13.3.2015

St Henry’s Ecumenical Art Chapel, in Finland

The chapel grows from its site, which is a hillock surrounded by pines. It rises from the landscape as a traditional sacral building. It has the appearance of an upturned ship – or a form of the fish.

There was an invited architectural competition of the ecumenical chapel in Turku in 1995. The client is a nonprofit association of St Henry’s Ecumenical Chapel, in which there are members from seven different Christian churches. The site for the chapel was given by donation from the local Cancer Organization and it is connected to the area of the Service Center and dwellings for cancer patients. The chapel offers a place for contemplation for the users and the vistors of the center. The gathering fund to build the chapel continued ten years after the architecture competition. The chapel was completed and opened for public in May 2005. During the past year it has served numerous times as a place for baptisms, weddings and funeral services as well as concerts and art exhibitions.

The chapel grows from its site, which is a hillock surrounded by pines. It rises from the landscape as a traditional sacral building. It has the appearance of an upturned ship – or a form of the fish. The design speaks with contrasts of shadow and light, copper and wood. The copper cladding will be weathered green with time, so it will blend with the surrounding trees and nature.

The loadbearing structure of the chapel consists of curved ribs of laminated pine. The walls are covered with untreated wooden lining. The colour of the wood will become reddish with time.

There was the idea to integrate art with the religious space already in the competition program.  The chapel offers good acoustics for concerts and the back space of the nave can be transformed into an art gallery by removing the benches. In the high altar windows artworks by artist Hannu Konola filter the light onto the altar wall. The most important building material besides wood and copper is natural light. It gets the forms, spaces and surfaces live all day long. The idea is to walk through shadowy spaces towards altar and the light, the source of which is hidden.

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