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In a quiet backwater of fields and woods on the island of Hirvensalo in the south-west of Finland, St Henry's Ecumenical Art Chapel grows from its site - a hillock surrounded by pines and spruces - embracing context and the natural environment.

The chapel is not immediately apparent on approach: following the bend of the road you are suddenly confronted by the elegant copper-clad church, its volume contrasting with its surroundings. It has the appearance of an upturned ship's hull. The design vocabulary juxtaposes copper and wood, light and shade. The chapel was finished earlier this year so the copper is new; eventually its green patina will help the church blend with the surrounding pine trees.

St Henry's is approached head on, up a gentle dogleg pedestrian ramp to the small foyer lit by natural light at the western entrance. You proceed from here through a passageway to the church proper, from darkness to light; at the far eastern end two side windows the height of the chapel throw light down onto the altar, breathtaking on a sunny day. The architect describes the main hall as the stomach of the fish, the fish being a symbol of early Christians (fitting as the church is ecumenical).

Gallery and chapel are one volume, with the gallery at the back, and the chapel proper in the front, with the altar terminating the axis. The benches are removed for art exhibitions and you can view the art while religious ceremonies are being conducted.

The whole interior, bar the glazing around the altar, is of wood, the warm smell of which permeates the space. Seating is simple angular backless benches made of solid, edge-laminated common alder; but this elegant, pared down minimalism could prove inhospitable during long church services. The chapel's loadbearing structure consists of tapering ribs of laminated pine

ST HENRY'S ECUMENICAL ART CHAPEL, TURKU, FINLAND

architect 10 SANAKSENAHO ARCHITECTS

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