Concrete & Religion

Designer church in raw concrete

The days when concrete was not considered aesthetic are finally over. We present Østerhåb Church in Horsens.

At first glance it doesn’t look like a church. There is no cross and even the bell tower fails to catch the eye. It looks more like a modern office building in the middle of an area of detached houses.

Yet it is impossible to take your eyes off the architectural marvel. To put it in a divine context, one might almost say that you are dragged inside - if nothing else, out of curiosity.

And that is also the intention ...

- There are many odd angles, which make you want to look around the next corner. In fact, you have to go all the way around the church, and all this concrete, to get into it, says the priest of Torsted Parish, Anita Fabricius and continues.

- Then you also just have time to throw away some of the everyday thoughts before going into the special space that the church is.

A new beginning

The church is mainly built using IBF-delivered stone and concrete, where concrete is especially a major part of the decoration, and let us dwell a little on that. It is very far from the association of 1970s depressing concrete buildings to today's way of exploiting the material’s characteristics. Østerhåb Church is standing proof of this.

- Concrete is indeed a hard material, but when you look at the many features in the church, it actually seems incredibly soft. It really welcomes you when you come in and in terms of acoustics, it is also fantastic, says the enthusiastic priest.

One reason may be found in Østerhåb’s lack of perpendicular corners and the many eye-catching surfaces, which signal a liberating and contemporary openness. The 400 m2 concrete foundation offers, among other things, welcome with an impressive outdoor church space and minute attention to detail, such as the bell-tower staircase that is made of pure, raw concrete.

All together it creates a spectacular reinterpretation of the traditional Danish village church.

The church and design come together in synthesis

Østerhåb is a place where the congregation should feel welcome and even though historically the concrete building stands in stark contrast to this, the mission is completely successful.

- We fill the church Sunday after Sunday and it's not just with those who usually come. There are new people who completely unsolicited say "Wow, how wonderful - I never thought that I should feel at home in a church," explains Anita Fabricius.

For the parish priest, there is therefore nothing standing in the way of the church being combined with concrete and design. When the three elements come together in synthesis, then it may actually contribute to creating a new, more modern space for the benefit of all.

- When you enter a traditional church, you also almost step back one thousand years in time. So the hymns and what is being said perhaps may seem a bit irrelevant.

- But with this new church, it all seems not as heavy on people. It appears somehow easier, because we are in a contemporary setting, tells the young priest.

And it is precisely one of the great strengths of concrete, which in recent years has reinvented itself - its raw look and soft kindness imparts simplicity to all the places it is used.