Drive in church is inspired by motorway signage
Siegerland Motorway Church by Schneider & Schumacher is based on a simple pictogram image
In Germany, motorists don’t only worship the gods of Mercedes and BMW. If they’re on the right highway, they can pull over and kneel at a more conventional altar. Dotted around the country are 40 motorway churches, the latest of which is such an attractive piece of architecture that it would be worth a considerable diversion in itself.
To reach Siegerland Motorway Church, take exit 23 on the busy A45 to Elkersberg and pull into Wilnsdorf motorway service area. It’s the design of Schneider & Schumacher, whose HQ is in Frankfurt am Main, and is loosely modelled on the simple pictogram image of a church that is standard signage for highway houses of God around the country. The architects created this three-dimensional interpretation “as a stylised white silhouette of a traditional village church”.
Its sculptural concrete foundation supports the two corner spires and access bridge, while the intricate timber structure within is mostly self-supporting. “The inner dome opens up to the area around the altar, which receives only natural illumination from above through both church spires,” says S&S.
“The filigree wooden vault resembles a delicate cross-ribbed structure”, of interlocking ribs. This all took 66 semi-circular wooden frames to achieve, each made up for 650 separate pieces. Basically it has square walls, but all that curved timber makes for semi-circular interiors. So in the remaining corners are used for back-of-house needs such as the sacristy and storage.
The calm atmosphere is aided by the seats, tables, kneelers and candlesticks, all of which are made from the same wood as the beams. Which gives the platform, alter and back-lit cross all the more stand-out, as they are painted white like the exterior. Costing 1.3m Euros, the Siegerland Motorway Church was entirely financed by donations.
We've featured a number of sacred architectural spaces on Phaidon.com most recently John Pawson's reworking of the St Moritz Church, in Augsburg, Germany. You can read an interview with John Pawson about that here and take a look at our beautiful books with him including the superlative A Visual Inventory in the store. Or maybe for now just browse our online John Pawson content including his great Muse Music playlist.