Copper-clad chapel in Finland has a curving wooden frame
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Copper-clad chapel in Finland has a curving wooden frame like a ship's hull

An arched framework of curving pine ribs gives this chapel in Finland by Sanaksenaho Architects a shape more akin to a boat than a building (+ slideshow).

Turku Ecumenical Art Chapel by Sanaksenaho Architects

Matti Sanaksenaho, the founder of Helsinki-based Sanaksenaho Architects, designed St Henry's Ecumenical Art Chapel as a steeply arching structure with a shiny copper exterior and a warm wooden interior.

Turku Ecumenical Art Chapel by Sanaksenaho Architects

Located on one of the islands that makes up the sprawling Turku archipelago, the chapel functions as a space of contemplation for the patients and visitors of a neighbouring cancer-care centre, operated by the non-profit St Henry's church organisation.

Turku Ecumenical Art Chapel by Sanaksenaho Architects

Externally the chapel is clad with strips of copper that create subtle diagonal stripes across the curving walls.

Turku Ecumenical Art Chapel by Sanaksenaho Architects

This material is gradually changing colour and will eventually give the building a turquoise exterior, while the untreated timber-lined interior is gradually reddening as it ages.

Turku Ecumenical Art Chapel by Sanaksenaho Architects

"The chapel grows from its site, which is a hillock surrounded by pines," said Sanaksenaho. "It rises from the landscape as a traditional sacral building."

Turku Ecumenical Art Chapel by Sanaksenaho Architects

"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," added the architect.

Turku Ecumenical Art Chapel by Sanaksenaho Architects

Laminated pine was used for the curving ribs, giving extra strength to the structure.

Turku Ecumenical Art Chapel by Sanaksenaho Architects

Strips of glazing wrap around the two ends of the building. At the far end wall, this glazing extends down to meet the ground. There are no other window openings.

Turku Ecumenical Art Chapel by Sanaksenaho Architects

"The most important building material besides wood and copper is natural light," stated Sanaksenaho.

Turku Ecumenical Art Chapel by Sanaksenaho Architects

"It gets the forms, spaces and surfaces live all day long. The idea is to walk through shadowy spaces towards the altar and the light, the source of which is hidden."

Turku Ecumenical Art Chapel by Sanaksenaho Architects

The chapel was first commissioned in 1995 but wasn't built until 10 years later, once the necessary funds could be raised. Since then it has also been used to host baptisms, weddings and funeral services, as well as music performances and art exhibitions.

Turku Ecumenical Art Chapel by Sanaksenaho Architects

Photography is by Jussi Tiainen.


Project credits:

Client: St. Henry's Chapel Association
Project architect: Sanaksenaho Architects – Matti Sanaksenaho
Project team: Pirjo Sanaksenaho, Sari Lehtonen, Enrico Garbin, Teemu Kurkela, Juha Jääskeläinen, Maria Isotupa, Jaana Hellinen, Jari Mänttäri, Kain Tapper
Glass artist: Hannu Konola
Structural engineer: Kalevi Narmala
HVAC engineer: Juhani Lehtonen
Electrical engineer: Taneli Mussaari
Constructor: Hartela Oy

Turku Ecumenical Art Chapel by Sanaksenaho Architects
Location plan – click for larger image
Turku Ecumenical Art Chapel by Sanaksenaho Architects
Floor plan – click for larger image
Turku Ecumenical Art Chapel by Sanaksenaho Architects
Long section – click for larger image
Turku Ecumenical Art Chapel by Sanaksenaho Architects
Cross section – click for larger image