LocationRitten, Province of Bolzano - South Tyrol, Italy
Architects in ChargeDavid Messner, Verena Messner
Text description provided by the architects. The church in Stella is an appreciated spiritual place for people from far and wide, not least because it is located along the popular Sigmund Freud path in the alpine woods at 1300 m.a.s.l.
The conversion and renovation of the building dating back to the fifties is aimed at reevaluating the existing structure and making it more attractive.
The east facade of the building was broken through to provide the church interior with more daylight. The huge rectangular opening behind the presbytery bathes the interior in light and underlines the pursuit of linking inside to outside, in a way spiritual to profane. The fleeting glimpse inside is claiming people’s attention and stimulating to enter the church.
The prevailing ‚genius loci‘, the spirit of the place, is strikingly expressed with the phrase ‚church in the wood‘ . The framed view is characterized by a continuously changing landscape in the course of the seasons. The contemplation of nature gives the opening its highly meditative meaning.
Inside the church the previously existing height difference between presbytery and nave is reduced and replaced by a ramp with an incised canyon. The configuration as a ramp dissolves the separation of the space and creates the impression of a shaped landscape.
A freestanding panel of translucent glass opposite to the front door works as a protective and informative shield.
The reconfiguration of the prebytery originates with the recently passed away artist Franz Messner. Solid monoliths of a local variety of gneissic rock rest on the translucent glass bases. The light breaks through the fragile bases and makes the heavy masses hover above the ground. The weightlessness of the design strongly expresses the aspiration for the divine and the closeness to heaven.
In the course of the conversion the previously unused attic floor was restructured and recovered as a place for meditation, silence and retreat. The attic floor consists in an entrance area with a cloakroom, a restroom, a storage room and a spacious event room.
The entire timber-framed supporting structure was demolished and substituted by a three-hinged arch. The subsequently unsupported tent-like space was improved in its physical properties by insulating the wood-shingled roof. The brickwork of the western gable was demolished to further provide the meditation space with daylight.
The entire surface of the gable wall is closed by a glass facade which opens up the view to the piazza. A stepped terrace enlarges the meditation space with an attractive free area connecting inside to outside visually and mentally too.
In the end only two architectural interventions determine the conversion of the church in the wood. On one hand it is the breakthrough of the sacred space to the landscape, on the other hand it is the opening of the gable to the piazza. Both interventions trigger off a dialogue between inside and outside, in other words between the man-made and the grown.
Ease and coziness inspirit the tend-like meditation space.
Brightness and peace ensoul the sacred space.