Michaelsberg Abbey
Finding the right balance – designing a modern spiritual center inspired by the Rule of Saint Benedict
  • Location
  • Project
    Accommodation / hotel, education, religious building, gastronomy, office, administration, parking, interior
  • Procedure
    Competition (1st prize, 2012)
  • Client
    Archbishopric of Cologne
  • Architect of record
    Caspar Schmitz-Morkramer
  • Planning and construction period
  • Service phases
  • Gross floor area
    25,000 m²
  • Project Management
    WSP Deutschland
  • Technical building equipment
    TEN Ingenieure
  • Structural Engineering
    Finck Billen
  • Fire Protection
  • Landscape Architecture
  • Building Physics
  • Surveyor
    Vermessungsbüro Koch
  • Soil Surveyor
    Ingenieurbüro Vogt
  • Kitchen Planning
    PWK Planungsbüro Weller-Küttner
  • Light Design
    Licht Kunst Licht
  • Awards
    Architizer A+ Award 2020;
    International Design Awards 2019;
    German Design Award 2018;
    mipim Award 2018 (Special Jury Award);
    mipim Award 2018 (Best Hotel and Tourism Resort);
    Architecture MasterPrize 2018;
    Iconic Awards 2017
  • Photo and film documentation
  • This project is from the joint period of meyerschmitzmorkramer.

Stepping away from worldly affairs and drawing closer to spirituality in the tradition of St. Benedict, Abbot Anno founded the abbey on the Michaelsberg mountain nearly 1,000 years ago. Closely tied to the town of Siegburg, which flourished at its base, the abbey also served various secular purposes, like barracks, a jail, and a military hospital. In 2011, the Benedictines vacated the abbey, making way for the Archdiocese of Cologne’s plans for a new, financially self-sustaining spiritual center. By early 2017, the Catholic Social Institute (KSI) from Bad Honnef relocated its headquarters to the historic abbey, which we renovated and extended, adding another chapter to its history. Today, KSI welcomes around 21,000 guests to around 400 events annually in the conference center, which features a hotel, restaurant, and meeting rooms. Unlike the secluded Benedictines, the community on Michaelsberg is open, embracing fresh connections daily. The contemporary enhancements maintain the timeless character of both the landscape and the architectural monument, which transcends worldly concerns – an ethos already evident in our successful competition proposal.

Rising high, delving deep

The abbey towers some 17 meters above the forecourt on mighty medieval retaining walls. Below stands the new Forum building like a little brother, separated by a respectful gap bridged at points by glazed walkways. The Forum appears to grow from the rock itself, clad in light gray dolomite that is roughly split at the base and polished smooth above. Its funnel-shaped entrance is carved into the massif. To heighten the sense of arrival, visitors ascend the final meters barrier-free by glass elevator or open staircase. They emerge in a glass pavilion with sweeping views that suddenly juxtapose the abbey with distant vistas, creating a striking sense of proximity. The atrium serves as an interface between the Forum and the monastery, delineating communal and private realms. Surrounding the Church of St. Michael on three sides, the monastery offers 120 guest rooms across three floors, in addition to seminar spaces. Individually decorated with custom furniture and a friendly, functional color palette, the single and double rooms feature intimate sitting nooks. The cloister and green courtyard invite contemplative lingering. A refined ambiance pervades through restrained materiality – oak wood and natural stone – in three colors: midnight blue, oxblood red, and mustard yellow.

Providing guidance

The Forum’s uses are reflected in the facade design. A stone plinth concealing a two-story garage forms a solid base, while the glass pavilion serves as the crowning element. Ornamentation is eschewed for angular clarity and unobstructed views. On the level below, a rhythmic stone ribbon contains large horizontal panoramic windows and slender vertical openings, housing the Forum’s heart: the restaurant and four conference rooms. The administration occupies the glassfronted floor below. Throughout, a harmonious material palette of light wood and stone resonates, fostering focus and introspection. Discretion, as St. Benedict advised, still applies here, revealing itself as the capacity for discernment, often bolstered by a sense of distance – whether from towering heights or behind fortress-like walls.

Project team
  • Annegret Kufferath
  • Julia Dobritz
  • Lars Göpfert
  • Tobias Goße
  • Fernando González Cardero
  • Beate Groß
  • Eike Heidelberg
  • Roland Hinz
  • Katja Holland
  • Jan Jermer-Urban
  • Klaus Kirchner
  • Marcus Leinwand
  • Ingwer Luck
  • Kristina Rhiemeier
  • Milena Trzcinska
  • Jiqing Zhang