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La Biennale di Venezia

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Steve Larkin Architects

Kaija and Heikki Siren, Otaniemi Chapel, Espoo, Finland
[Close Encounter]

This chapel emphasises a sacred relationship with the Finnish landscape. There are three principal spaces: the courtyard, the chapel and the apse. The entrance courtyard is lightly sketched in the natural landscape, a bell-tower marking its significance.
The main chapel is formed by brick gable walls and a monopitch roof that provides two windows, a high rose window and a view to landscape behind the simple altar. An elegant timber truss, made from small timber sections and slender steel ties, reminds us that it is a space formed both in and from the forest.
The most significant space is the apse. This is the forest. Marked by a large white cross, it places the sacred within landscape. All of the architecture works towards this view, captured in the photograph of the chapel included in the exhibit, taken by the photographer Otso Pietinen in 1957.
The model re-articulates this view, which is framed by improvisations on the cross, the windows, the timber truss and the gable. The truss drops its legs to make a forest room. The high rose-windows and the roof surface internalise the timber canopy space under white northern light. The cross is placed centrally in the forest interior to form the window between the chapel space and apse. Stacked timber construction is used to emphasise the Otaniemi Chapel’s understanding of its place in the Finnish church-building tradition.
The model sits like the entrance courtyard bell-tower in the exhibition landscape.
Steve Larkin Architects

Central Pavilion
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Biennale Architettura
Biennale Architettura