Crystal Talk
Text: Oliver HerwigPhotos: Andrea Altemüller, Stefan Müller Neumann, Simone Rosenberg


Arbeiten nagler


In the 1980s one of the mottos the churches bandied about was “tear down walls, build bridges”. Nowadays the two Christian faiths are going down new paths, moving together in terms of premises but surrounding themselves with a wall. The wall was a thorn in the side of the residents of the new development in the Riem district of Munich, which was built on the site of the former airport, on several accounts. Ten-meter high walls. That took some getting used to for those living in the vicinity. Nowadays no one gets incensed by the church center, on the contrary. It has become as established as the pine trees on thee square where it stands. Compared with the neighboring shopping mall and its rear wall the whitewashed brick wall comes across as pleasantly reserved. Twelve meters of white. The perimeter wall might well have turned out higher.
One spire, two denominations. Two thirds of the ensemble belongs to the Catholic Church, the rest the Bavarian Evangelical-Lutheran Church. A white wall with deep indents surrounds the complex. Following one of the alleyways to the heart of the complex leads visitors to a series of open courtyards and roof terraces with greenery. A small city within a city has emerged here, a sort of modern monastery with a kindergarten, two parish centers and two separate churches. Though enshrined in the mesh of the parishes the places of worship are recognizably independent. It is calm. Quiet rooms open up, a place for concentrating on one’s faith. Both the churches are striking for their clear proportions, attracting our gaze as it ascends the walls before coming to rest on the wooden load-bearing frame in the ceiling. Bustling Neu-Riem is far away; and yet so close.


One associates the Neuperlach district of Munich with concrete. Residential blocks, a shopping mall. Work catching up on urbanizing the neighborhood began in late fall 2001, with a temporary edifice, a 773 square meter community center. This ‘wooden box’ was made of prefabricated container elements that together formed a presentable square measuring 30 by 30 meters, which opens up by means of a wide glass front and doors. Solid walls shield the event venue in the middle, which is surrounded by offices, the kitchen and the Internet café. The auditorium has a 200 capacity, which can easily be increased to 300 if the floor-to-ceiling sliding doors to the foyer are opened. Each of the heavy doors disappears in pockets in the wall between two container elements, creating even more space that extends as far as beneath the canopy and across Hanns-Seidl-Platz. There can scarcely be a more pleasant welcoming gesture.

Much about the edifice seems paradox: It is designed as a temporary structure, and yet exudes solidity; it is located on the edge of the square and, with its clear fronts adds a sense of calm to the busy architecture all around. The temporary nature of the community center is recognizable by the decidedly simple materials, oriented strand boards, a plastic floor, and the spartan fittings. It does not, however, look cheap, on the contrary. The strict rhythm of the prefabricated elements makes it self-contained and gives it and formal strength. From the side we view, which, observed from the corner of one’s eye, does have something of Mies’ National Gallery about it, to the emergency exit at the rear, everything appears to be a single piece. On the inside natural light that enters evenly, without glare, through a polycarbonate ceiling provides additional formal space. Florian Nagler left nothing to chance. But scarcely has the structure been erected than its time is running out. At some point the box is going to have to surrender and make room for the permanent community and cultural center. But it is a well known fact that temporary things survive for a particularly long time.