Cologne (DE) * 2018 * Art & Amen * 4 weeks

In Cologne, WochenKlausur developed and tested new uses for a church space on invitation by St. Gereon’s art programme „Art und Amen“.

St. Michael’s, the third largest church in Cologne, is centered in the heart of the Belgium quarter, at Brüsseler Platz. While the square has been debated a lot recently due to its popularity amongst the crowds on weekend nights, the church has been relatively empty for years. Mass, which is held twice a week, is only visited by twenty churchgoers. The church benches, on which 250 people would easily fit, only fill up twice a year - at Eastern and Christmas.

To find out which possibilities of use there are for the almost 1000m2 big church space, WochenKlausur conducted a participatory process. The group systematically engaged in a dialogue with residents and stakeholders, with municipality, politics, church and social services. During four weeks the group had been talking to more than one hundred people. 2000 postcards were distributed in the neighbourhood, a postbox was installed at the church entrance, the facebook page “922m2” was launched and with the help of local media, people were invited to take part in the process. In close cooperation Cologne’s speaker’s corner “Köln spricht” conducted a public debate on the topic at Brüsseler Platz.

The proposed possibilities were diverse - among others, ideas included using the space as a shelter for the homeless, as a winter garden or as a climbing hall. But the wish that was voiced the most was to use the church as an easily accessible common space for the neighbourhood. WochenKlausur then decided to conduct a trial run, during which the space was given to interested groups, people and initiatives. The focus of the concepts was geared towards community based projects. The range of the different events varied from sports, yoga and meditation to choir practice and a concert by refugees. A discussion about church asylum as well as a workshop about the future of Europe took place. The neighborhood gathered around a long table during a “dinner with friends”. To facilitate the usage of the space in different ways, the Cologne association “Niehler Freiheit” suggested small rooms in form of 3x3 meter big cubes. That way, a living room, a small stage, an office space, a meditation room and a cinema were developed and built.

The trial run was such a success that the church council decided only after a couple days to continue the project. WochenKlausur then asked a group of engaged people who will continue making the space available to community interest.

WochenKlausur summarized their findings in a catalogue. You can download the catalogue here. (German only)

Hannah Oellinger, Manfred Rainer, Karl Seiringer, Claudia Eipeldauer, Stefan Wirnsperger, Irmi Fuchs