Research meets art

Innovative retable sculpture casts St. Laurentius parish church in a whole new light.

Cellular retable sculpture

Cellular retable sculpture


Author (English): Anja Hemming-Xavier, Author (German): Markus Ostermair

(PDF in english/german and press images as download below)

Studio Tessin and artist duo Empfangshalle collaborated to create a unique piece for the altar room in the St. Laurentius parish church. 3D printing was used to produce a mesmerising retable sculpture, which rises figuratively towards the heavens.

  • The St. Laurentius parish church in Altmühldorf (Bavaria, Germany) has a new 3D-printed sculpture for its altar room. Cardinal Marx will consecrate the church on 5 May 2019.

  • Studio Tessin developed the retable’s cellular lattice concept and was responsible for the design and construction planning.

  • The retable is the central element of the overall artistic concept developed by Empfangshalle for the church.

  • The 8-metre-high sculpture was manufactured with Bruno Knychalla from FIT AG.

  • The project received considerable financial support from the Christian art association Ausstellungshaus für christliche Kunst e.V. and FIT AG.

An impressive 8-meter-high, filigree lattice sculpture has been created as part of the extensive renovations completed at the St. Laurentius parish church. The work was initiated by the St. Laurentius parish together with the Archbishop's office. The structure visually rounds off the church's altar room and forms the central element of its new artistic and liturgical concept. The unique shape and reflective gold appearance of this remarkable highlight is the focal point of the church's interior, creating a harmonious association between its Gothic architecture and novel aesthetics.

The conceptual idea for the retable sculpture was developed in collaboration between Oliver Tessin and the artist duo Empfangshalle (Corbinian Böhm and Michael Gruber), who found that the former's research approach naturally complemented the latter's artistic vision. The artistic duo based their idea on how churches, as sites of cultural heritage, have been using and promoting the latest architectural technologies for centuries. With this in mind, they wanted to add an object which would be in keeping with our times and represent new beginnings and awakenings. On this basis, Empfangshalle envisaged a semi-transparent, shimmering, gold sculpture with a shape and height which would allow it to be integrated into the curved altar room as naturally as possible.

The architectural approach behind the sculpture draws on the informed use of the latest technology for form-finding processes taken from nature and therefore ties in particularly well with the parish church. This is because the philosophy underlying Gothic architecture was one of adapting nature's design principles – the church's existing pointed arches and ribbed vault are examples of this. With the development of computational form-finding and the high resolution achieved by additive manufacturing (3D printing), today's architects are, however, able to design much more complex structures and decidedly further develop the approach used during the Gothic period.

By creating a structure with a minimal amount of material, the cellular lattice adapts the basic principle derived from the nature of optimum weight distribution. As the composition of bone, the retable sculpture is less dense in places where the weight-bearing capacity is lower, and its intrinsic conformation with the laws of statics is therefore evident from its lattice structure. According to Oliver Tessin's approach, visual and structural aesthetics are inseparably combined into a single unit in the world's first sculpture of this kind, in which computational form-finding and manufacturing technology are mutually dependent.

Close up structure

Close up structure


The project participants had the opportunity to work with FIT AG, a leading expert in additive manufacturing (3D printing) based in the German municipality of Lupburg. Bruno Knychalla was responsible for the technical development and production of the sculpture. In consultation with this company, it was possible to combine technologies in a groundbreaking, customised way. The retable comprises 60 individually shaped components, which were printed from white polyamide before being joined together. Thermal spraying was used to coat each part with a bronze-aluminium alloy to give the structure greater stability. The sculpture was then finished with a metallic lacquer to create a shimmering, golden surface.

The pioneering piece which arose from the combination of research, art and the latest manufacturing technologies reflects the forward-looking spirit of the parish and adds a unique quality to the St. Laurentius parish church.

The completion of this complex, innovative design project was only possible thanks to the considerable financial support of the Ausstellungshaus für christliche Kunst e.V. association and the generosity of FIT AG.

Download Press release PDF (english)

Download Press release PDF (german)

Download press images HighRes © Andreas Heddergott:

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