Unlike the converted cathedral that I mused over in September, Merkx+Girod Architects' redesign of the former Dominican Church in Maastricht, Holland, is for all eyes to see. Merkx+Girod were approached by the Dutch booksellers Selexyz (think Barnes & Noble), who asked them to convert the thirteenth-century church into a modern bookstore. Their redesign carried the year, making them the winner of the 2007 Dutch Interior Design Prize.
With only 750 square meters of available space, Merkx+Girod were asked to create 1,200 square meters of commercial area. Instead of creating several floors within, which would destroy the buildings unreplicable spacial quality, they built a monumental walk-in, three-story bookcase situated a-symmetrically inside the church. Climbing the "bookflat" rewards the customers with a close-up of ancient murals and stunning views, paying homage to the building's details rather than concealing them.
What's interesting is the new way you can experience an existing structure. Not only have the structure's religious purposes been abandoned, which is something separate to mull over, but the word "church" now connotes an entirely alternative destination. Reading in church, not unusual, is not at all what it once was. Visitors can also experience the ancient architecture from a whole new variety of angles, which symbolizes not just a functional rebirth, but a physical one as well.