Suvela Chapel

Suvela Chapel is a multifunctional building that offers a space for the people of the highly multicultural community to use together regardless of their religious affiliation.

The Suvela Chapel was one of the four finalists nominated for the Finlandia Prize in Architecture in 2016. It has also been awarded bronze in the American Architecture Prize 2016.

Suvela Chapel is located in Suvela, Espoo. It is one of the most multicultural districts in the metropolitan area of Helsinki. Attention to the needs of the culturally diverse community is a core principle in the project.

All functions are placed on one level, and the building wraps into a single U-shaped entity forming an intimate interior courtyard in the middle. The different functions in the building orient themselves around the inner courtyard. There are facilities for a range of different uses from kindergarten and childcare to spaces for the youth as well as for the local community clubs. The building offers office space for the employees as well as for social workers and family services. A soup kitchen providing food for a very low cost is operating in the premises as well. The chapel naturally also serves as a place for mass, concerts, weddings, funerals, and baptizings.

Suvela is one of the most multicultural districts in the Helsinki metropolitan region. Cultural diversity is both a rich potential and a challenge to the community. In the design for the SuvelaChapel, the goal was to create a building that offers opportunities for a rich variety of activities and provides a framework for the residents to come together in a flexibly adaptable space.

The chapel offers an easily approachable space with a human scale and an inviting atmosphere. The building serves many functions providing a home base for many different kinds of organizations and forming a dynamic place of activity. It is first and foremost a meeting place that serves members of the parish and other groups of people in the community alike.

Due to the relatively long, dark, and cold winters, communal indoor spaces play an important role as places for people to gather in Finland. Public buildings, such as schools and libraries, as well as churches and chapels offer spaces that are open to all. Providing schools, libraries and churches as places where people can come together in shared space has deep roots in the cultural tradition of Finland. The Suvela Chapel is part of this tradition.

The building is a hybrid structure with wooden as well as concrete and steel elements. A tactile sense of material has a strong presence both in the interiors as well in the exterior of the building.
The exterior shell is entirely clad in copper to emphasize the unity of the varied volume of the building. Copper was an ecological choice of material for the exterior. It is both durable and recyclable, easy to maintain and therefore sustainable. It also ages well and acquires a beautiful patina over time allowing the age of the building to show. In that way, signs of time and age are visible in the face of the building and thus contribute to a sense of the building being “alive”. It is not mute or sterile, on the contrary, it has character and there is a sense of warmth to the building.
Local spruce is the material used in the interiors. In the spaces for the children’s activities, wood is present also in the outdoor canopies that provide shelter from rain giving the children an opportunity to play outside even in rainy weather. The presence of wood is most prominent in the tall chapel hall where the walls are covered with wooden scantlings creating a warm and peaceful atmosphere.