The constantly extending Rotterdam-Zuid now has another church, the Mighty Fortress Church of the Evangelical Lutheran Congregation. The sober building designed by the architect Vermeer on Mijnsherenlaan will be officially opened on Sunday afternoon.
Het Vrije Volk, 25 October 1952
Vermeer en Van Herwaarden
Both the Mighty Fortress Church and the adjoining block of flats on Zuidplein were designed by the architecture firm of Vermeer and Van Herwaarden. The office of architect Willem Vermeer (1908-1993) and civil engineer Jacques van Herwaarden (1903-1985) was particularly active in the post-war period, especially with housing projects in the Hoogkwartier area and on Jonker Fransstraat, but also commercial and office buildings, of which the best known is the Institute for the Blind. Churches seem to be an exception.
The six small windows on the north side with the big window of the liturgical centre are also symbolic: six days of work and one day of rest.
In May 1940 the Lutheran congregation lost its centuries-old church on Wolfshoek. It was decided to decentralize and so the building was replaced by three smaller churches. Shortly after the war came the first church on Gordelweg, designed by architect Bas van der Lecq. Two smaller chapels followed in the west and south of the city. This small church in Zuid is very functional and abstract, certainly given the year of construction. It wasn’t until the 1960s that church architecture became more functional and abstract boxes like this one started to appear. That abstraction was a conscious choice by the architect: 'As architect Vermeer informed us, he deliberately sought a certain abstraction in the design. (...) In the church (…) concrete and masonry are exclusively used. Even the pillar of the baptismal font is made of concrete.'
Nonetheless, the architect incorporated plenty of symbolism into his design. He lists: the rainbow colours above the entrance, the heavy column in the vestibule (the strength that people derive from their faith), the black floor with dusky white (the earthly vale of tears), the soft blue and floating ceiling, projected as a symbol of the infiniteness of the heavens, with 24 built-in spotlights, which symbolize the starlit sky. The six small windows on the north side with the big window of the liturgical centre are also symbolic: six days of work and one day of rest.
The church has a capacity of 240, which can increase to 280 with the upper gallery. The liturgical centre stands out because of the striking lighting. Various spaces are located on the ground floor beneath the slightly raised church space, among them a meeting room for sixty people, consistory rooms, a hall for youthwork and a kitchen.
Initially there were plans for a church tower, but it was never built. Foundations were laid for a concrete needle beside the church, but that was not built either.
The residential block beside the church on Zuidplein has four floors on top of a plinth of shops. It contains 30 maisonettes, each with an internal stairs to an upper level. The block closes Zuidplein on this side, so the units have their main spaces facing east. The two galleries run along the western facade. Apart from the main staircase, a freestanding steel staircase serves as an escape route.
Black granito and black concrete
The residential part has a structure of concrete columns faced in granito. A strip of teak wood was added for the neon advertisements of the shops. The bedroom levels have loggias along the facade: separate loggias on the lower level and one continuous loggia on the upper level. These give the facade a sense of depth. The shopfronts on the ground floor are also recessed, creating a covered arcade. The facade has piers of yellow brickwork and grey ribbed concrete trims. The black trapezium-shaped concrete balcony railings with decorative openings are typical of the post-war period.
Since 1983 the church has been home to the ‘Mighty Fortress’ Evangelical Congregation. The building has remained almost unchanged, just like the housing. The shops were enlarged by closing off the arcade. The strip of teak has been replaced by a standard canopy.