Work De Musica Mundana


Exhibitions: Architecture Triennale, Lisbon and New European Bauhaus, Brussels, 2022

Type: research by design, winning competition
Client: Board of Government Advisors
Location: Groningen, Naarden, Amsterdam
Collaborators: ABT engineers, Obscura 
Link: Rijksdienst Cultureel Erfgoed

Year: 2021

The project rethinks the symbiosis between sustainability and the design process, allowing for non-human-centered architecture. It aims to transform former churches into a seed that responds to climate change and bring together different believes including human- and bio-politics, naturally embedding them within the tissue of the city.

A dialogue between climate urgencies and the sublime experience finds new life in contemporary society while maintaining the intrinsic beauty of three monuments. Fascinated by the experience of the technical sublime, the proposal disassembles its processes and turns them into sublime experiences.

Three churches, all centrally located in the dense historical city. Can they open up possibilities for contemporary challenges? On the social layer, we reactivate the role of the church in society. Building upon the history of the growth of the churches we propose to continue that tradition to respond to the current times of climate change.

The plan opens up the church and provides space to meet new generations by bringing its interior towards the outside in the form of transparent extension. This extension not only helps to adapt to the new functions and diversity of visitors but also to establish relationships with sustainable processes and new rituals. The shape of each intervention is inspired by the architectural features of the churches and expressed in a void form.

Technical and social layers overlap each other, manifesting in a sublime experience. Pavillions are self-sufficient, collecting energy with their outer shell, purifying air, collecting water, and providing space for the co-existence of men and nature. Under this framework, each intervention responds to the specificity of the context and architecture of each monument.

Amsterdam Oudekerk: The Oude Kerk has an impressive rainwater collection system on the roofs. We decide to redefine how water is captured and transform this into a water installation.

The plan is to open up the church and create two new entrances on the southside, which brings the interior of the church towards the outside and provides new functional areas, such as art chappel, the hydroponic system, rainwater curtain, herbal garden, spice cafe. The existing chapel of Oudekerk is expanded towards the square becoming an art space. On the other side next to the water and bridge, we made another extension where herbs are grown for the cafe.

The water from the roofscapes is collected into new pavillions and it manifests in the sublime encountering with water in the 'rain' curtain.

Der Aa-Kerk: In Groningen, we aim to give the church a more prominent place in the city and create a more functional space for different age groups that is self-sufficient and attractive to society.

We open up the church by creating new visual access and new entrances creating space for new functions. To complement the existing church programme we added a cafe garden, silence room, bat tower slash art gallery, office space and winter garden.

The pavilion is a microclimate system. Located on the north and south side of the church entrances have opposite climates. The coexistence of people, plants and animals is facilitated by a controlled climate that is maintained by the pavilion, and fluctuations in humidity and temperature are then regulated to provide different levels of comfort. This creates a secret garden that runs through the church and opens at its entrances.

Grote Kerk Naarden: New intervention in Naarden is aiming to expose ceiling artworks of the church but also to create an elevated and enlightened experience for different age groups within the neighbourhood including small children.

On the exterior, there is a freestanding pavilion, inspired by the church tower. This tower is a self-sufficient pavilion that generates energy from the integrated solar cells in its double-skin facade. Inside the tower, we create a new social space to discover and learn about sustainability.

The new tower generates energy to illuminate the interior of the church. Here you can see the connection between the free-standing tower and lifted passage on the inside of the church, from which you can observe paintings. The idea of this promenade was inspired by the current temporary platforms for the renovation of the church.

The free-standing tower is inspired by the city of Naarden as a fortress and monumentality of the church. Moving through the vertical garden new visual relationships are established with the church.

In the interior in order to bring people closer to the painted vaults viewing platform is created. It is elevated in the centre of the church and crowned with a chandelier that lightens up the artwork.



Lesia Topolnyk (StudioSpaceStation), raised within a constantly changing political environment and educated as an architect, explores how different realities superimpose in human behaviour and are manifested in physical space.

Through dialogue with different disciplines and mediums, spatial design becomes a language that gives shape to the crucial interaction of visible and invisible processes bringing together global and local concerns.

Founded to respond to the urgent societal and planetary issues, StudioSpaceStation operates across architecture, politics and art.

StudioSpaceStation is a satellite and invader simultaneously. It observes current and future affairs, manifesting resolutions through architecture as a solidified representation of dreams and ideas.

StudioSpaceStation provides a vessel for discussion, emergent from critical thinking through perpetual evolvement and experimentation.

Honors & Awards

2022 - Winner Prix de Rome
2020 - Talent Grant, Creative Industries, Netherlands
2020 - Young Talent Architecture Award, nomination (by the Fundació Mies van der Rohe and the EU Commission)
2019 - Winner Archiprix Nederland
2019 - Winner Archiprix International
2019 - Winner Tamayouz International Award

Selected Exhibitions

2022 - Het Nieuwe Instituut, Rotterdam
2022 - Architecture Triennale, Lisbon
2022 - New European Bauhaus, Brussels
2021 - Dutch Design Week
2021 - Biennale, Venice
2020 - Dutch Design Week
2019 - Biennale, Santiago
2019 - Archiprix International
2019 - Archiprix Netherlands

Clients & Funds

Atelier Rijksbouwmeester, Gemeente Rotterdam, Rotterdam Maritiem Museum, Creative Industries NL, Mondriaan Fund, Archiprix.

Portrait Prix de Rome 2022

'Lesia Topolnyk is an architect who focuses on a broader interpretation of her field. She is interested in the potential of her profession within our constructed reality – not necessarily in building things. 'It's about ideas that take shape during the research and design process which generate new typologies,' she says. For her, it's not enough to shape the world reactively, or in line with what already exists. She explains: 'Although architects are seen as people who design spaces, we also design relationships. Especially in these turbulent political times, it's necessary to look at how the world is designed to understand the larger context in which a project is taking place. I sometimes reflect on major problems at a global level, while other times I focus on the space inside someone's mind.'

Topolnyk grew up in Ukraine, and addressed the situation in Crimea with her final project at the Academy of Architecture in Amsterdam. She created a proposal for a building that consisted primarily of corridors – places where discussions and interactions occur that ultimately have the greatest influence on the decisions being made. Continuous mediation of the situation was central to this concept. The architecture symbolised and supported the mental capacity of those involved. In this endless network of hallways, which reference the agora, visitors could have endless discussions which allowed for a continuous debate; politics is an ongoing conversation. Similarly, her own vision of architecture and her process of research and design focuses on conversation, contributions from different positions, and the involvement of people with a wide range of expertise. She therefore frequently collaborates with people who work in different fields. Because 'you can learn from others and they bring valuable insights and viewpoints...'

Her current research is focused on the various crises humanity is currently facing, with a special interest in political systems and the significance of democracy, including its Greek foundations. She is exploring how this form of government was historically designed and how architecture supported and portrayed it. 'It's about how we can shape change and how we can manage the world better together,' she concludes. Architecture can play a role in that by offering design solutions that support the decision-making process.'

Text: Vincent van Velsen

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