Finland has a rich tradition of rural wooden churches, the most iconic of which grace the coastal plains like cubist sculptures, their steep gable roofs standing in defiance of the harsh northern climate. But for the Kamppi Chapel of Silence in downtown Helsinki, local firm K2S Architects turned tradition on its head, eschewing angles for curves in its ovoid bowl design.
Evolution of project massing
Though the roughly 38-foot-tall form is more suited for concrete, K2S made it work with the traditional, warm, familiar wood by utilizing clever detailing, computer-aided design, CNC milling, and a construction team that counted a former shipbuilding company—Late-Rakenteet Oy in western Finland—among its crew.
Steel brackets attach more than two-dozen curved and tapered ribs—CNC-milled glulam columns, each approximately 36 feet tall—to the concrete foundation. Steel brackets also anchor the glulam roof beams, the longest of which spans 49 feet.
Once the structural frame was in place, local contractor Pakrak Oy added mineral wool insulation, sheathing, and a vapor barrier to the wall. Vertical furring strips with custom-designed, CNC-milled notches guided each plank of curved, finger-jointed spruce cladding into place. The notches are slightly angled, like teeth in a saw, to compensate for the wall’s pitch.
All of the lumber used in the chapel—glulam structural beams, exterior finger-jointed spruce planks, and interior alder siding—was sourced and processed within 125 miles of the site in the bustling Narinkka Square. The chapel was completed in May 2012 after 14 months of construction.
journalist Logan Ward has written about architecture, design, and innovation
for The Atlantic, Smithsonian, Garden & Gun, Preservation, Popular
Mechanics, and many other magazines. Ward is the author of See You in a
Hundred Years, the true account of the year his family traded digital-age
technology for the tools of his great-grandparents’ era.