A 13th century Dominican church in Maastrich, the Netherlands, was converted into a jaw-dropping contemporary bookstore by the creative team at Merkx+Girod Architecten. The church stopped bearing religious meaning in 1794, when it was confiscated by Napoleon’s army and used for military purposes.

Boekhandels Groep Nederland (BGN) turned things around for this incredible Gothic building, transforming it into a social space, paying tribute to books and culture in general. The architects explain: “The interior design by the Amsterdam-based firm Merkx+Girod Architecten creates retail space by taking advantage of the spatial magnificence of the church’s architecture. To satisfy BGN’s need for 1,200 m2 of selling space and given that the church’s floor area is of only 750 m2, Evelyn Merkx and Patrice Girod thought to insert an over-sized walk-in bookcase. The two upper levels therefore compensate for the lack of surface area, enabling the transversal use of space.”  Modern furniture additions make the overall design functional, without minimizing the unique atmosphere inspired by this Gothic edifice.