Tjeerd Beemsterboer

Tjeerd Beemsterboer


Kerk 33058: van gemeenschapsgebouw tot gemeenschapsgebouw

Currently, only one in six people in the Netherlands believes in a divine force and just over a quarter call themselves atheist. There are, therefore, more non-believers than believers in our country for the first time ever. These are the findings of research into spirituality and belief commissioned by the Dutch national newspaper Trouw, which was conducted by Ipsos and VU University Amsterdam. Believers still made up a narrow majority when this was previously measured in 2012. A number of years ago, I had myself removed from Roman Catholic church records, because I have simply never been able to believe in God. As a result of this, I have also played my part, as an atheist, in the secularisation of the Netherlands, which is expected to continue steadily in the coming decades according to research by Statistics Netherlands (CBS).

To be honest, I consider this to be a positive trend and I believe, above all, that people should think for themselves. However, I do worry about the serious consequences this will have for the thousands of religious buildings in the Netherlands. Parishes are being merged throughout the country.

It is estimated that more than half of the Roman Catholic buildings will be sold off. Church leaders often prefer demolition in order to prevent the building being designated an 'unbefitting use' or falling into the hands of another religion. In some cases, they even include a demolition agreement in the contract with a new owner.

Religious buildings are almost always centrally located and have always helped create communities until today. However, while the secularisation process picked up pace during the 1960s, faith in the church and society gradually decreased. For example, the Netherlands Institute for Social Research (CPB) concluded that in addition to a gap between wishes and expectations, there was also a gap between the value people attach to their own life and their valuation of society. While they are satisfied to very satisfied about their own life (81%), they worry about society, which only gets a meagre mark of five.

In my opinion, the massive exodus from these buildings and, in particular, the locations can be dealt with in a much smarter way in order to bring people closer together and thus create communities. In his book 'Religion for Atheists', Alain de Botton writes that we can actually learn a lot from faith and that if there is one thing that religion is demonstrably good at, that is in creating communities. This was my motive for deploying the core values of faith in order to bring people in an atheist community closer together. Learning, celebrating, serving, contemplating, mourning and meeting translated into an architectural design with the church as central location.

Commission: Jan-Richard Kikkert (mentor), Gert Jan ter Velde, Liesbeth van der Pol. Additional members for the exam: Jeroen van Mechelen, Rik van Dolderen.

Back to list