Archive for May, 2016

Euro-Continental Pro America Church “Paul Gerhardt”

May 23, 2016
Kurt Hatlauf Gelsenkirchen Ückendorf Paul Gerhardt with 1903 Cadillac Runabout. This drawing ©2017 by Torsten Slama and the Pro America Society

Paul Gerhardt Church Gelsenkirchen-Ückendorf with 1903 Cadillac Model A Runabout (A3; 42×29,7cm)

Behold here a fine example of evangelical church design in the vein of tasteful international modernism, a sight, not altogether typical, but not unusual either in a time when there was still a lively interest in all church things, yet the decline of church business was already clearly visible on the horizon of time as men know it (not geological time). Witness the gleam of the main building’s big glass front – a huge abstract dyptich of biblical proportions – which is clearly an early Euro-continental reference to the big coloured front face tradition of modern American churches. This church, built many decades ago, at some not exactly verifiable point in the 1960s, still stands, yet is robbed of its dominant feature; the space around it. Today, it is sadly hidden behind parked cars and fences, and swallowed up by attached public service facilities: an old people’s home, a kindergarten.

Note how the nave is separated from the church tower in this design. A separation of things usually compacted into one edifice might be due to conscious conceptual considerations, or simply a sign of the times. What this separation signifies is the American-Fordian thought and practice pattern of division of labour – the tower; the reaching out facility, both reaching out for the congregation, reaching out for god (also a structure akin to a giant billboard/beacon with built in audio component) – the congregation and worship hall a place of production, production of faith, the plant proper.

A note of significance in consideration of this aspect of division: the church was designed not by a star of modern church building, but a lesser architect by the name of Kurt Hatlauf, who also designed several commercial buildings in and around Gelsenkirchen, and for some time served as the manager of the local football club of national fame, a post which surely earned him substantial recognition and probably was deemed the more salient factor of his career. So obviously a figure whose feet were planted squarely, but separately, one in the world of commerce, the other in a world of spiritual values (achievement/ fame, worship/faith). According to oral history, Kurt Hatlauf liked driving around in big American cars, which helps in reconstructing the motivational background for this attempt at an American style church (unable yet to hide its European origins), the Americanism further underlined here by the inclusion of a giant size Kachina doll sculpture.This rendering © 2021 by Torsten Slama and the IPA Society

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