In the long, dark, and cold winters of Helsinki, the Suvela Chapel shines bright as a welcoming, multi-faith space for one of the most multicultural districts in the metropolitan region. Located in the Suvela neighborhood of Espoo, where roughly a third of the residents are of foreign descent, the recently completed chapel was designed by architecture firm OOPEAA to serve as a multifunctional center that a diverse community can use together regardless of religious affiliation. The striking building is entirely clad in gleaming copper to emphasize unity; the material was also selected for its durability and recyclability.
Commissioned by the Espoo Parish Union, the Suvela Chapel is used jointly by the Espoo Parish Union, the Swedish Parish of Espoo, and the City of Espoo to serve a diverse community. OOPEAA was tasked to create an eye-catching building with a strong identity of its own that would be welcoming to people of varying backgrounds and flexible enough to accommodate a number of activities. “Due to the relatively long, dark, and cold winters, communal indoor spaces play an important role as places for people to gather in Finland,” writes OOPEAA. “Providing schools, libraries and churches as places where people can come together on the common ground of a shared space has deep roots in the cultural tradition of Finland. The Suvela Chapel is part of this tradition.”
Located next to a local community park, the chapel is laid out like a horseshoe that wraps around an intimate interior courtyard. In addition to its copper exterior, the building is constructed from concrete and steel, while the interiors are mostly clad in locally-sourced spruce to inject a sense of warmth. Timber is also used in the outdoor canopies and, together with the copper panels, will develop a beautiful patina over time. The different functions of the chapel are laid out on one level and include a chapel hall, belfry, offices, meeting and group work spaces, areas for children and the youth, including afternoon child care and day care, activity rooms for local community clubs, and a soup kitchen. The Suvela Chapel was awarded bronze in the American Architecture Prize 2016 and was one of four finalist candidates nominated for the Finlandia Prize in Architecture in 2016.
Images via OOPEAA