Page D1.2 . 16 September 2009                     
ArchitectureWeek - Design Department
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Church of Books


Over 20 models were made by the architects before they found the correct solution for this unusual walk-up sales and display area. The structure they used does not actually touch the architecture of the church, in honor of the original function of the building.

The architects seem to take some pleasure in explaining that "the former altar now houses the 'Coffeelovers' cafe with a large central reading table shaped as a cross." This table and other furniture for the cafeteria were designed by Merkx + Girod.

The designers won a prestigious Dutch award for this project in 2007, the Lensvelt de Architect Interior Prize. The jury's comment on their work deserves to be cited:

"In Maastricht, Merkx + Girod Architecten have created a contemporary bookshop in a former Dominican church, preserving the unique landmark setting.

"The church has been restored to its former glory and the utilities equipment has been housed in the extended cellar. In order to preserve the character of the church while achieving the desired commercial square footage, the architects erected a two-story structure in black steel on one side, where the books are kept.

"Keeping the shop arrangement on the other side low created a clear and decipherable shop. The jury was very impressed by these spatial solutions, as well as by the gorgeous lighting plan. The combination of book complex and church interior was deemed particularly successful."

Merkx + Girod Architecten

In 1985, Evelyne Merkx set up her own interior design studio. She started working with architect Patrice Girod in 1990, and in 1996 they founded the firm of Merkx + Girod Architecten, for both architecture and interior design.

Merkx + Girod has its own materials and model studio, where research and development on form, materials, color, and skin is carried out. The firm designs interiors for privately owned buildings, as well as complete strategies for large and complex interiors of public buildings, in which the logistical and functional requirements are integrated into a coherent spatial vision. Its projects include restaurants, museums, department stores, shops, private residences, offices, and public buildings. The firm now employs a staff of 34 people in Amsterdam.

Evelyne Merkx was born in 1947 in Heerlen, Netherlands. She worked as a project leader with the advertising agency of the Bijenkorf Department Stores (1968-1973), and studied interior design at the Rietveld Academy, Amsterdam (1979-1984).

Patrice Girod was born in 1937 in Strasbourg, France. He studied architecture at the Technische Universiteit of Delft (1957-1963) before forming Cahen and Girod Architects (1962-1966), Cahen Girod and Groeneveld Architects (1966-1970), and Girod and Groeneveld Architects (1970-1990).

Aside from the Selexyz bookstores, the pair worked on the interior design of the HEMA and Bijenkorf department stores (1995-2003) and on the master plan for the renovation of the Concertgebouw Amsterdam (1995-). They completed the interior of the Ernst & Young headquarters in Amsterdam (2008). They are currently working on the renovation and extension of the Dutch Council of State in the Hague (phase 1: 2008).

Discuss this article in the Architecture Forum...

Philip Jodidio studied art history and economics at Harvard, and edited Connaissance des Arts for over 20 years. His books include Taschen's Architecture Now! series, Building a New Millennium, and monographs on Tadao Ando, Norman Foster, Richard Meier, Jean Nouvel, Zaha Hadid.

This article is excerpted from Architecture Now! 6 by Philip Jodidio, copyright © 2009, with permission of the publisher, Taschen.

Project Credits

Project: Selexyz Dominicanen Bookstore, Maastricht, Netherlands
Architect: Merkx + Girod Architecten (Amsterdam)
Restoration: Satijnplus Architecten (Born, Netherlands)


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The new structure wraps around one arched colonnade, projecting equally into the nave and an aisle.
Photo: Roos Aldershoff Fotografie Extra Large Image

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The church's curving apse encloses seating for the Selexyz Dominicanen Bookstore cafe.
Photo: Roos Aldershoff Fotografie Extra Large Image

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The cafe counter extends beyond the apse.
Photo: Roos Aldershoff Fotografie Extra Large Image

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Selexyz Dominicanen Bookstore floor plan drawing.
Image: Merkx + Girod Architecten Extra Large Image

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In the aisle, the mezzanine level of the new bookstore structure brings visitors quite close to the vaulted ceiling.
Photo: Roos Aldershoff Fotografie Extra Large Image

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Bookshelves fill niches throughout the Selexyz Dominicanen Bookstore.
Photo: Roos Aldershoff Fotografie Extra Large Image

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Circulation within the Selexyz Dominicanen mezzanine is organized around the arches of the colonnade.
Photo: Roos Aldershoff Fotografie Extra Large Image

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Architecture Now! 6 by Philip Jodidio.
Image: Taschen Extra Large Image


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