Cathedral of the Northern Lights by
Schmidt Hammer Lassen and Link Arkitektur

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Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects has paid homage to the northern lights by constructing a titanium-clad cathedral that spirals up towards the sky (+ slideshow).

Cathedral of the Northern Lights by Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects

Danish studio Schmidt Hammer Lassen teamed up with Scandinavian firm Link Arkitektur to design the Cathedral of the Northern Lights in Alta, a Norwegian town located 300 miles north of the Arctic Circle.

Cathedral of the Northern Lights by Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects

The cathedral was conceived as a public attraction for tourists visiting the natural light display, officially known as the Aurora Borealis, which occurs when particles from the sun collide with the earth's magnetic field. It can be observed frequently between late autumn and early spring.

Cathedral of the Northern Lights by Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects

With a spiralling body, the cathedral winds up to form a pointed belfry 47 metres above the ground.

Cathedral of the Northern Lights by Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects

"The Cathedral of the Northern Lights is a landmark, which through its architecture symbolises the extraordinary natural phenomenon of the Arctic northern lights," said Schmidt Hammer Lassen partner John F. Lassen.

Cathedral of the Northern Lights by Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects

Shimmering titanium clads the exterior and was added to reflect the vivid green colours of the lights as they flicker across the sky.

Cathedral of the Northern Lights by Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects

"The cathedral reflects, both literally and metaphorically, the northern lights: ethereal, transient, poetic and beautiful," added Lassen. "It appears as a solitary sculpture in interaction with the spectacular nature."

Cathedral of the Northern Lights by Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects

The spiralling form continues inside the building, where offices, classrooms and exhibition areas wrap around a 350-person hall, which will be used for church congregations.

Cathedral of the Northern Lights by Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects

This isn't the first time the northern lights have provided the inspiration for architecture. Henning Larsen Architects and artist Olafur Eliasson drew inspiration from the lights when designing the Harpa Concert and Conference Centre in Reykjavík, Iceland.

Cathedral of the Northern Lights by Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects

A number of architectural projects have been completed in the northern parts of Norway in recent years. Peter Zumthor built a memorial to commemorate suspected witches, while Reiulf Ramstad Architects has added platforms high up in the Norwegian mountains.

Cathedral of the Northern Lights by Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects

See more architecture in Norway »

Cathedral of the Northern Lights by Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects

Above: site plan - click for larger image

Photography is by Adam Mørk.

Cathedral of the Northern Lights by Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects

Above: ground floor plan - click for larger image

Here's some more information from Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects:


Official inauguration of the Cathedral of the Northern Lights in Alta, Norway

The Crown Princess of Norway, Mette-Marit, has just inaugurated the Cathedral of the Northern Lights situated in the Norwegian town of Alta approximately 500 km north of the Arctic Circle. Even before the inauguration, the 47-metre-high cathedral, designed by schmidt hammer lassen architects in cooperation with Link Arkitektur, was perceived as a symbol and an architectural landmark for the entire area.

Cathedral of the Northern Lights by Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects

Above: basement level plan - click for larger image 

In 2001, when the architecture competition for the Cathedral of the Northern Lights was arranged, the city council in Alta did not just want a new church: they wanted an architectural landmark that would underline Alta’s role as a public venue from which the natural phenomenon of the northern lights could be observed.

Cathedral of the Northern Lights by Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects

Above: long section - click for larger image

The significance of the northern lights is reflected in the architecture of the cathedral. The contours of the church rise as a spiralling shape to the tip of the belfry 47 metres above the ground. The façade, clad in titanium, reflects the northern lights during the long periods of Arctic winter darkness and emphasizes the experience of the phenomenon.

Cathedral of the Northern Lights by Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects

Above: cross section - click for larger image

Inside the main area of the cathedral, the church room creates a peaceful contrast to the dynamic exterior of the building. The materials used, raw concrete for the walls and wood for the floors, panels and ceilings, underline the Nordic context. Daylight enters the church room through tall, slim, irregularly placed windows. A skylight lights up the whole wall behind the altar creating a distinctive atmosphere in the room.

Cathedral of the Northern Lights by Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects

Above: front elevation

The cathedral, which can accommodate 350 people in the church room, also has administration offices, classrooms, exhibition areas and a parochial area.

Cathedral of the Northern Lights by Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects

Above: side elevation

Architect team: schmidt hammer lassen architects, Link Arkitektur A/S
Client: The Municipality of Alta
Area: 1,917 sqm
Construction sum: €16.2 million
Competition: 2001, 1st prize in restricted architecture competition
Status: Construction period 2009 – 2013
Engineer: Rambøll AS, Alta
Main contractor: Ulf Kivijervi AS
Art work: Peter Brandes

  • Colonel Pancake

    A cluttered mess of texture and materials.

    • http://www.dailygrail.com Red Pill Junkie

      The interior does feel a bit cluttered. I guess there’s a problem with the proportions.

  • blah

    Very cool, in a Russian constructivist architecture kind of way.

    • calle wirsch

      This was my first thought: perhaps too cool for this landscape?

      • blah

        Yeah it’s not really sympathetic to its environment. But as a piece of theatre to watch the northern lights against; hell, I’d go and do that for an evening.

  • Gdane

    Looks a bit like an old soviet monolithic sculpture, which may fit SSSR, but Norway?

  • i_iris

    Reminds me of Tatlin’s Tower, which I think is more harmonious and expressive. Anyway, this is an amazing kind of architecture. Steel and snow look awesome together.

  • alex

    I see Frank Lloyd Wright’s mile-high skyscraper coiled up because of the cold.

    • Anton Huggler

      …or the Guggenheim trying to stay warm.

  • dUMB

    Is there something slightly spooky about the building’s exterior and interior or have I just had too many cups of espresso this morning?

  • Concerned Citizen

    I wonder how the light incoming from the skylight looks.

  • http://www.cityportions.blogspot.com.es/ marc

    Entrance should be at the end of the spiral. Otherwise it’s just a shape. Nice shape, though.

  • pluk_vd_petteflet

    Personally, I find it over-designed and it’s killing the serenity of the landscape – not to mention super expensive.

    However, it would have been much more interesting if you could climb on the spiral and use the roof as an observation deck.

  • http://Www.adrianjames.com Darren Riddle

    Brave, and wonderful because of this bravery. Great combination of subtly and awe. Bravo.

  • Mark W

    If they want it to be more proportionate, they should have looked at the Community of Christ Temple in Independence, Missouri (USA). That temple has a 195-foot spire and seats 1600 people.