zecc architecten: residential church XL
zecc architecten: residential church XL zecc architecten: residential church XL
sep 30, 2011

zecc architecten: residential church XL

‘residential church XL’ by zecc architecten, utrecht, netherlands images © frank hanswijk

dutch practice zecc architecten has completed ‘residential church XL’, an abandoned church located in utrecht, netherlands which has been repurposed and converted into a single family residence. hundreds of empty churches are scattered throughout the netherlands and since 1970 more than 1000 churches have been closed by communities with over 1/3 of those structures being demolished. re-use is the only way to prevent long-lasting vacancy or destruction of the historical layer within the city. the purpose of the re-use of the st-jakobuskerk was to revalue the dignified monument with little interventions as possible. the facade stands inconspicuously along a street at the bemuurde beerd in utrecht city. religious services have no occurred at this location for twenty years and was even used as an antique furniture showroom. the church also served as meeting place and venue for small concerts and dictated the implementation of a large mezzanine floor. this floor was an important factor in the designing process and has been substantially modified to recover and enlarge the interior spatial qualities. partial removal of the floor generated interesting sight lines allowing light to permeate the ground floor. underneath the manipulated floor reside the bedrooms, study and a bathroom. ambient daylight enters through vacant spaces in the floor and openings in walls.

view of church from canal

at the rear of the dwelling, the functional section of the kitchen is adjacent to a dining table created from old pews. to strengthen the relationship with the backyard and to provide additional daylight, three new fenestrations were added. the sleek transparent facades contrast the original stained glass windows allowing colored light to stream through the preserved exterior. the existing wooden floor and doors were retained and repaired where necessary. the new white floor sculpture is pulled away from the original walls, columns and arches. the sleek stucco volume is constructed from steel, wood and sheet metal. closed parapets guide sightlines and encompass the living areas. transparent surfaces within the volume constantly offer another insight of fragments in the interior while simultaneously reflecting historical elements, fusing the old and new.


entry lobby


dining area

view from first level

upper level living room


site plan

floor plan / level 0

floor plan / level 1



designboom has received this project from our ‘DIY submissions’ feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication.

  • Amen!

    GIAR says:
  • Oh my god I want to live there!

    Alex says:
  • Where is the toilet of the master bedroom? Also strange double volume in the middle of that bedroom

    Chris says:
  • Chris, it’s a matter of privacy, each to his own, these are minor issues, it’s still a beautiful project!

    Turner says:
  • @chris. The toilet is at the other end of the bath tub.

    Todd says:
  • Wow, this is the first and only successful church to house retrofit I’ve ever seen. Nicely done. Great furniture, too.

    KDS says:
  • Nice mix between old and new

    SC says:
  • There were inter-changing of civil dwellings and churches in Christian architecture already from the Roman times. We often see medieval chapels built-in in civil houses. There was a state seculaization too…

    So this transformation is nothing new. It is one way of preserving the building.
    However this Dutch church is too big to be used as a privat residence. Fortunately, the modern inner architecture can be removed quite easily, if a better use form comes up… But where are the original sacral furnitures?

    Dr. med. Zoltán George M a y e r de Borszowicky says:
  • Very nice but… how they will have to spend for heating???… I live in The Netherlands and I know that it is not a very warm land!

    Dario says:
  • it’s a nice joice of furnishing and i guess the rooms are quiet ok to life in but there is no respect for the character of a church…i’am shocked!

    sev says:

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