calculations meant that three-dimensional geometrical plans of the form panels could be created so that the construction firm contracted was able to reliably develop the form panel system.

© Christian Richters

To create a very pale concrete from the natural colours of cement and aggregates without the addition of pigments, approx. eight sample walls were created. These samples were also used to test concreting the most geometrically complex parts, such as backwards-inclining walls. The outer walls were concreted in three sections with a height of approx. four and a half metres.

© Christian Richters

The form panels were cut at the factory using digital patterns and were delivered to the construction site in complete modules.

© Christian Richters

Due to the unusually high ambient temperatures (summer 2003), in conjunction with the large wall thickness, the hydration heat when setting the concrete resulted in temperatures which meant that temporary formwork water cooling was required.

© Christian Richters

Building Services Engineering
A floor heating system, powered by urban district heating, was installed in all the rooms. The rainwater reservoir deployed enhances the range of possible uses of the water in the sanitary facilities.


Energy Saving
As the city of Freiburg functions as a role model with regard to low-energy buildings, all public buildings are constructed in accordance with the Low Energy Building Standard as per the Freiburg calculation method. This results in a permitted thermal energy consumption value of 65 KWh/(m2a) for areas with normal temperature. The existing energy consumption is 59 KWh/(m2a) and thereby clearly meets the specifications.


View this project in Google Maps

* Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address.
Cite: "Double Church for Two Faiths / Kister Scheithauer Gross Architects And Urban Planners" 23 Dec 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 22 May 2015. <>
  • Hubert Pelletier

    Germans copying chinese. The world is changing.

    • allison prisly

      why did u say that? copy what?

      • Sanji Nami

        The building’s form closely resembles Wang Shu’s Ningbo Museum.

    • Mariano Managò

      quite the opposite… the ningbo museum was built in 2008 while the maria-magdalena-kirche in freiburg was already built in 2004…

    • Mariano Managò

      the ningbo museum was built in 2008 and the maria magdalena church in 2004, so i guess things didn’t change that much :)

  • Pingback: Double Church for Two Faiths | Kister Scheithauer Gross Architects and Urban Planners | Arch|dez|art

  • Lee

    It is nice to read about the background, the structural aspects and the construction of the building, things that are not obvious from the pics and the drawings. I really like these kinds of articles.

  • Son

    Wang Shu’s Ningbo Museum looks like that but both is totally different. The Architecture is not explained only by exterior. that is non-sense. You have to make clearly what is purpose to build that architecture and what is most important focus and so on..