While churches invariably stand at the heart of their locality, their central role in society has shifted over time. In Thuringia, 99% of the nearly 2000 protestant churches are historic listed buildings. Architecturally and culturally, they serve as defining landmarks and bearers of identity but the sheer number of buildings in need of upkeep presents a challenge.
Aside from the expense of their maintenance, many are no longer regularly in use. As the number of churchgoers decreases, church congregations find it increasingly difficult to look after their treasured place of worship. The long-term consequence is a loss of key meeting places in the community.
Together with the Evangelical Church in Central Germany, the IBA Thüringen is seeking model ideas for empty churches that not only benefit the respective congregations but also offer contemporary perspectives for their use within the community. An open call for new, unconventional ideas in 2017 brought forth over 500 ideas that were presented in an exhibition in the Kaufmannskirche in Erfurt, seen by more than 20,000 people. Of the seven model projects that will be realised as part of the IBA process, two have been completed: the Art Chapel of St Anna in Krobitz and wayside shelter at St Michael’s Church in Neustadt am Rennsteig.