A chapel made almost entirely of timber has been completed in Finchley, north London in memory of the victims of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Designed by Spheron Architects, the Belarusian Memorial Chapel will serve the estimated 5,000 people in the UK’s Belarusian diaspora community. The chapel was prefabricated offsite from timber to follow Belarus’ wooden church tradition and to reference the mostly rural areas affected by Chernobyl radiation.
The 75-square-meter Belarusian Memorial Chapel is the first wooden church built in London since the Great Fire of 1666. Set in a tranquil garden belonging to the Marian House, a community and cultural center for the UK Belarusian community, the church’s natural and unfinished timber facade complements the thirteen statutorily protected trees that surround the building. The chapel was prefabricated off-site with a Douglas Fir structural frame and assembled with pine cross-laminated panels manufactured in Spain. Canadian cedar shingles clad the roof and cupola. The chapel accommodates 40 people at a time within the nave and raised altar in the apse.
Spheron Architects’ Tszwai So spent time in rural Belarus to research the country’s wooden architectural heritage. The final design features a domed spire and timber shingle roof common to Belarus’ traditional churches, but also includes contemporary elements like the undulating timber frill on the church’s exterior sidewalls. Strips of frosted glazing let in natural light but are positioned to limit views. Soft lighting makes the building appear to glow at night. Historic icons set into a timber screen separate the nave from the altar.
Images © Joakim Borén