St Henry’s Ecumenical Art Chapel: A copper-clad behemoth harking back to vernacular style of churches


Almost looking like a inverted hull of a ship, the impressive St Henry’s Ecumenical Art Chapel was designed by Finnish firm Sanaksenaho Architects, in one of the islands that make up the Turku archipelago. And quite interestingly, what might seem to be a visually enticing gimmick with those wildly arching facades, is presumably derived (to some degree) from the traditional Stave churches that are prevalent in the north-western part of Europe since the medieval times.

As for the shiny skin of the dramatic looking building, the curving exterior facades are clad in strips of copper that form diagonal patterns along the surfaces. These metallic covers are supported by a sturdy arched framework of pine ribs – that are left untreated from the interior portion of the chapel. So, on entering the religious building, one would be pleasantly surprised by the enchanting bucolic essence that is espoused by these laminated pine components.


On closer inspection, one can also make out the transparent strips of glazing wrap at the two ends of the structure – for the induction of the much needed natural light into the chapel. And apparently, these are the only window openings for the building, which alludes to the high level of insulation for the chapel.

Moreover, the use of copper as the external skin goes beyond its avant-garde nature. According to the architects, the hue generated by the weathered copper cladding will translate to a greenish-turquoise tint that copes well with the natural surrounding of the site. This transformative ambit is further complemented by the gradually-turning reddish vibrancy showcased by the interior pine ribs that would define the mystifying ‘play’ of light and shadow inside the chapel.

This is what Matti Sanaksenaho, the founder of the firm, had to say about his creation –

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 the altar and the light, the source of which is hidden.

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Via: Dezeen

Image Credits: Jussi Tiainen.

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