Laajasalo Church


Helsinki, Finland, 2003.

Design: Kari Järvinen and Merja Nieminen

Laajasalo Church, located in a suburb of Helsinki, presses against the site's street front and opens generously via its court and back yards towards the adjacent park. The tall, copper clad church space becomes a landmark near the street corner; the timber-built congregation hall wing wraps around to enclose its own courtyard within.

The sources of inspiration for the design were old Finnish wooden churches, and in the church space, the altar area's choir recesses and the works of art in them contain recollections of Italian Renaissance churches. As the cycle of-the day makes its way along the altar wall, the changing light enlivens the wooden surfaces of the walls and the works of art, guiding the visitor towards silence and an experience of sacrality, removed from the mundane.

The loadbearing elements of the hall spaces are framed glulam structures. Incorporated in the exterior walls are sturdy glulam boards, which act both as sound insulation and as acoustic structures. The steel and concrete structures, which make the whole rigid, are left exposed and emphasise the softness and warmth of the wood. The facades of the congregation hall wing are clad with spruce boarding. They have a coating of oil based paint in the familiar colour of red ochre. The tall exterior walls are protected by green patinated, board-wide strips of copper.

The interior materials are spruce, pine and birch plywood, applied in the form of board lining and acoustic screens. The surfaces have been oil waxed in natural colour or left untreated to receive a patina during the course of time. The floors of the hall spaces are of oiled pine boarding. The idea behind the surface materials, finishes and treatment of the church space was to emphasise the mental image of a wooden box or the case of a musical instrument. The furniture is built of elm and little-leaf linden, and the door pull handles are lined with birch bark, The work of art depicting a traditional church boat in the lobby is made of paper.

Photos: Arno de la Chapelle, Jussi Tiainen
Laajasalo Church Helsinki, Finland, 2003.
Laajasalo Church Helsinki, Finland, 2003.

Laajasalo Church Helsinki, Finland, 2003.

Laajasalo Church Helsinki, Finland, 2003.

Interior view.
Laajasalo Church Helsinki, Finland, 2003.

Traditional church boat.