With nine offices in Germany and abroad, von Gerkan Marg und Partners (gmp) is known for such major architectural works as the Berlin Central Station (2006) and numerous other buildings and developments throughout Europe, Asia, and South Africa. But its recent renovation of a simple seminary chapel for the Evangelical Academy in Hofgeismar, Germany—a sleepy town some 137 miles northeast of Frankfurt—demonstrates that this international firm also produces modest projects with equal attention to detail. A small jewel, this serene, 650-square-foot single chamber is striking in its utter materiality and translucence.
Located on the ground floor of the 230-year-old academy’s library and dormitory building—a former spa dating from 1770—this 311⁄2-by-131⁄2-foot space within a space serves as a quiet room for teaching and reflection, enveloped by luminous, iridescent ceiling and wall surfaces, illuminated from behind. There are no windows visible from within it, and no distractions. One does not notice the rolling Hessian hills outside or the people strolling along the wooded campus talking among the 18th-century dormitories and classrooms. More specifically, one does not notice that the new chapel was built inside a preexisting one on a newly erected, freestanding steel structural frame—a kind of cage set on a concrete base.