Elevating the Reading Experience in Maastricht, Netherlands
Expect to find some creative (and bizarre) repurposing of ecclesiastical architecture in a country that has been steadily secularizing for over a century. Once home to a community of Dominican friars who were driven out by Napoleon's invading army in the late 18th century, Selexy Dominicanen's soaring Gothic structure fell upon hard times—so hard that it was until recently used for storage of the town's impounded bicycles. In 2006, the church was restored and, without encroaching upon the historic structure, fitted with an innovative three-story structure of towering bookshelves and catwalks that vertically fills the nave where parishioners once prayed. Book browsers can climb to the uppermost stacks for a dizzying view of the network of ceiling frescoes, columns, and row upon row of books. Reading here feels like a sacred activity and the architects Merkx + Girod weren't afraid to make this explicit by placing a communal reading table shaped like a cross in the former altar area (where you can order a glass of wine if you want it to make the experience even more sacramental).