Young people and old churches, Leeuwarden 15-23 April 2016

Project topic: Young People & Old Churches

For many years an exodus from churches is occurring as a result of increasing secularization or finding other ways of practising religion. People also tend to leave the church communities for financial reasons. The status of the church in communities has become less important.

This exodus has led to financial problems for many church communities. Solutions tend to be found in merging small church communities into larger ones, with a result that many church buildings are abandoned. In small towns this phenomena has been going on for quite some time. Since approx. 20 years churches in larger towns and cities have been forced to follow the same pattern.

Empty buildings and financial problems make the maintenance too expensive for church boards. The result is that many church buildings tend to deteriorate. The restoration of churches is often a very expensive matter if you take the state of decline and the labour intensive operations into account. Fortunately many church buildings have been put of a list of national monuments and historic buildings and are often centuries old. Several foundations sponsor the preservation of cultural heritage. These foundations also try to find new destinations for the church buildings.

In cities many church buildings are used for new purposes like theatres, offices, day-care centres, galleries etc. In rural areas and in some cities some churches have been converted into houses and apartments. These are expensive operations however and are mainly reserved for a true lover with sufficient funding. Of course there are many new purposes to think of for rehabilitating old churches and to make it profitable in a way that the maintenance can be financed from its own resources. The profitability is obviously one of the aims and purposes of this project.

NHL University of Applied Sciences The project is hosted by the NHL University of Applied Sciences Leeuwarden, School of the Built Environment. With a student population of approx. 12.000 students the NHL is a medium-sized university, offering higher professional education programmes in the field of Technology, Education and Communication, Healthcare & Welfare and Business and Management Studies.

Sites/locations of the churches

Monumental and empty churches can be found throughout the province of Friesland. During the project a selection of 6 churches in Leeuwarden and surroundings will be made. Each group of five students will be assigned to 1 church and will make this church into their personal project area. An excursion to the churches will be held on Sunday 17 April

Objectives Development of utilization scenarios for rehabilitation of churches and adjacent buildings.

Way of proceeding
  1. Phase 1: Analysis of site (space& possibilities)
  2. Phase 2: Transformations and realisation (utilization scenarios)
  3. Phase 3: Presentation and competition (model & presentation)

This fragmentation of the phases takes into account the students’ various entry competencies (cultural background, language, discipline, expertise) and allows the team of supervisors to react quickly and appropriately.


Step 1 Each group will be assigned to 1 of the 6 churches in Leeuwarden and surroundings. Each church has its own characteristics concerning space, perception, acoustics and environment.

Step 2 The assigned church needs to be analyzed for specific characteristic qualities concerning space, of the perception, acoustics and environment. The environment will be recorded, photographs will be taken and laid down in a model.

Step 3 Each group defines and develops a scenario  (story) and invents a new interpretation for the building while remaining the old structures. Secondly they investigate the state of the building and propose a renovation plan. They make drawings of the building and the environment and make an internal and external plan for the exploitation of the building. Take into account the existing architecture, the architecture of the environment, engineering, traffic problems, technology and catering.

Step 4 The outcome of the concepts will be done by sketching models and drawings. The students build abstract models of their churches with the materials offered or make 3d sketches in sketch up. They need to check their concepts on feasibility concerning the environment, traffic issues and the surrounding community.

Step. 5 The final step is the presentation. It is up to the students how they would like to do their presentations. De presentations are open for anyone who is interested and will be judged by an external jury.

Important The focus of the project lies on the concept, innovations, creativity, feasibility, quality of work and presentation.

 The Date

The project will run from Friday 15 to Saturday 23 April 2016.

Global course of the project

Prior to the project, all participants will do two preliminary assignments (part A and B) at the home institutions. Part A is an individual assignment and Part B as a group assignment to be prepared by the national groups. On Friday 15 April all parties are asked to arrive at Schiphol/Amsterdam airport no later than 15.00 hrs. A hired coach will bring everyone to Leeuwarden.

After the welcome dinner in Leeuwarden the project will be introduced and the national teams are asked to  present their B assignment

During the weekend there will be an excursion to the project sites in Friesland, some team building activities and the international teams will start with their project work. It will give us a head start for the real working week that starts on Monday at the NHL


The project group will comprise 30 students from the following partners

Hochschule Luzern Technik und Architectur   (CH)

University of Maribor (SI) Savonia University of Applied Sciences, Kuopio (FI)

URAL Federal University Ekaterinburg (RUS)

NHL University of Applied Sciences (NL)

The students will be split up into international and multi-disciplinary ‘expert teams’ Parties will be accompanied by staff from each institution. The accompanying staff will have a role as supervisors of the ‘expert teams’.


All groups are asked to arrive at Schiphol Airport no later than 15.00. Travel to Leeuwarden will be organized. Arrival time in Leeuwarden will be approx. 17.30 hrs.


The accommodation and all meals will be arranged and provided for all students. The travelling students need to pay a contribution of 250 Euro. For domestic students this contribution is 150 Euro. The contribution needs to be be paid to the organisers in cash upon arrival.


Accommodation for the students is arranged for in Hotel het Anker, which is located in the city centre of Leeuwarden. For the supervisors: a hotel booking in Leeuwarden will be arranged. Additional information will be provided at a later stage.

More information

The project makes part of an international course. Please contact your NEPTUNE contact person at your home institution for more information. Students that have been selected for participation will receive authorisation to login the electronic Learning environment This will be open for students about 4 weeks prior to the start of the project.