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11 New Uses for Old Churches

With so many churches around the world, it stands to reason that some will end up unused from time to time. But there's no reason to call in the demo crew. There are a lot of good ways to repurpose the House of God.

1. Restaurant & Brewery

The Church Brew Works in Pittsburgh pays special homage to the former occupant of its location with a beer called Pious Monk.

2. Children’s Indoor Playland

Image credit: City-Data

Kids were actually encouraged to run and scream in the church after the South Williamsport (PA) Methodist Church was converted into an indoor maze of playgrounds, slides, climbing walls and video games.

3. A Thoroughly Modern Home

It takes a good deal of remodeling to turn God’s home into your own, but it can be done. The web is packed with examples of beautiful residences, like this $2.3 million example in Denver, that are barely recognizable as former houses of worship - at least until you take notice of the steepled roof or the very church-like shape of the windows and doors.

4. Bookstore

Image credit: Design Top News

It’s probably a safe bet that you’ll be able to find at least a few copies of the Bible at the Bookstore Selexyz Dominicanen in the Netherlands.

5. Fraternity House

Image credit: Rensselaer/Daria Robbins

The Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity house at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, makes a convenient setting for all those hungover morning conversations with God promising to “never drink that much again.”

6. Entrepreneur Center

Image credit: TEDx Vasastan

Stockholm’s Entreprenörskyrkan, housed in a former Greek Orthodox Church, offers its own kind of heaven to small business startups: A fully furnished open-office environment that seeks "to have fun and play with ideas."

7. Laser Tag Arena

The Williams Grove amusement park in Harrisburg, PA, converted a charming, antiquated old church into a venue for modern sci-fi violence.

8. Alien Nativity Scene

One of the ideas behind artist Matt Henderson’s alien nativity scene at a former church in Portland was to help people recognize "the terrestrial nature of Christ.”

9. Atheist Headquarters

Image credit: Smyrna-Vinings Patch

The empty Collins Spring Primitive Baptist Church in Atlanta needed someone to save it from the vandals and the wrecking ball. In stepped the Atlanta Freethought Society - an organization of atheists that uses the building as part of its mission to “provide a community for non-theists in the Metro Atlanta area through educational, advocacy and social activities.”

10. Winery

If you ever make it to the South River Vineyard in Shalersville, OH, please refrain from asking them if their production process includes turning water into wine. I’m sure they already get that 100 times a day.

11. Skatepark

Image credit: MATTKINGTHESKATER/Panoramio

Skaterham is an indoor skatepark that has been operating for more than a decade out of an abandoned church in Surrey, England.

What did we miss? What other church conversions have you seen?

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Courtesy of Fernando Artigas
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architecture
Step Inside This Stunning, Nature-Inspired Art Gallery in Tulum, Mexico
Courtesy of Fernando Artigas
Courtesy of Fernando Artigas

Upon closer inspection, this building in Tulum, Mexico, doesn’t seem like a suitable place to house an art exhibit. Everything that makes it so visually striking—its curved walls, uneven floors, and lack of drab, white backgrounds—also makes it a challenge for curators.

But none of these factors deterred Santiago Rumney Guggenheim—the great-grandson of the late famed art collector and heiress Peggy Guggenheim—from christening the space an art gallery. And thus, IK LAB was born.

“We want to trigger the creative minds of artists to create for a completely different environment,” Rumney Guggenheim, the gallery’s director, tells Artsy. “We are challenging the artists to make work for a space that doesn’t have straight walls or floors—we don’t even have walls really, it’s more like shapes coming out of the floor. And the floor is hardly a floor.”

A view inside IK LAB
Courtesy of Fernando Artigas

A view inside IK LAB
Courtesy of Fernando Artigas

A view inside IK LAB
Courtesy of Fernando Artigas

A view inside IK LAB
Courtesy of Fernando Artigas

IK LAB was brought to life by Rumney Guggenheim and Jorge Eduardo Neira Sterkel, the founder of luxury resort Azulik. The two properties, which have a similar style of architecture, share a site near the Caribbean coast. IK LAB may be unconventional, but it certainly makes a statement. Its ceiling is composed of diagonal slats resembling the veins of a leaf, and a wavy wooden texture breaks up the monotony of concrete floors. Entry to the gallery is gained through a 13-foot-high glass door that’s shaped a little like a hobbit hole.

The gallery was also designed to be eco-conscious. The building is propped up on stilts, which not only lets wildlife pass underneath, but also gives guests a view overlooking the forest canopy. Many of the materials have been sourced from local jungles. Gallery organizers say the building is designed to induce a “meditative state,” and visitors are asked to go barefoot to foster a more sensory experience. (Be careful, though—you wouldn't want to trip on the uneven floor.)

The gallery's first exhibition, "Alignments," features the suspended sculptures of Artur Lescher, the perception-challenging works of Margo Trushina, and the geometrical pendulums of Tatiana Trouvé. One piece by Trouvé features 250 pendulums suspended from the gallery's domed ceiling. If you want to see this exhibit, be sure to get there before it ends in September.

[h/t Dezeen]

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Engineers Have Figured Out How the Leaning Tower of Pisa Withstands Earthquakes
iStock
iStock

Builders had barely finished the second floor of the Tower of Pisa when the structure started to tilt. Despite foundational issues, the project was completed, and eight centuries and at least four major earthquakes later, the precarious landmark remains standing. Now, a team of engineers from the University of Bristol and other institutions claims to have finally solved the mystery behind its endurance.

Pisa is located between the Arno and Serchio rivers, and the city's iconic tower was built on soft ground consisting largely of clay, shells, and fine sand. The unstable foundation meant the tower had been sinking little by little until 2008, when construction workers removed 70 metric tons of soil to stabilize the site. Today it leans at a 4-degree angle—about 13 feet past perfectly vertical.

Now researchers say that the dirt responsible for the tower's lean also played a vital role in its survival. Their study, which will be presented at this year's European Conference on Earthquake Engineering in Greece, shows that the combination of the tall, stiff tower with the soft soil produced an effect known as dynamic soil-structure interaction, or DSSI. During an earthquake, the tower doesn't move and shake with the earth the same way it would with a firmer, more stable foundation. According to the engineers, the Leaning Tower of Pisa is the world's best example of the effects of DSSI.

"Ironically, the very same soil that caused the leaning instability and brought the tower to the verge of collapse can be credited for helping it survive these seismic events," study co-author George Mylonakis said in a statement.

The tower's earthquake-proof foundation was an accident, but engineers are interested in intentionally incorporating the principles of DSSI into their structures—as long as they can keep them upright at the same time.

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