Contemporary parish hall in historic cultural environment

The new parish hall in the village of Bryndum near Esbjerg is the result of an architectural competition that was won by E+N Arkitektur. The building stands opposite Bryndum Church, one of Denmark’s finest ashlar stone churches on which work commenced as long ago as 1250.

Photo: Thomas Mølvig, arkitekt

In the context of this highly sensitive historical environment, special competences were required to design a new parish hall in harmony with its surroundings. The final result has more than met everyone’s expectations, and in 2020 the project received an award from the Municipality of Esbjerg’s ‘Byfond’, a foundation which advises on and supports exterior renovation work on listed buildings as well as awarding outstanding new-build and renovation projects. On presenting the award, the foundation said:

- With the new parish hall, E+N Arkitektur has designed a structure which, in terms of its shape, materials and carefully conceived details, directly reflects 1,000 years of building traditions. The traditional use of red brick, the high walls and the simple, unbroken tiled saddle roof are reminiscent of monasteries from the Middle Ages. The playful use of patterned brickwork is modern but with clear historical references.

The parish hall is designed as three parallel but staggered and interconnected sections. One arrives from a small paved area situated directly opposite the car park between the church and the community centre. To the southeast, the view opens up across the fields and the flat landscape.

Characterful interior

The central section binds the hall’s functions together with an arcade-like, column-borne walkway. Double-pitch rooflights illuminate the room, which is distinguished by four distinctive weathering steel columns. On the sloping ceilings, Troldtekt acoustic panels in natural wood have been installed, which contrast well with the otherwise hard surfaces.

The section to the north houses the vicar’s office, a meeting room and a kitchen. There are views from here of the church. The section to the south is primarily devoted to a large assembly room with a foldable partition wall. From here, there is direct access to an outdoor patio. Above the large glass window sections along the south-facing facade is a striking rook overhang, which prevents overheating in the summer months.

The assembly hall is dominated by glulam structures with ties delineating the shape of the building. The parish council wanted a wide column-free area, and inverted trusses have therefore been used to emphasise the shape of the building. Again, Troldtekt panels in natural wood have been installed, which – combined with pale wooden strips – support the architecture both aesthetically and acoustically.