I do not really know when the world started arguing about whether God exists or not, but the fact that religion is most often a cause of heated debate, is unquestionable. For so many centuries such a powerful being, like human, can not explain who we are and where we come from, but we do know that one day we will all die out.
There are a great deal of Nations on our planet with many religions and even more sects. At one point it became so fashionable that everyone who had some spare time established a sect. One of them was musician Moby. To get in his sect, one had to eat only green, vegetarian food and abstain from sex. What I’m trying to say is that when religion became so mixed up ideologically and Jesus, Muhammad and Buddha floated a great distance away, new kinds of worship places appeared, which are quite different from church, mosque or the Buddhist Temple. This culture has evolved and is now in Christian and Buddhist modern society, but they almost do not exist in Islamic world.
In this article, you will become acquainted with three such chapels, which are radically different from one another in their shape. All three of them are constructed with a variety of exterior materials: wood, steel and concrete structures, which are used in their best way. First is Coop Himmelb(l)au’s Lutheran chapel in the Austrian city of Hainburg, second – K2S Architects’ Kamppi Chapel of silence in Helsinki and the last – Avanto Architects work of St. Lawrence Chapel in Vantaa .
Architect: Coop Himmelb(l)au
Project Architect: Martin Mostböck
Structural Engineering: Bollinger Grohmann Schneider ZT GmbH
Design Architect: Sophie-Charlotte Grell
Location: Hainburg, Austria
Total Area: 420 sq.m
Spiral-shaped steel roof of the building, which rests on four concrete columns, is a bit rough contrast of static and dynamic. Round shape is cut out of the roof, from which leaks light in the chapel. In addition, the light enters the glass exterior, which is behind the altar. Besides, light enters from wooden panel, carved with crosses and circles, which often reminds me of Swiss cheese holes somehow. Steel altar table is particularly interesting, with Himelblau characteristic forms and seemed balanced with the roof. The main door is made out of glass, and there is a small corridor between the hall and the chapel from which you can get to the priest’s room and toilet. When the chapel is completely filled with people, its door is open and the two chairs are also taken to the hall, which becomes a place of worship. At the entrance, in the street you will also notice 20-meter-high steel tower with a circle carved and a cross on top of it.
I do like Himelblaus’ this work, but as a building and not as a place of worship. It is as if nothing is sacred, not a single thing that can affect emotionally and fill you with religion. However, I should mention Himelblaus’ unique approach and always unusual result in small-sized targets while working. For so many years this man does not lose his properties, creating buildings that are quite strong overall, they have a logical beginning and ending. Each of them is always very interesting and valuable.
Architect: K2S Architects
Structural Engineering: Vahanen Oy
Design Architect: Sophie-Charlotte Grell
Location: Helsinki, Finland
Total Area: 352 sq.m
I went to Kamppi Chapel of Silence on purpose, as it had opened 2 months before and the whole world’s leading architectural magazines were writing about it. I could not observe its round and minimalistic form, which is so characteristic of Finnish architecture, until I went to the top as it is not visible from the distance because of its angle, though its sharp wooden colour is really outstanding in the environment and draws attention at first sight. The chapel is on the right side. Then there is a big corridor, from which you can access pastor’s rooms and other ancillary premises. The prayer hall is at the end of the corridor, in the left-hand side. Its interior as well as exterior is entirely made of wood, creates fantastic acoustic and cozy environment. Despite noisy street, there is nothing but pure silence in the hall. Interior’s accessories are chairs, alter, black metal candlestick and a similar vase for flowers if I may call it so. Between the outer wall and the roof of the hall light enters the opening, which is one of the most pleasant parts of the interior.
After I had entered, a woman came into the hall with her own two children. Despite the fact that it is obligatory to be silent, she could not calm down her children. While I was shooting every single detail like a lame actual tourist, these children became noisier, claiming that they did not know how to pray and their mother was forcing them. These were also tourists, cute children with skateboards under their arms, then suddenly they became quiet, put their heads in their fists and started murmuring quietly.
In the corridor I came across a girl, who seemed to be my peer. She was dressed in the prest’ clothes. in her speech chemkhela the priestly uniform. Somehow I talked to her. She turned out to be assistant pastor and her duty was listening to people, which is almost the same as hearing confessions. I was amazed that 23-year-old girl was doing all this but she said she got used to it. Then she proudly told me about this new chapel, we also talked about music, summer was approaching and she was so cool, planning to got to lots of festivals which I can only dream about, she had already purchased the tickets and was waiting for her vacation. Finally, she gave me Kamppi Chapel bochures and I left.
I have been thinking about this chapel for a long time long time, it gave me a positive impression with its silence, which is so pleasant to hear within these wooden walls, and I also remembered this 23-year-old girl who was already hearing people’s confessions. The priest’s clothes also suited her a lot and I will definitely ask for her the next time I arrive to this chapel.
Architect: AVANTO Architects
Location: Vantaa, Finland
Chapel of St. Lawrence was built in Vantaa, Finland in 2010 by a young Finnish architects company – Avanto, who despite their youth, are the authors of a few famous projects. The main priority of Finnish architecture is dignity of light and shadows and their ideal existence with each other.
In 2012 I went to Vanta deliberately to see this building. It should be noted that in real life it is far more impressive than the photographs. You can’t have seen a more simple building, especially interior. The roof is made of copper, an astonishing feature of this material is that it changes color over time and becomes dark reddish. This material is presented in exactly these shades. The facade is white and the contrast of these two colors creates imperfection with regard to the environment. There are 3 different sized church building and two columns at the entrance to the chapel. The interior is, as mentioned, very simple, it can not meet the extra décor or religious items, it is very airy and spacious. Floor is made of local stone, walls are white. The chapel stands in the hall of the wooden benches and metal minimalist candlesticks and for me the most exciting and interesting detail was the altar, just a simple wooden cube.
Light comes from large windows in the building, while in main prayer hall lights and shadows are achieved with modest copper turquoise net from which the light enters not in a single large flow, but through the holes. It is worth mentioning that there is a crystal chandelier, a light flashes and the rainbow colors of the interior creates a harmonious environment. Also there is Entrance to the courtyard with a small pool. Recent architecture has shown that water, with its unique life-giving features, is an integral part of religious buildings .
One purpose for this building is to carry our funerals, so one path of the building leads directly to the cemetery.
The architecture has been designed so that the soul of deceased firstly rests in this white spaces of these white walls of silence, and then it becomes forever buried in a tomb. It was really quite difficult, but it is a good example to show the connection between this building and the human’s soul. This place is probably the most likely to make you think about the world and the futility of life, that there really is something out there and you’re just one tiny particle .
Finally, I would like to point out that if a person believes in religion, he will equally pray anywhere and for us, no matter how long we argue about religion and the existence of God, the most important thing is how we live and how we act towards each other, because, as one genius man said, “We can live without religion, but without love humans will not simply survive”. (Dalai Lama)
Author: Nanuka Zaalishvili
English Edit: Nino Namoradze
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