One of the more controversial topics about the preservation of disused historic buildings regards how to ensure them a sustainable future. This question is especially problematic respecting the increasing stock of worship places, like churches, fallen into disuse, closed or abandoned. The recognition and the safeguard of tangible and intangible values associated with them raise many debates on how these buildings should be protected and handed down to the future, complying with the community’s current needs concurrently. Should there be limits on reusing former worship places? Given the changing meaning of sacredness over time, how should ‘sacred values’ of disused church buildings be recognized and maintained? Can they be preserved adapting churches for new purposes? What about the building’s atmosphere? Should it be retained? Should it be adapted to the building’s new use?
These and other questions, even involving the socioeconomic sphere, notably mark the field, given that the number of disused historic and modern Christian church buildings is still increasing throughout the West. Gathering different orientations and practices ranging from the historic preservation up to the building refurbishment, the so-called ‘adaptive reuse’ of buildings has been becoming more and more often habitual within Western countries even for disused worship places. Conversions of former churches according to this trend are differently valuable from a preserving perspective, since they have often implied remarkable changes to the building’s identity and integrity, even compromising the recognition and the safeguard of intangible values associated with. How should new uses be chosen, so that they do not endanger tangible and immaterial attributes of church buildings? Is the adaptive reuse the most suitable strategy in order to approach all the cited issues?
Providing a brief overview on what the adaptive reuse of Christian church buildings fallen into disuse methodologically consists of, the study aims to suggest some answers to the mentioned questions, resorting to last specific international recommendations and guidelines. The prime limits and implications of the adaptive reuse of these buildings have been thus profiled regarding the preservation of tangible and intangible values they involve, concluding that only values centered preserving approach can provide a valid framework to face the challenge of the increasing redundancy of worship places.
Bäckström, A. (2004). Religion in the Nordic Countries: Between Private and Public. Journal of Contemporary Religion, 29(1), 61-74
Böhme, G. (1995). Atmosphäre. Essays zur neuen Ästhetik, Frankfurt a. M.: Suhr-kamp.
Bortolotto, C. (2014). La problemática del patrimonio cultural inmaterial. The problematic of intangible cultural heritage. Culturas. Revista de Gestión Cultural; 1(1): 1-22
Bruce, (2006). Bruce S. Secularization and the Impotence of Individualized Religion. The Hedgehog Review, Spring and summer. 35-45.
Carta, (1987). Central Pontifical Commission for Sacred Art in Italy. Carta sulla destinazione d’uso degli antichi edifici ecclesiastici / Charte sur l’utilisation des anciens bâtiments ecclésiastiques. Arte cristiana, 1987 ; 75: 410-412
UNESCO (2003). Convention pour la sauvegarde du patrimoine culturel immatériel, Paris, Unesco, 32e session, 29 septembre–17 octobre 2003. Retrieved from http://www.unesco.org/culture/ich/index.php?lg=fr&pg=00022#part1 [Accessed Jan. 2019]
Coomans, T., De Dijn, H., De Maeyer, J., Heynickx R. & Verschaffel, B. (2012). Loci Sacri. Understanding Sacred Places. Leuven: Leuven UP; 2012
Fiorani, D. (2014). Materiale/Immateriale: frontiere del restauro. Materiali e strutture. Problemi di conservazione, 3, V-VI: 9-24
Fiorani, D. (2017). Conservation and new uses in spaces of the holy. In: Fiorani et al., 117-130
Fiorani, D., Kealy, L. & Musso, S.F. (2017). Conservation-Adaptation. Keeping alive the spirit of the place. Adaptive reuse of heritage with symbolic value. EAAE Transactions on Architectural Education no. 65. Hasselt (Belgium): Arti Grafiche.
Gibson, JJ. (1979). The ecological approach to visual perception, Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Griffero, T. (2010). Atmosferologia. Estetica degli spazi emozionali, Roma-Bari: Laterza.
Griffero, T. (2014). Architectural affordances. The atmospheric authority of spaces. In Tidwell P. editor. Architecture and atmosphere. Helsinki: Tapio Wirkkala-Rut Bryk Foundation, 15-47.
Guidelines (2018). Pontificium Consilium de Cultura. Guidelines for decommissioning and ecclesial reuse of churches. Vatican, December 17th, 2018. Retrieved from http://www.cultura.va/content/dam/cultura/docs/pdf/beniculturali/Guidelines_Decommission.pdf [Accessed March 2019].
ICOMOS (2008). ICOMOS. Québec Declaration on the Preservation of the Spirit of Place. Adopted at Québec, Canada, October 4th, 2008. Retrieved from http://www.icomos.org/quebec2008/quebec_declaration/pdf/GA16_Quebec_Declaration_Final_EN.pdf> [Accessed March 2019]
Linee guida (2014). Ministero dei beni e delle attività culturali e del turismo. CEI. Linee guida per la tutela dei beni culturali ecclesiastici, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.beniculturali.it/mibac/multimedia/MiBAC/documents/feed/pdf/Linee%20Guida%20Tutela%20Beni%20 Culturali%20Ecclesiastici-imported-48392.pdf [Accessed Jan. 2019]
National Park Service (1992). Technical Preservation Services. The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. Retrieved from https://www.nps.gov/tps/standards/rehabilitation/rehab/stand.htm [Accessed March 2019]
Nora, P. (1989). Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Mémoire. Representations, 1989; 26. Special Issue, Memory and Counter-memory: 7-24
Plevoets, B. & Van Cleempoel, K. (2013). Adaptive reuse as an emerging discipline: an historic survey. In: Cairns G, editor. Reinventing architecture and interiors: a socio-political view on building adaptation. London: Libri Publishers. p. 13–32
Resolution 916 (1989). Council of Europe. Parliamentary Assembly. Resolution 916. Redundant religious buildings. Retrieved from http://semanticpace.net/tools/pdf.aspx?doc=aHR0cDovL2Fzc2VtYmx5LmNvZS5pbnQvbncveG1sL1hSZWYvWDJILURXLWV4dHIuYXNwP2ZpbGVpZD0xNjMyNyZsYW5nPUVO&xsl=aHR0cDovL3NlbWFudGljcGFjZS5uZXQvWHNsdC9QZGYvWFJlZi1XRC1BVC1YTUwyUERGLnhzbA==&xsltparams=ZmlsZWlkPTE2MzI3 [Accessed Jan. 2019]
Robert, P. (1991). Adaptations. New Uses for Old Buildings. English translation by Murray W. New York, NY: Princeton Architectural Press.
Rogers, S.A. (2013). Religious Conversions: 15 Houses of Worship Turned Secular. Retrieved from http://weburbanist.com/2013/09/09/religious-conversions-15-houses-of-worship-turned-secular/ [Accessed Feb. 2019]
Rosati, M. (2002). Solidarietà e sacro: secolarizzazione e persistenza della religione nel discorso sociologico della modernità. Roma-Bari: Laterza.
Rusconi, G.E. (2008). Lo Stato secolarizzato nell’età post-secolare. Bologna: Il Mulino.
Scott, F. (2008). On Altering Architecture. London-New York: Routledge..
Stovel, H., Stanley-Price, N. & Killickm R. (2005). Conservation of Living Religious Heritage. Papers from the ICCROM 2003 Forum on Living Religious Heritage: conserving the sacred. Rome: ICCROM; 2005. Retrieved from https://www.iccrom.org/sites/default/files/ ICCROM_ICS03_ReligiousHeritage_en.pdf [Accessed March 2019]