North portal of St. Paul's, Worms
Markus Löffelhardt / 2010
Like many churches, St. Paul's has experienced an eventful building history, marked by destruction, alterations, conversions and restorations. The backdrop for the now realised new version of the northern side entrance is a quarry stone wall made of reddish sandstone, which was built from the rubble of the nave wall destroyed in the Palatinate War of Succession in 1689. Originally plastered, this now stone-faced outer wall forms the visual context for the new construction of a church portal. The building measure is functionally justified by the need to create barrier-free, handicapped-accessible access to the church. The building site and surrounding area were cleared of a dilapidated post-war predecessor building and several garages in the run-up to the construction project.
The construction of rusty Corten steel panels, which has a strongly sculptural effect in its dynamism and materiality, seems to remain in fragile equilibrium. The massive steel panels lean against each other and do not form stabilising corner joints. Orthogonality or symmetry as visually stabilising factors do not play any role either: form starts to move and contrasts with the massive heaviness of the material. The filigree glass surfaces of the artist Hannes Norberg extend from the midst of this powerful and tense movement of the rusty steel. Using a process of multiple screen printing, these are coloured and, thus, pick up on the forms and proportions of the architecture like shadows. The shape of the historic bull's-eye pane is used as an ornament and subjected to a free will of design.
Inside, a light effect is created that recalls the colour mood of historical stained glass. The artist's most important design element is a transformation of the traditional round bull's-eye pane, which is used at the entrance front and finds a distant echo in a greatly enlarged form between the roof panes. Sandblasted, these glass panes achieve the introverted spatial effect necessary for sacred buildings, which know no transparency but only translucency.
The sandstone walls, weathered over the centuries, against which the new steel construction leans without entering into a real connection with them, find a clear echo in the lively corrosion process of the steel, which makes the traces of time visible and unfolds a lively, almost ornamental-looking surface play. The heaviness of the material and the plastic force of the architectural form convey "eternity values" that can be read as a reminiscence of the historical sacred building without having to make any retrospective aesthetic effort. The closed form of a homogeneous building is dissolved, fragmented into autonomous-looking slices. The architectural language of an abrupt design with hard caesurae is condensed here into a symbolism for a history of the city of Worms marked by harsh incisions, which is reflected in an exemplary way in the architectural history of St. Paul.
The 1000-year history of the sacred building is given a multi-faceted contemporary commentary with the new version of the north portal: adapted, but uncompromisingly committed to our time.
Markus Löffelhardt is a German art historian and author of numerous publications on art and architecture, he lives in Berlin.