Exhibition about Modern Churches in the Campine area


During the Open Church Days, this exhibition about the religious architecture of René Van Steenbergen will take place in the Church of the Blijde Boodschap in the Parkwijk in Turnhout. This exhibition is realized as part of a research seminar in architectural history at the Architecture Faculty of KU Leuven (under supervision of Sven Sterken and Eva Weyns) and a seminar about recent history at the Arts Faculty of KU Leuven (under supervision of Eva Weyns) .


Impressions of the DOCOMOMO excursion

Here are some of the interiors that we visited during the the DOCOMOMO Belgium excursion on April 22 on the topic of liturgical renewal and modern architecture after Vatican II. The churches included in this tour reflect each in their own way, a double paradigm shift: on the one hand the acceptance of architectural modernism as a fashionable means of expression in religious circles; on the other hand, an increasingly radical departure from traditional church typologies in response to society’s cry for renewal . Thus, these churches openly question the received image of the church as a sacred monument, proposing a more functional notion of the place for worshiping as a carefully designed piece of religious infrastructure instead.

DOCOMOMO Belgium excursion, from the top left to the bottom right: interior of the Saint Pie X church in Ottignies (Pierre Pinsart, 1961-1964), church of the Monastère de l’Alliance des Bénédictines in Rixensart (Roger Bastin, 1964-1969), interior of Onze-Lieve-Vrouw-van-Atlijddurende-Bijstand church in Haacht (Paul Felix & Jan Tanghe, 1958-1961), interior of the Sint-Carolus church in Holsbeek (Marc Dessauvage, 1964-1969), and baptismal font in the Sint-Lambertus church in Muizen (Lucien Engels, 1960-1966), (all photographs: Weyns, 2017).

Territories of Faith


As a part of my PhD project, we are planning an international workshop on 3-4 July 2017 in Leuven to address my research questions in a transnational (European) and comparative perspective.


The research group Architectural Cultures of the Recent Past (ARP) of KU Leuven and KADOC, the Documentation and Research Centre on Religion, Culture and Society of KU Leuven, are organizing an international workshop on religion, urban planning and demographic change in post-war Europe as a prelude to an edited volume on this topic, to be published by an international academic press.

For more details, please visit the webpage of the full Call for Papers: Territories of Faith Workshop.

For any inquiries, please contact eva.weyns@kuleuven.be.

A personal project: architect Schuiten in Wezembeek-Oppem

Designs for the Saint-Joseph church in Wezembeek-Oppem, architect Robert Schuiten, 1947-1964 (© Fondation CIVA Stichting/AAM, Archives d’Architecture Moderne, Brussels, archive of Robert Schuiten)

The commission for a church was much sought after by architects. This was certainly the case in the St. Joseph parish in the suburban residential neighborhood Bel Air in Wezembeek-Oppem, where architect Robert Schuiten (1912-1997) was commissioned for the design of the church. When in the 1950s, it seemed that its realization did not make any progress,  Schuiten decided to take control by purchasing the plot for the church himself. This resulted in a very personal project, in which Schuiten not only designed the church building, but also his own house, several other houses, shops, a school and a tennis court. His archives attest to the remarkable attention Schuiten must have had for the design of his own parish church. I share here just a few of the many expressive drawings that I encountered during my archival work on Schuiten.

The Shared Use of the Parkwijk Church in Turnhout

Church of the Blijde Boodschap by architect René Van Steenbergen in the Parkwijk in Turnhout, Belgium, 1972 (Weyns, 2015 / Architecture Archive of the Province of Antwerp in Antwerp, archive of René Van Steenbergen).

The redundancy of Catholic parish churches is in many Western countries an increasing issue. This process seems to affect especially the most recent buildings, often located in peripheral neighbourhoods. We discussed this issue during the 50 Years after the Second Vatican Council. Taking the Modern Church into the 21st Century session at the 14th International DOCOMOMO Conference in Lisbon, where I prented the case of the Blijde Boodschap church in the large-scale social housing project the Parkwijk in Turnhout, Belgium. Despite a serious decline in religious use, this church (designed by René Van Steenbergen, 1972) remains functional for other community activities. In my paper, I thus examined such shared use as a way to tackle the vacancy of modern churches.

Modern religious architecture in Lisbon

Modern religious architecture in Lisbon, from the top left to the right bottom: church of the Convento de São Domingos (2005), entrance of the Igreja do Coração de Jesus (1970), and two interior views of the Igreja do Senhor Jesus dos Navegantes de Paço de Arcos (1969) (Weyns, 2016)

Last week during the 14th International DOCOMOMO Conference in Lisbon (06-09.09.2016), I had the great pleasure to visit a few interesting Portuguese modern religious sites. Our little tour included the following churches: the church of the Dominican convent (2005) by architects José Fernando Gonçalves and João Paulo Providência, the national monument the Sacred Heart of Jesus church (1970) by architects Nuno Portas and Nuno Teotónio Pereira which received the prestigious architectural price Prémio Valmor in 1975, and the parish church of Paço de Arcos (1969) in the suburbs of Lisbon. While the minimalist interior of the contemporary São Domingos attracts many worshippers every Sunday, the two brutalist churches from the 1960s have little users left. In my next post I will tell you more about how we discussed this issue of redundancy of modern churches during our session at the DOCOMOMO conference: 50 Years after the Second Vatican Council. Taking the Modern Church into the 21st Century.