Reality check: Kamppi Chapel of Silence
HELSINKI (FI) - The design for the Chapel of Silence was first presented in A10 #26. This spring, the project by K2S Architects was completed and our correspondent Tarja Nurmi went to see what has become of it – a cheap wooden bowl, or an elegant and fine contrast to the hyper-commercial Kamppi quarter?
In a corner next to the Scandic hotel and the Narinkka Square stands a vessel-like wooden object clad in solid, natural colour timber. Inside, one becomes overwhelmed with silence and peace, which is quite the unique experience in the lively commercial centre of Helsinki.
One can enter the chapel via the entrance on the square, or by following the set of stairs that lead to the Simonkatu street level, where a terrace finds place on top of the roof of the secondary spaces. The small meeting room at the end of the long entrance space has opaque white floor-to-ceiling windows, which the personnel already use as a 'blackboard' during their meetings.
The most prominent area of the building is a 11.5-metre-high oval space, completely crafted in solid, oiled alder planks, with no openings to the outside world except for a narrow strip of skylight windows. It creates a warm space, inside of which the urban surroundings seem distant, as it cuts out the city’s commotion completely. The light flowing down from above is sufficient in the daytime, and is replaced by adjustable artificial light when it is dark outside. The space is soberly furnished: a small, boxlike altar, very simple wooden benches, seven metal candleholders, plus one holder for a vase. The small silver cross and silver bowl for christenings are especially designed for the chapel by architect Mikko Summanen.
The total area of the chapel building is 270 m2, which houses the sacral space, an information lounge and spaces for one-on-one dialogue. The service and entrance spaces distinguish themselves by a cooler use of materials, namely granite and glass. The main space is absolutely beautiful and changes its appearance during the course of the day. Opinions vary as to whether trendy wooden vessels and objects such as this really fit into the cityscape or not. Time will show how well the chapel fulfils its original purpose of giving people a possibility for prayer or quiet contemplation. It will, however, certainly be a tourist attraction.
June | 2012 | Finland | Tarja Nurmi