When I was first time travelling in Berlin, I was surprised to see how locals rebuilt old houses or stations into galleries or clubs (for example Berghain, one of the most famous techno clubs in the world, which is located in a former power plant). I started researching into which spaces were reconstructed old houses or buildings, and was it useful for a local community.
First interesting case of reconstruction which I found was an old church in Spain. The Church of Santa Barbara in Llanera, Spain, was built in 1912 by local architect Manuel del Busto, but some years later it was abandoned. Recently it was rediscovered by a group of skaters, who immediately saw the church’s potential as a place for their type of worship—a place to skate. And they turned this 100-Year-Old church into a skate park and received funding through crowdsourcing and a sponsorship by Red Bull.
The other interesting example is connected with Nike, a well- known American multinational corporation that is engaged in the design, development, manufacturing, and worldwide marketing and sales of footwear, apparel, equipment, accessories, and services. In Chicago was the church of the Epiphany, located on the 200 block of South Ashland, built in 1855. In 2011 it was closed because nobody visited it. Nike took over the building in 2018 and renovated a historic church into a basketball facility for the community. The opening of the facility featured an appearance from Chicago Bulls legend Scottie Pippen who spoke with young and ambitious basketball players who visited to hone their skills. Now local high school teams can come in and work on drills with professional basketball coaches. The gym is described as “a cultural hub for basketball, inspiration and the ultimate summer training program to help Chicago’s youth chase their dreams.” This place of “Just Do It HQ at The Church” is open, everybody can come and visit, but has to register in advance.
As for me, I do like the idea that people renovated an old space for something new and useful for a local community. It shows a better example of rational use of resources, in comparison with many sport venues which cost a lot of money but later were completely abandoned (like old Olympic venues – you can see the link below). But church reconstruction into a sport facility is a bit controversial topic of discussion. I interviewed people on what they think about it, what do they feel when they hear when an old church is being used now as a sport venue. Here are what people say:
Ajla, International Relations Student and Graphic Designer, ESC Volunteer from Bosnia and Herzegovina:
I like this idea. The place looks nice and I really like how they used the space. I like the idea because they have used a space that is completely unexpected for this kind of use. Consequently, originality is what is attractive and this place is an attraction for me. A negative side can be for people who are too devoted to religion and who can condemn and misunderstand such an act.
Arman, ESC Volunteer from Armenia:
I do not consider myself as a 100% Christian, but I believe that faith is energy and prayer has a specific energy. If people used to pray in a specific place, no matter church, mosque or any other temple, it’s disrespectful to build any sport activity building there.
P.S if it was an old mosque, it would be a big scandal all over the world.
Christoph, Sports Science Student, Germany:
So firstly, I have no problem with using a church also for other activities then just the holy mess and praying, it should be a place of encounter doesn’t matter what is the background if sport theater poetry crafting or whatever. Of course (older) conservative people have a different view on this and could think this is blaspheming and indecent. What disturbs me about this special project is the marketing aspect, as mentioned I have no problem with sports in church, but everywhere you can see the big Nike logos and the Just Do It movement signs. If they have just have thought about the charity, they could leave this, but of course its good advertisement for Nike, and I think that is the main background. They want to attract attention with this controversial action doesn’t matter if people have positive or negative opinion about it. Every publicity is good publicity for them and by building sports court in church they reach a lot of people for sure because of this fact itself for me it doesn’t matter if they build it in church or whatever, as long as they don’t take the church away from his purpose. As this church was abandoned, so it’s better to reuse something existing then to build something brand new and let the old church expire and maybe because of this holy environment some kids and people will find their way to God, then it has another positive side effect. This case can be seen from many different perspectives.
Hanna, Open Channel, ESC volunteer from Ukraine:
I consider myself as a religious person and religion is an essential part of my life. I think that the idea of reconstruction of a church into a sport training facility is not correct. Because a church has spiritual values. Spiritual values and a sport training facility are not compatible.
Amelie, International Law Student, Germany:
Generally the idea is good, but only if the place is actually benefitting the local community in a way a church would. So youth workshops, and stuff like that, sounds great to me, but an elite academy? I mean it's a church, I'm not very religious myself, but I can see why people would be offended by it. I think using buildings that are already there rather than building new ones as a way to save resources is good, but I'm not sure if the purpose of the building shouldn't be kind of to benefit the people around it.
Anna, Media Literacy Trainer, ESC volunteer from Ukraine:
In my opinion, this action of Nike reminds me a market-speak. Like look, Nike is a new religion. This corporation can buy any type of building, rebuild it and give it to the local community. But they chose the church. Is it coincidence? I don’t think so.
Ondra, Sport Management Student, Czech Republic:
I think that this is a controversial thing. I'm an open-minded person and I don't know the exact background of people who came up with something like this, I just assume that not many people were coming to a church so they decided to change it to the gym, but only the God knows whether it is right or not.
As you can see, my interviewees reacted more positively than negatively. As for me, I also find the idea of reconstruction is a good one, if an initial intenion was to help to a local comminity.
And what do you think about that? May be in your town you have such the renovated buildings for good? Share with us :)