The "cross" became a symbol of worship for early humans due to their astronomical observations of the universe. They first understood astronomical patterns through the shadow of an upright gnomon. Light is a powerful force, opening the doors to the poetic realm of the soul, and architecture is a vessel that captures light.
The Wenyan Church is a spiritual space practice by our team. Our design goal is to create a "church with a view of the river." Wenyan, Hangzhou, is where the Qiantang River,Fuchun River, and Puyang River converge. The project is located on the east side of the river in Wenyan Street, adjacent to the old street of Wenyan.
The establishment of the Wenyan Church dates back to 1921. In the winter of 1929, Canadian missionary Robert Gordon founded the Chinese Christian Pentecostal Association Wenjiayan Gospel Hall in Wenyan. Due to historical reasons, the church activities were stopped and restarted several times. In 1999, the Wenyan Christian Church purchased and renovated a dilapidated building at No. 180 Xinshiji Street to serve as the new church.
This is a renovation project on the original site. The old church was small and rundown. When we received an invitation to design a new structure for this ceremony hall, the client requested to build a new one on the original site. We attempted to approach and create this new building from a perspective of spiritual space.
The new church building aims to create a space that not only meets religious and spiritual needs but also has artistic attributes. The open central staircase connects the entrance plaza with the roof, symbolizing freedom from constraints and reaching toward the heavens.
The entrance to the building has a sense of ritual, with a staircase along the central axis, and a sacred light projected through a gap above the tall entrance. One enters the main auditorium on the second floor via the grand staircase and ascends to the rooftop via the ladder, overlooking Qiantang River to the west. Here, one can witness the most beautiful sunset, with the setting sun regarded as a preview of heaven. The ladder completes the ceremonial spatial sequence and creates a sacred experience. While guiding people into the church, the ladder begins to explore the space of the roof. Due to height restrictions, the building is treated with half-sunken design. The first floor is arranged with auxiliary functions such as offices, activities, storage, and equipment; the main hall is located on the second floor, where natural light enters through the roof on both sides of the ladder, spreading the gospel of creation. The third floor is for pastor offices and equipment.
Creating an atmosphere and invoking the divine in religious architecture can guide believers on a spiritual level, while also emphasizing place-specific characteristics for non-believers who visit. The building's layout returns to an axial extension and uses a symmetrical layout based on the classic spatial template of the cross. The central axis of the church, "the Stairs," is derived from the Biblical "Jacob's Ladder," symbolizing a path to divine holiness and happiness. Each flight of stairs has 12 steps, divided into eight sections, with 12 carrying the significance of the Biblical "Twelve Apostles."
The cross serves as a religious symbol for the church, not only in its planar composition but also in its decorative elements such as railings, canopies, and parapets.
As for the building's external appearance, we believe it must be pure. The facade features white washed stone, adding a sense of devotion to its clean exterior walls.
The interior, however, is like a light-filled box, with soft light shining in through side windows. The facade's window design creates a sense of divinity in the light shining through its variously sized windows, filling the interior with a sense of mystery, tranquility, and divinity when entering.
Here, light and shadow, art, architecture, faith, and symbolism coexist in harmony, creating a unique spiritual realm for religious venues. As the sun casts its warm glow, people feel a sense of tranquility and poetic beauty, as if time stands still.